The Paulsens head Stateside – Part 2 – Auckland to Chicago

After almost 2 weeks in New Zealand, it was time to give my Mum her bedroom back and say goodbye to my family. Some of those goodbyes could have well been the last and it made me very sad to leave. My Nana is in her mid nineties and going strong but I don’t know when my next trip to New Zealand will be. It’s the first time I’ve left knowing I wont be back for a long while.

My anxiety for this flight was high. Will the kids sleep, will I sleep, is there going to be enough room for us all, will they scream the plane down. It was 15 hours of unknown. I did my best to tell myself to relax and take things as they come. It is easier said than done but I took a lot of deep, slow breaths. Whatever happens, it will end…

Our flight to Chicago departed at 8.30pm. We picked this time as it was close to bed time so hoped it would mean the kids would sleep a fair bit of the flight. We left Whangarei at around 11am to allow the kids to sleep in the car on the way to Auckland (2 and a bit hour drive) and then we would have some time to chill before dealing with the airport. We headed to my cousins home to let the kids have a play, have an early dinner, bath and put their pajamas on. It was early for them but we wanted to keep to their routine as much as possible.

We again made sure we got to the airport somewhat early due to all our luggage and not wanting to have to rush through security. We again needed to get all our luggage (two overflowing carts) and the two kids into the airport from the car, with just Eliot and I. (Dad was parking the car) We figured out that one way to keep everyone and everything together was to push one cart each using one hand, put Monty in the stroller, Grace on top of the stroller and pull them backwards. Most people got out of our way!

I checked us in and then Dad and Eliot did the bag drop. My cousin and her family arrived to help us keep the kids occupied while the bag drop was in progress. It takes a while with all that luggage!

We said our goodbyes and headed through security. In Auckland airport there is cafe/bar with a small play area for the kids so we bee lined for that to let the kids run around for a bit. US flights have added security so we had to get to the gate earlier than usual. Gate checked the pram and boarded.

We flew Air New Zealand and purchased as part of our ticket something called a skycouch. If you can’t afford business class, at about $200 per flight, I would highly recommend it. This option allows you to fill the space between your seat and the seat in front of you with a level footrest which creates more seating or a bed. If that doesn’t make sense check out the photos below. So we purchased one skycouch for our three seats (Monty is still considered a lap infant) and I was hoping it wasn’t a full flight so we could get another single seat for Eliot or I to make enough room for us all.
We were extremely fortunate that when we were about to take off, one of the staff came to us and said there is a whole spare skycouch three rows up which we could claim once the seat-belt sign had been taken off. I could not believe our luck. As soon as that light went off, I was in it like a shot. This meant that both kids got their own beds and I got to lay down too. Eliot was a bit long for it so he sat up in the aisle chair at the end of Monty’s row.

We took a bottle of milk for Gracie and had formula for Monty (you are allowed to take a small amount of milk for the kids through security). Both kids still have that bedtime routine of milk before sleep. We also of course had Gracie’s bunnies. Monty doesn’t really have a “lovey” as yet.

Monty crashed out
Gracie dreaming deep

By the time breakfast rolled around, the kids and probably everyone on the plane was ready to get off. It took a fair bit of coaxing to keep Monty quiet and we were only successful part of the time. There were lots of laps up and down the aisles and people didn’t seem to mind. We cleaned teeth, got dressed, snacked, watched TV, and did all sorts of things to keep them occupied and the screaming at bay. Landing was difficult as we had to restrain the kids and neither of them were up for it at this point. Grace also suffered from pain in her ears on the descent.

There’s Chicago!

Once we landed, we took our time going through immigration and border security with bathroom stops etc. It allowed our bags to be unloaded and the queues to die down. We had booked a hotel close to the airport which luckily had a nice big shuttle bus so were picked up pretty quickly and taken to the hotel. We’d made it! Unfortunately we still had one more flight to go…

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