I have now done the flight back and forth from Indy to El Salvador 4 times. The first was when she was just 5 months old and the others have been in the past year. I have to admit that flying with a baby/toddler is something I do not look forward to. I guess the motto "expect the worst, hope for the best" is a great way to describe how I feel about the upcoming trip in less than a week.
When Liliana was still a baby, I flew with her and my mom to El Salvador for a vacation to see Eduardo's family. I didn't expect the trip to be too bad and it was WAY worse than I expected. Liliana screamed and cried the WHOLE way there and back. She couldn't sleep and her ears bothered her. It was exhausting to say the least.
The flight from Indy to San Salvador isn't quite as bad as the trip back. It's about a 12 hour day of traveling. Delta has one flight that always leaves and arrives at the same time. It takes about 2 hours to get to the airport from our house, then you have to be an hour and a half early to the airport and wait and go through all the annoying checkpoints where they search everything twice. After that we wait to board the plane, which we get to do early because I'm "traveling with a young child and need additional time." So we get settled and then again we wait for everyone else to board and then there's usually some delay that keeps us from departing on time, god forbid. Once in the air it's a game of Liliana falling asleep, waking up, keeping her entertained, taking her to the bathroom and calming her down when she is crying from discomfort, especially on the way down.
The flight from San Salvador to Atlanta is about 3 hours. Once we are in Atlanta, we have to go through Customs. We get off the plane and head down to pick up all our bags. There are carts waiting and you have to take all your suitcases off the conveyer belt by yourself. Doing this with a baby is near impossible alone, but with a toddler is slightly easier. Sometimes you will get a nice gentleman eager to help in the struggle. Once you have all your bags you have to try and stear the cart full of 8 bags and hold the baby/toddler at the same time. Not an easy task either! You get in line for customs. They look at you, your customs form and your bags and tell you to pass or you get pulled over. Luckily for me, we've always been told to move on. Then you maneuver your cart to the area for unloading. Some big guy usually unloads them and you are sent on your way. Then we wait in line for the x-ray machines and have to undress, take off shoes, all that fun stuff. Then we have to get to the next line to wait for our turn with an Immigration official. We show them our passports and the customs form we filled out on the plane. Sometimes they ask questions and sometimes they don't. I've gotten asked things like "what does your husband do?", "where do you work?", "How long were you gone?", that sort of thing. An any case, we answer the questions and move on. We then have to make a made dash to the opposite side of the HUGE Atlanta International Airport and pray we make it on time to the flight. We barely do and board again. We get situated and the game of keeping Liliana entertained, fed and sleeping continues. She's been a trooper! We take our 2 hour flight to Indianapolis from Atlanta and arrive about 10:30pm. It's been a long day. I barely can walk to the exit of the airport at this point. My arms are sore from carrying a toddler and 3-4 carry-on bags. We greet whoever is waiting for us and proceed to get our luggage. We walk out to the carry and lay back for the 30-minute drive to the house.
It may be more expensive now to have to pay for a seat for Liliana since she turned 2 in December, but it's worth it! Even though she still sits in my lap most of the ride, we at least have the extra room to eat, play and sleep when we want to. And it's more privacy for nursing! I'm hoping for the best on Sunday and will be thinking about some special surprises and treats I can take for Liliana for those "intense" moments. I will let you all know how it goes. Wish us luck!!
For more on traveling to El Salvador from the States and those visa and passport requirements, check out my ES Visa Requirements.