And now for the fun part! We weren’t dreading the trip TOO much, knowing that our kids are pretty good travelers – used to two days of traveling fairly regularly. How long your trip is depends on where you’re leaving from, and if you’re flying commercial or military (a contracted flight with Patriot Express).
The Army will pay to fly you from a leave location instead of your duty station if the cost is the same or less. If it’s more, you will have to pay the difference. For us, it was cheaper to fly out of Minneapolis than Atlanta, so it worked out well. Our first flight – Delta – from Minneapolis to Seattle left at 1950 on Monday. We had a TON of luggage, both checked and carry on so we got there plenty early to allow time for TSA. If you’re going to be on a military flight, your first flight will be your connection to Seattle.
After a Burger King dinner while waiting for the plane, we made the 4 hour flight to Seattle. Both flights were 767s, which are 2-3-2 seating. Hillary, Caroline, and Nataliya up front, and Nick, Ian, and Olivia behind them.
The Delta flight was pretty average. While we were at the very end, they at least gave us a few minutes after boarding before they sent everyone else through. After landing, we trooped everyone to the Seattle USO. It’s pretty decent – they have a “Family Room” with a few couches, easy chairs, and a crib/changing table. The kids and Hillary racked out on the floor, and a couch opened up for Hillary at about 0130.
So then came Nick’s fun – they won’t transfer your luggage to the Air Force flight, so he had to get it all from baggage claim, then wait until 0230 when their desk finally came and opened up. He spent most of the time reading and talking to a Military Intelligence First Sergeant.
The other bummer was that the USO is on the non-secure side of the terminal – so we had to go through security again. And yes, that’s Hillary getting patted down. Baby powder.
And now more waiting. This is when things started to get a little rougher. Kids were tired and overwhelmed.
The one we expected to be the worst – our attitude Nataliya – was actually our best traveler. As you can tell in the below photo.
Breakfast consisted of chocolate chip cookies and Sprite. On the floor again. Go us.
We were able to strike a good balance of getting to our gate on time, without having to wait TOO long. The kids started racking out pretty quickly after boarding at 0730. 11 hour flight, here we go!
The meals were not so great. “Chicken Parmesan” with really slippery fettuccine noodles – nigh on impossible to cut or twirl. The other option was beef and rice – but with mushrooms. No kids options whatsoever. Annoying. Long story short, we were left with some hungry kids. Although thanks to Mary Slater we had taken along Ritz Bitz Cheese Crackers for the kids to munch on!
Ian and Caroline chilling while Nataliya sleeps – it let mommy get some more sleep.
So port call didn’t tell us, and our tickets didn’t mention – there’s a 2 hour layover at Yokota Air Force Base (Tokyo). On the plus side, we could leave all our stuff on the plane. On the down side, yet more moving tired/hangry kids around. Boo.
It at least gave us time to charge devices – we was starting to run low on USB battery packs. Nick did a breakdown of our chargers/USB battery packs in this tech post – things worked out pretty well.
Still waiting. On the plus side, they had a little snack shop that got us some Pringles and Cheetos. Breakfast/Elevensies/Lunch/Dinner whatever we were at at this point.
The younger two, just trooping on.
After the two hour flight from Yokota we landed at Osan Air Force Base, the regular destination for Patriot Express. The part of the trip that I thought would be the worst (Customs and Immigration) was actually extremely easy. The flight attendants handed out the customs forms (one per individual) and immigration form (one per family) on the plane. Once we landed there were Airmen and NCOs from Air Mobility Command that were EXTREMELY helpful – to the point I don’t think I’m gonna talk crap about the Air Force in a long while. They helped us collect all our luggage, push it through customs and immigration (we’re talking three luggage carts, plus our stroller and carryons). Awesome guys.
Customs is for the people, immigration is for luggage. Both were painless. Next was the bus ride from Osan to Yongsan.
It started out ok, but kids were completely exhausted by this point, and thanks to traffic it ended up being a good two hours. And this is where things went off the rails.
While AMC was great, 19th Human Resources Company – the unit responsible for receiving personnel to Korea – was not so great. We arrived at about 1900, and were told it would be about 15 minutes before we were able to take our families over to lodging. They had us fill out some personal data sheets and medical paperwork, and then started verifying with Dragon Hill Lodge that we had rooms. The argument that we already had reservations was rebuffed, stating they had to change the billing for the first night to Yongsan’s Centrally Billed Account. The other problem was the requirement to be at PT at 0545 the next morning – and it was already 2030. After traveling for 50 hours with four sick kids, there was absolutely no way Nick was going to wake everyone up at 0515. After several fruitless discussions with the orderly room personnel, he told them he would sign in on leave the next day (he had one day left on his leave form).
After that we got checked into our rooms (two king rooms adjoining) and crashed for the first night!
- Snacks. Brings lots. Meals on AMC flights suck, and depending on hours there might not be much of anything available at the airport.
- Luggage: Ship stuff instead. It was an epic nightmare moving so many things with so many kids. Both checked and carryon. For the return flight I’ll be shipping a lot of stuff.
- Organization: While I had a plan for where everything was going to go (i.e. what pockets in what bags), it kinda devolved as we got closer to flying. I ended up having to do quite a bit of digging to find our cell phone charger cables (the joy of the new USB-C cables mean I now have four different cables to manage).
More specific lessons learned will follow on Luggage and Electronics.