My husband and I were presented with An Opportunity for International Travel that would test the boundaries of our flying abilities.
A little background before I get into the nitty gritty of our experience? At one time, my husband was working toward his pilot license, and has generally always enjoyed flying. His opinion has changed slightly since the girls were born, but would still prefer flying to any other form of travel. I, on the other hand, have never been a good flyer and much prefer to drive or possibly even travel by train than to fly. With that out of the way…
We left home at 4:30pm for the airport. We took off out of Orlando at 8:20 pm on Friday and arrived in Frankfurt shortly after 11am (all times written are local time). We spent most of our time in this airport sleeping on benches. Our flight from Frankfurt to Prague left sometime around 3pm and arrived shortly after 4pm. Our hotel shuttle had us checking in to our room by 5:30pm. We were showered and dressed for dinner with a friend by 7pm. Did I mention we’d both been awake since 7am Friday? And that it is now 7pm Saturday?
By far, the most hassle we experienced was at U.S. airports. We were scanned, questioned, and a few were scanned again (luckily, not us). The lines were long and people were impatient.
In Europe, we walked off the plane with completed customs forms in hand, handed them and our passports to airport customs officials and then continued on to our next gate or to baggage claim. It really was just that easy. The longest we waited in line was 5 minutes.
For the return trip, we had the usual hassle of checking in. We probably spent the same amount of time in line checking luggage and getting boarding passes, except in the U.S. there were no less than 4 agents working, while in Prague there were only 3 and one was dedicated to First Class and Frequent Flyers.
After our baggage was checked, all we needed was our passport in Frankfurt and we were good to occupy the airport for a few more hours. When we finally landed in the U.S. (10 hours from Frankfurt and about 20 hours and counting in total travel time), we waited in line for at least 30 minutes to visit with customs, and it wasn’t until we were through that luggage started coming into international baggage claim (and we’d been in the middle of the group getting off the plane).
When it comes to amenities, these flights do rival domestic flights on JetBlue. The one MAJOR difference is that the seats are smaller. They are narrower than JetBlue and those falling in the obese category might have difficulty fitting into a single economy seat. We were provided with headphones, a pillow, blanket, and all seats have TVs for in-flight movies, TV and music. On both long flights, we were provided 2 meals and 2 snacks. Both short flights we were provided with simple breakfasts. Overhead compartments were adequate if you stuck to the guidelines (and I didn’t see anyone having to force anything into the bins). The bathrooms were well maintained and there were 3 sets throughout the plane. Refreshments (including a limited supply of alcohol) were distributed roughly every hour.
My one REAL issue with the long flights? Unless EVERYONE sits upright or EVERYONE reclines, you end up with people in your lap, and that’s not really an exaggeration. Both my husband and I on the return flight made several unnecessary trips to the restroom to escape the claustrophobic space that had been created when the couple in front of us reclined. Why didn’t we recline? Because we looked behind us and saw that both people were using their laptops on their trays, and if we’d reclined, would have closed their computers (which happened to my husband and his laptop).
It’s called common courtesy people.
Oops, sorry, end rant.
In short, any adult can manage an international flight. Just do your research and be prepared. However, I will not be taking my children on a flight like this until they are MUCH, MUCH, heck, MUCH older, because there just isn’t the space in economy to keep them distracted. IF, somehow, we can afford Business Class seats, I might consider the trip once they are both in elementary school, but definitely not as infants, toddlers, or preschoolers.
I hope this has helped anyone who might be about to take their first international flight. If there are other questions, feel free to ask, I know that having answers helped me handle the flight despite being claustrophobic and just generally not a good flyer.