Flying to Japan Solo With 3 Kiddos

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Well here we are in Japan! I just woke up on our official Day 2 and am excited to have internet access and a cup of tea, at 4:30 a.m. local time. Our jet lag has been minimal but has included starting our days at 6:00 a.m. and today 4:30 a.m. But I can’t complain! It turns out that taking an evening flight, where the kids were tired and then landing in the country at that country’s night was a great idea. We didn’t have a “red eye” per say, but we did leave at 8:00 p.m. Seattle’s local time, which after the 9 hour and 50 minute flight to Tokyo, we landed at 10:00 p.m. Japan local time. Over-night flights can be risky with kids. The hope is always that they sleep, but then sometimes they don’t because of the new environment, cramped quarters, and, in an international case, unlimited free kids tv!   In our case, the kids slept for about 5 hours and I got 3 hours. Which meant just enough for them not to be completely exhausted and cranky when we landed so they could walk off the plane and help with their luggage and get us to the hostel we were staying at for the night. That’s the part I was worried about. Since I was flying alone with the 3 of them and would have to figure out how to get from the airport to the other side of Tokyo, I was praying for just enough sleep for them to manage but then still being tired enough to go back to bed once at the hostel. I got both, 5 hours on the plane then 4 more hours for all of us at the hostel, bringing us to 6:00 a.m. Monday morning in Tokyo with everyone in a good mood and ready to start the day!!!

Loving our shirts by Baby Bird Designs!

Loving our shirts by Baby Bird Designs!

Here’s a little recap of our journey just to get to Tokyo for what will be an 18 day adventure!

The Plane

To help me quickly be able to spot my children in a crowd and help others see which ones belong together in case one wanders off, I like to dress them in similar clothing.  I had a friend (Baby Bird Designs) makes special shirts with numbers on them so I asked if she could do a travel pattern with the numbers 1, 2, and 3 for my kiddos.  They turned out so cute and were very helpful, and drew lots of compliments.  They also each get their own backpacks with a few fun items for the plane and gives them something to be responsible for.  Once we got checked in, breezed through security, and then killed the extra time at the airport’s playroom, we headed to our gate.  The plan ride itself went much better than our last 6 hour trip to Mexico. My 2 year old daughter sat in her seat this time and didn’t complain about the seat belt (too much). The 5 and 7 year olds, who have been traveling since infancy, were a breeze and I always welcome the extensive free inflight entertainment options that Delta provides on international trips. We had special gluten free in flight meals pre-ordered as well as kids meals, however due to a delay error on our part and my oldest son’s separate reservation (his ticket was purchases and ours were on points), we weren’t able to get him a kids meal. The special ordered meals were good, but the regular adult options for the flight were not very appealing at all to my son. So the was mistake #1, not ensuring we requested all the special meals far enough in advance. But there was enough “dinner” to share and make everyone happy. We all slept through the mid-flight ice cream snack, but sleep was more important! An hour before we landed, they handed out egg and cheese sandwiches with yogurt to all the passengers and I got a gluten free breakfast package in a draw string baggie that included a yummy chicken salad, grapes and a gluten free Udi’s roll. The special breakfast snack for the kids included cheese sandwiches, grapes, a bag of chips and a piece of chocolate. They were still pretty tired and after already having had their normal dinner, I stowed away the snacks so they would have something to eat at the hostel in case they woke up ready to go before anything was open. The draw string bags that these came in were very handy!

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Kids breakfast snack packs.

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Creative sleeping solutions.

Arriving at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport

Arrival in Tokyo was fairly smooth. It was a long walk to get to the first part of customs from the plane, but we took it in strides and there were moving sidewalks, which is still something my kids are mastering. Of course we also needed a pit stop at the bathroom, which was a fun experience for the kids in itself!  A modern Japanese toilet is almost like a video game, and this one was mild.  Our first top was to go through the immigration control, then we got our luggage and heading through the customs control. The process was relatively quick and the personnel were both polite and helpful. Once we cleared all that, we were out in the open and on our own to discover our transportation options. Our hostel, K’s House Tokyo Oasis in Asakusa, gave some distances by foot to their building from the public transportation stations in their area. I didn’t pay enough attention to the fact that there were two stations with the name Asakusa on them and just picked up on the “3 minutes walk” from a station with the name Asakusa. That would prove to be mistake #2.  I asked the information agents if they could tell me how to get to Asakusa Station. She told me which train I needed to take, where to get cash and where to buy the tickets. Everything was really close together in the terminal. From the time we got out of customs and onto a train into the city was about 20 minutes. The ride into the city was about 40 minutes though our walk from the train station to the hostel, was more than I had planned.

Japanese toilet at the airport.

Japanese toilet at the airport.

Taking the subway to the hostel

The subway train was clean and we had enough seats at 11:30 at night. But the map for the lines and stops were hard to figure out and the English didn’t start till you got close to the main stations. Nonetheless we found our stop and managed to get our stroller, the 3 kids with backpacks and 3 suitcases off the train. The bad news was that elevators and escalators only got you so far up and then we were faced with two flights of stairs to get out of the train station. The boys managed the small suitcases fine. At this point I was so glad that I decided to take my Baby Jogger City Select.  The back wheels on this baby are big and that made it possible to pull the stroller up, step by step, without too much impact on the child in the seat. Mind you, I still wish we DIDN’T have to do that and I’m a little concerned about the use of our stroller with the subway for the rest of our trip. We’ll see what’s in store.

My 2 year old helping with the map on the subway.

My 2 year old helping with the map on the subway.

The last piece of bad news is that my free data roaming with my T-mobile plan is SLOW and will not render maps in detail, which makes navigating, especially at midnight in a foreign city with all signs in kanji, very difficult. After struggling to get to the top of the stair and looking around aimlessly, a nice Japanese man asked if we needed some help. I gave him the address of the hostel and he tried his best to look it up and point us in the right direction. He did point us in the right direction, but the walk was a little over a mile. We finally arrived at the hostel, and encountered two Australians who were smoking outside the door. They greeted us and asked if we needed the door open and we learned that the check in staff was not on duty after 10:00 p.m. I started to panic before we even got inside, it would be just my luck that we made it all this way and had no place to sleep at 1:15 a.m.!!! We quickly saw that there was a tiny shoe foyer were we needed to take off our shoes. It wasn’t so much of a problem for having to take off the shoes, but my 2 year old was asleep in the stroller and I wasn’t sure I could manage taking her out and getting everything else inside. So we pushed the stroller through. Thankfully, at the counter there was a little envelope with my name on it! We had keys and a room after all. There was also a small elevator that the stroller fit, which was a huge relief! At 1:30 a.m. we were in our tiny room with a set of bunk beds, a single twin and a closet bathroom. I was ready for bed! So were the kids, for about 10 minutes, then everyone was hungry. I pulled out our airplane food, laid out a towel on the floor and we had ourselves a picnic. Then we were all ready for bed. And that my friends, is how we got through our first “night” in Tokyo. More to come soon!

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