Saturday, September 22, 2012

Moving Across the World:The Big Day(s)

 Do a little dance folks because You Made It!! You have purged, gotten rid of, donated, sold most of what you own.  You've figured out a storage situation that works for your family.  You've weeded through toys and clothes and favorite things.  You have done your marathon packing.  You now know way more about storage containers and suitcases and what cloth napkins weigh than is deemed normal.  But you've made it.  You are now at that crazy moment of getting ready to get on a plane with all your stuff and kids in tow and moved to ANOTHER COUNTRY!!  Stop for just a minute and look around you.  Yep, this is your life, this is a dream and a vision that God gave your family and He has brought you to this day(s).  Crazy, huh?  So just take a moment and enjoy it!

And then some kid is going to puke on you or jar you back to the reality that you have to get your crazy brood and your (insert number of bags here) bags from your hometown to your new town somewhere else in the world.  Take a deep breath.  You got this. You already did all that I just listed, you can totally make it through the traveling part.

Before we get too far into all of this, start praying now for your move days.  Seriously, pray for the check in people, the security people, the porters, the flight attendants and pilots.  We've seen God have scales zeroed out at -1 lb and people not charge us for bags and make special provision for us getting on and off the planes.  One time we even got free domestic tickets!

 And yes, this moving thing is a lot.  So much so, we asked my sister and her husband to help us move.  They are late twenties, no kids yet, but stable, able bodied adults who can help.  It also means that the adults will outnumber the children, which is always a good thing!  Tip #1  If you have someone in your life that could help with the move, ASK them!!  Seriously!

The logistics for this part of the journey can be a bit intense.  How are you getting to the airport?  How are you getting all your stuff to the airport?  What are you doing with those car seats?  Bringing a stroller?  A sling or a wrap for baby? Who is carrying the passports?  How in the world are the two of you going to corral those kids and all those bags?

I am going to say it again, this is just what we do.  If you figure something better out, please tell me!!  But at least you have a place to start.

About 5 years ago we moved across the state and some friends of our had us stay at their house the night before we left.  At first I didn't think too much of it, but wow, what a difference that made!  It meant I didn't have to wash towels and sheets and what not the day of.  All that was finished the day before we left.  And we did it again before we moved for language school and we are doing it again this weekend.  We are blessed enough to have my parents just 20 minutes from the airport. So there is Tip #2 Stay somewhere else the day or two before you leave the country.

So airport.  We have asked both sets of parents to help with this.  One minivan will take the luggage and the other most of the people.  And there will be plenty of bodies to haul those 50 pound bags all over the place.  This also means it will be a good time to say that last goodbye. 

Once in the airport, especially if you don't have extra help, Pay for a porter!! (that's Tip #3, by the way).  The going tip (not to be confused with the other Tips in this post) rate is $1 a bag, maybe $2 if they are really heavy or if he or she helps out in other ways.  Budget this into your travel expenses, it is totally worth it!

And kids. So I am sure you have all thought of new small activities and toys for the flights.  We have a backpack for each of our kids, and they get to carry it on and off the plane.  They also get to pick some of what goes in their backpack, but I add stuff too as a surprise.  Keeping them corralled in the airport can be interesting, but we have found a stroller is a big help (remember, our kids are little still).  It gives them a safe place to sit, they still want to fall asleep sometimes, so it's a help then too.  The stroller also helps you section off a part of the terminal for your family...sit on the floor, it will give you more space.  Also, if you can, carry a small, light blanket, to spread out on the floor picnic style, that's great too.

My philosophy with life has always been be prepared so you can be flexiable.  That's a good thought for flying internationally as well.  Be as prepared as you can, but know that at some point along the way you will probably need to rework the plan.

So, what is your best travel advice?    

Want more?  Check out these other posts!

