Over the holidays my husband and I took our two daughters, ages 5 and 13 months (pictured here), halfway around the world to visit my family in India. My elder daughter, Ameli, has been several times, but this was our first time traveling with baby Isla in tow.
It wasn't a journey for the faint of heart (not that traveling with little kids ever is). We took two flights—one a harrowing 13 hours—and had a layover. The promise of my littlest one meeting her great-grandmother for the first time and the wedding celebrations of a family friend helped propel us toward our destination, but if you're curious how it really went, here are the sometimes-gruesome details:
8:30 pm on Christmas Day: Arrived at the international airport with snacks, several changes of clothes, and a charged iPad.
10:00 pm: Made it through check-in and security, with Ameli only asking "Are we there yet?" three times.
11:00 pm: On the flight, both girls started off sleepy and excited (not an ideal combination).
Midnight: Isla fell asleep. I requested a bassinet from the air hostess, who insisted my baby was too big for it. After a few deadly glares from me she brought it anyway. Isla just barely fit. Phew.
2:00 am: Isla realized her new digs were a bit too snug and insisted on sleeping on me...so I "slept" with one eye open in fear that she'd roll off. Ameli, meanwhile, fell asleep in her seat after complaining about not having enough snacks. (None of the dozens we brought were what she was in the mood for after midnight.)
Then there was a blur of messy diaper changes, food being flung from trays, and some wailing. I think we handled it, because if nothing else, we finally landed in Dubai with bleary eyes and frizzy hair.
After our six-hour layover in Dubai (yes you read that right, and remember it when you complain about some three-hour layover in Chicago), we were slightly rejuvenated with full bellies and stretched legs. We boarded a 4-hour flight to Kolkata. This time we were not seated together. My husband was right behind us...was that a hint of relief I saw on his face?
Neither kid was interested in more sleep. Or food. Isla flailed her arms and legs wildly, knocking everything off her tray. I desperately hailed down an air hostess but she curtly said that she would be coming back later to clean up. Ameli, meanwhile, laughed and clapped her hands with glee at her sister's antics, inadvertently knocking over a glass of water and soaking my seat. As I tried to get my husband's attention, I turned around to see him peacefully sleeping with his noise-cancelling headphones on.
We finally arrived in India wet and tired, with me wondering if it had been worth all the hassle. After immigration, as we exited the airport, we caught site of my family. Ameli yelled out "Mashi!" (auntie) and ran into my sister's arms. As the mild air of my homeland warmly enveloped us I thought, "Yes, totally worth it." And you know I'll be doing it all again.
Sumana Ghosh-Witherspoon, a designer at American Baby magazine, grew up partly in Kolkata and now lives in New York City with her husband and two girls.
Image: Kunal Basu