We made it back to Tbilisi last week and our return travel was light years better for everyone involved. There were some struggles but overall, it was a much, much better experience. Looks like my sister can still have her wedding in October!
There were many advantages to the return journey. For one thing, we flew out of Cleveland at 6:15 p.m., as opposed to our Tbilisi departure which was originally scheduled for 5 a.m. JR and I were able to sleep in and take our time closing up the suitcases, and then we enjoyed a nice Easter lunch with my family. Abby even had a nap before we left for the airport. We all started out in better moods, and much more rested.
The better moods were quickly changed when we checked in at the American Airlines counter for our first flight to Chicago. The attendant told us our bags could not be checked all the way to Tbilisi, so we’d have to pick them up at baggage claim in Chicago and RE-CHECK them before boarding our flight to Istanbul. This meant that instead of just going to our next gate in Chicago, we would have go to baggage claim and wait for our bags, then make our way to the Turkish counter, recheck our bags, go through security again, and then find our next gate. JR repeatedly asked them why we had to do this but they just said that since American Airlines didn’t have an “agreement” with Turkish Airlines, we would have to get our luggage to Turkish ourselves. JR didn’t think there’d be enough time in Chicago to do all this but we figured we’d deal with the problem as best we could when we landed. And deal with it we did.
As soon as we landed in Chicago, we hustled to baggage claim. JR paid for two luggage carts, and even then it was difficult for us to maneuver because I was pushing Abby in her stroller while JR had to push one cart with each hand. The first thing we had to do was find a spot to open Every.Single.Bag and rearrange our items because the weight limit for American Airlines, which we had planned for, is 50 lbs, while Turkish Airlines only allows 44 lbs per bag. Thankfully we had enough extra space in our last two bags that we didn’t have to throw away anything (I was really fearing for my 5 packages of bacon and 4 pounds of frozen cheese at this point, but they made the cut!).
Next we had to transport ourselves and said luggage from Terminal 2 to Terminal 5. Easy peasy – we’ll take the tram! Oh wait, you aren’t allowed to take a luggage cart on the tram. After the first employee said it couldn’t be done, the next one said they’d make an exception for us and she also helped push one of the carts. Upon arriving at Terminal 5, we were greeted by a lengthy but not terribly long line at the Turkish counter. At this point Abby was asking for water, she had finished her sippy cup and we didn’t have any bottled water with us. There wasn’t a vending machine in sight. Since we had a 2.5 hour layover, we assumed we’d have time to eat dinner and relax before boarding. But like most things when traveling, we were wrong.
Once we rechecked our bags, we had about 90 minutes left so we felt pretty good about the situation. Until we saw the largest security line JR or I have ever seen.
I was a tad unhappy. So much for our leisurely layover, at this point we were concerned we wouldn’t make the flight. I felt especially bad for Abby. We use the layovers for her to run around, stretch her legs and burn energy, and she was confined to her stroller almost the entire time. She was not pleased. By the time we collected our things from the security checkpoint, we heard the last call for our flight over the loudspeaker. I told JR to run ahead so they wouldn’t close the doors on us. We made it, but we were annoyed and frustrated. Running through airports is becoming a family tradition.
The great news is that the flight itself was pretty great. We settled in to our seats and Abby started playing with the in-flight entertainment system. We fed her while we waited for dinner service (huge thanks to my Mom who helped out by packing us peanut butter sandwiches, grapes, apples and cheese – this was way better than all the snack/junk food we packed ourselves). We’ll always try to remember to bring fresh food with us from now on. Shortly after we ate, we laid her down between us and like magic, she fell asleep.
She slept off and on this way for several hours (so did we), and then she started getting uncomfortable. We could tell she needed to stretch out a bit more, so I moved to the window seat and JR took his Kindle and walked around/stood in the galley while Abby and I slept. It was really nice, I was able to stretch out some more and she was laying flat across the aisle and middle seats. We probably slept like this for almost 3 hours. She rolled off onto the floor at one point, but she barely cried and was quickly asleep again. In fact, we woke her up when we had about 45 minutes remaining in the flight. #MAJORWIN. The overnight flight made a huge difference.
Our layover in Istanbul was just over 2 hours. It’s a crowded airport with not enough seating. Not my favorite. Our time passed quickly enough and finally we were on our LAST flight home. We landed in the pouring down rain and freezing cold, but all six bags, although wet, made it and we were safely at home about an hour later.
My general advice on flying with a two year old: Don’t do it. Okay that’s probably not fair, everything worked out fine in the end but definitely be prepared for a less than relaxing journey!