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Just a friendly robot in the Incheon Airport.

Taking our 5 month old to Vietnam

Just over a year ago, in March of 2019, we decided to go to Vietnam for spring break. We have 3 children, then aged 8 years old, 4 years old, and 5 months old. The two older ones had both traveled internationally from 6 months old so my wife and I already had a little experience in this matter.

Traveling with babies who can’t yet crawl has been surprisingly easy for us, mainly because our kids have never been ones to cry very much. All of them only cried when they were hungry, so as soon as they started to cry, we fed them and that was it. Otherwise, all they seem to do on an airplane is sleep and sleep and sleep. I just want to say that it is always easier for me than for my wife because all the girls preferred to sleep in her arms. I probably only held them about 25% of the time.

Something about the drone of the engines, the vibration of the plane cutting through the air, being held in mom or dad’s arms kept them asleep. I know from observation that we are lucky because this is not the case with all babies. Also, once they start to crawl it gets much more challenging because all they want to do when they are awake is move around.

Preparing for the trip we have a routine. Small umbrella stroller is a must, large strollers just take too much space. Each older girl brings her own back pack with: headphones, writing utensils, notebooks, water bottles, and toys. For the baby we pack: diapers, wet wipes, bottles, and formula. Two things we’ve learned is don’t over pack and check your luggage (although this is not always possible as I work for an airline and travel standby). We still bring 1 carry on roller board suitcase with extra clothes (we’ve had our bags get lost before), any valuables, and lots of snacks.

First we flew from Orlando (MCO) to Detroit (DTW). It’s about a 2 hour flight. Then we waited about 3 hours for our connection to Incheon (Seoul) South Korea (ICN). We had coffee and snacks and waited next to Gate A18 because there is a tiny play area. Calling it a play area is actually a stretch as it’s just one of those Little Tikes toy houses that kids can go inside and play in. But the girls love it. If you want a bigger play area you have to go all the way to the end of the B Gates (at B21). It’s not that far but with the stroller and waiting on the elevators we tend to stay close to our departure gate.

This was from a different trip through Detroit, but this is the playground at A18.

From Detroit it is about a 13 hour flight to Korea. During that time we were fed lunch, a snack, and breakfast. We were also provided with bottles of water and the flight attendants came by quite often. The airplane had the in-seat TVs with lots of cartoons. The 2 older girls put on their headphones (just a note, the ones the airlines provide for you are usually the in ear type not suitable for kids, be sure to buy over ear headphones) and watch hours of TV and movies. We don’t care on these long flights as long as they are are happy and not complaining. The baby just slept.

My oldest daughter and myself sitting all the way in the last row of an Airbus A350.

Getting to Incheon is a different story. You get there at around 4 am east coast time, jet-lagged and sleep deprived. This can be a big problem with older kids because they will be very cranky and will want to be picked up and carried everywhere. We force them to deal with it and walk. If you are making an international transfer you don’t have to go through immigration and customs. Follow the signs, check in with your airline, then go through the security checkpoint. Now you are in one of the nicest airports in the world.

Incheon is my absolute favorite airport. Big high ceilings, lots of open space, public lounges with places to sleep, shopping, restaurants, even free showers. But when you are traveling with kids, the best thing is all the playgrounds. Every concourse has at least 1 playground. They are never very far from your gate. Let them run around and burn off all that energy before your next flight.

Speaking of which, this last leg was a little more difficult. It is just 5 and ½ hours from ICN to Ho Chi Minh City (SGN) but the baby rarely slept. This was something new for us. We kept busy showing her things, trying to get her to watch cartoons, rocking her, and feeding her but it was mostly in vain. She had slept so much during the first 2 flights that I think she had enough. She didn’t cry but she wasn’t happy to be back on an airplane so soon. Because of this, when we returned to the U.S. 10 days later, we decided to break up the trip and spend the night in Korea. This did help as the baby slept all the way back.

All together from Florida to Vietnam it was 20 and a ½ hours of flight time. Including layover time and travel to and from the airport, about 28 hours door to door. I know for a lot of parents that seems like a daunting experience. We were nervous the first time we went overseas. But with planning each trip has gotten easier. We’ve learned what to pack, what to leave behind, and how to keep everyone entertained. We knew we weren’t going to stop traveling just because we had kids and we’d like to encourage others to do the same (once it’s safe to do so).

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Jay Muller

Author of The Flight Advisor