Want more MAW?  Check these out
Moving Across the World:  The Beginning
Moving Across the World:  Toys 
Moving Across the World:  Buying and Acquiring 
Moving Across the World: Packing 
Moving Across the World:  Helpful This and Thats


  1. I'm new to the site & am loving it already! I'm full of questions but one that sticks out right now is how do you get your kids acclimated to a whole new culture? (how old are they?) How do you get them to eat new & different foods on the mission field? These are Q's I've been thinking a lot about lately as we may be going Mongolia next summer & I have a 1 year old & 3 year old and was curious what others did to help kids adjust :)

    1. P.S THANK YOU for all the packing & preparing tips!! Super helpful & i'll definitely be referring back to them when the time comes!

  2. we've rely several of those strategies, too - once again, wise advice, Liz!

    one thing that didn't work for our family (although i know others love and rely on it) was the whole backpack with little treasures for each child to help entertain them. we found it better to take one or two things, max, for each child and pair them up with a sibling... so we bring a couple of game boys, our oldest carries his computers, each bigger can bring a book and i bring one we are reading as a family, a coloring book with small box of crayons or pencils, our one daughter who loves horses brings a few of those figurines, maybe some little green army men - and all 8 kids make due with that and play together. otherwise it became overwhelming trying to keep track of everything; we also found that when the selection was bigger, we actually had MORE problems with boredom. it is easy to say that each kid carries his/her backpack, but that's a large thing to ask of a 5 year old after s/he has been traveling for 18+ hours. reality in our family is that hubs deals with officials and paperwork and mom becomes the donkey/beast of burden for all the stuff the rest can't carry any longer because well laid plans/good intentions are often out the window when airport/travel reality, unforeseen circumstances and the pressure of making a connecting flight or officials who won't budge collides with your family on the go.

    find out ahead of time if there is paperwork that must be filled out to comply with local regulations. in n. & w. africa, there are these cards that must filled out for each person when you arrive and also a corresponding version for when you leave with passport numbers, phone numbers, addresses, dates of birth... etc., and there is no quick way to do it. that means for our family, what might normally be a 2 hour check-in can easily be doubled (if not even longer) because local officials then also have to check all of those documents (and often write things down) before we can move to the next step in the process. when possible, find out about those things ahead of time (see if they will give them to you early to get a head start) and be prepared that the process might seem tedious and/or redundant and that your perception of local efficiency might be "challenged."

    we also all tend to wear the same color while traveling - that way i can count 10 blobs of our particular shade of blue and locate my family instantly. it also identifies for others that we are together so when littles have tried to wander off or we are in line in the bathroom - people have helped by returning or letting some jump in line so that we can stay together. we definitely use a buddy system so that biggers are partnered with and looking out for a littler.

    make sure you have a plan for strollers. some airports in europe and other places do not have elevators and you must be prepared for escalators or stairs only instead. make sure strollers (and other devices) fold easily and quickly and automatically so you don't have to think. even something easy like that can quickly become a frustration when security is pushing you to move rapidly or impatient with this crazy person traveling with all these kids and some businessman behind you is in a hurry... think as you pack your computer bags, etc., that in some places, those computers are going to have to be hand checked by security - so don't bury them. same thing with belts, shoes, jackets, etc., having to be removed and then put back on. security, in our experience, has been craziest in the states.

    when at all possible, ask to check your baggage to your destination - but sometimes that does not work if transit time is too long.

    flexibility is key... and remember - you do eventually get there and the trip will be over. :-)

  3. This was a great post for me. My family is leaving in two days to travel to Kenya for two years. We have two girls, 4 and almost 2. It is so encouraging to know that others have done this and survived! It is a very crazy process, but like you said, it is the dream and desire the Lord has given you and it is exciting to get to begin that. Will try to post after traveling if I figure out any great ideas! We are doing one backpack for both girls with toys, lightweight jackets, crayons, tiny dolls. Also, I think the greatest resource we have discovered is an Ipad! We are loading it up with movies and games/puzzles/books for our four year. She loves it! Hoping it will keep them entertained the most.

  4. Honestly, my travel advice goes against what a lot of people say, but I'll still say it. For our family, we do better without taking special toys and other entertainment. That usually just ends up being extra stuff to drag along, even if it could be fun. Instead, our children enjoy whatever they find along the way.

    Oh, Richelle pretty much said the same thing as me, so I guess it's not unique.