My parents came through for us. They didn't just come through, they kept us sane. As you know, they went to the Secretary of States office and got our documents done. Then they came back to our apartment and waited for us to get home from work. Once we got home, they kept us distracted from the details that usually kill you when you're getting ready for a trip. Instead of stressing out over things, we just packed slowly but steadily. We already had everything gathered, but the stress level was non-existent. Very much a social atmosphere rather than a stressful one.
The next day was trip day #1. Our trip to Russia lasted three calendar days, although in reality, it was a little over 24 hour total flight hours.
We got to the airport with perfect timing. And because it was a Saturday, it was pretty much empty. Right through check in and security in under the time we'd allotted. We were really impressed – and grateful – that everything went so smoothly. The Boston airport has a tendency to be crazy, but for some reason it was wonderfully smooth.
Once we got to our gate, we scoped out a spot, DH pulled out his P*SP, and I poked around Duty Free for a few minutes. As I made my way back to my husband and our two carry on bags, they had started making announcements for our flight. One of the announcements was letting everyone know that you could buy an upgrade to first class for a relatively small chunk of change. We looked at each other and said, "Lets do it." So, for a six hour flight, we flew direct to Los Angeles in first class. Great way – and much less stressful, I might add – to start our trip off!
Because of a non-existent wind on the way out to Los Angeles, we got there an hour early! The food was better than average on the plane – not great – but certainly an improvement than the traditional airline food.
Once we got to LA, we had about four hours until the next flight, so we moseyed on over to our gate and hung out there. By this time, DH had run down the battery in his P*SP, and needed to recharge it, so we spent the next few hours hunting down, finding, and charging that and the extra battery pack he brought.
That turned out to be the key for DH. See, he's not a good traveler. I've been threatening him with all sorts of torture I can think of to make sure he doesn't turn into a nightmare for me and everyone surrounding us on the planes. The upgrade that we did on the way out to LA started our trip off beautifully. It kept him calm and kept him comfortable. By the time we'd landed in LA, he was calm and ready for the next flight – 12 hours worth. Honestly, I couldn't have asked for better karma.
As soon as we got on the next flight, I crashed. By then it was almost 5AM according to our body clocks. I didn't need any of the sleeping pills I'd brought, I just put my headphones and travel pillow on, and fell asleep. DH said that I slept straight for the first 6 hours of that flight. I'd left my watch at home on purpose. On trips like this if I have a watch on, I turn into a clock watcher, and it isn't fun. So I've started leaving the watch at home, and vacations and trips go so much more smoothly because I just go with the flow.
Anyway, we were very impressed with that second flight. We took Korean Air, and would HIGHLY recommend it. I have this thing called long-leg-disease. Or at least I call it that. Flying on long trips gets to be a nightmare very quickly if (1) I don't have an aisle seat and (2) my husband is complaining. Even though we flew coach, I had leg space for miles, and DH had enough power in his P*SP to last him through ¾ of the flight. He said that he turned it on when we first got on the plane and the first time he looked up, three hours had gone by.
He said it was at that point that he knew he could do this and just sit back and relax.
We got to Seoul at some ungodly early hour. We knew that we were checked in all the way to Vladivostok, so we weren't really concerned about anything other than getting the gate that our next flight was leaving from. We went to the counter and got that information, and as an afterthought, DH asked about our luggage to make sure it was checked in all the way, as well. The woman started typing, picked up the phone and started talking. Hung up the phone 10 seconds later. She looked up at us and said, "Your luggage was only checked in until Seoul, but the people in baggage will make sure it gets on your connecting flight. Have a nice flight."
We turned and looked at each other. DH just saved our luggage. *PHEW*
If you've never been to the Seoul airport, be prepared. We passed no less than 20 … and probably more … duty free shops. And ladies. Holy shopping mecca. Just walking from one concourse to another, we encountered TWO Hermes shops, THREE Gucci, a Coach, Burburry, Ferragammo, and the list goes on. Oh, and everything opened by 7AM. Nice. I restrained myself admirably, but let me tell you, the task was Herculean. Prices were good, overall, too. I'm planning on a little shopping on my way back through that airport. We only have two hours, but it will work to my wallets advantage. ;)
The places to eat do take American Dollars, but make sure you change your money at the changing place. You'll get a much better exchange rate. Just by luck, we happened to have a couple of 5's and some singles on us. We changed $13 and got enough Korean Won to have lunch at BK and K*FC. So if you do go through that airport, be sure to bring some smaller bills along with you.
We got on the flight and made it to Vladivostok on time. You have to walk down the stairs that they drive up to the plane and then get on a bus for a 20 second bus ride to the terminal. We happened to be in the front of the plane, so were on the first bus. We were some of the first people in line and didn't have to wait long to go through immigration. I went up to the counter and gave the woman my documents. She handed one back to me, and I just said, I don't speak or understand Russian, so I don't know what information it is asking me for. She was nice enough to fill it out for me, stamp my passport and let me through. DH was next in line and had the same thing. Only this time she didn't fill it out for him. She sent him to another line, freaking me out. They wouldn't let me back through and made me go through the next line for passport control. Luckily, I was able to go back and stand on the other side of the immigration gate and watch my DH make it through the line. Turns out, she didn't want to fill out the form for him, and sent him through another line that had a sign – an incorrect one I might add as the form was different – telling him how to fill out the form. He said some really nice Korean folks showed him what to do and lent him a pen.
We finally got through that line, got him through the next one, and claimed our luggage. Both bags were sitting right there. Perfect. Even the TSA approved locks were on them. Awesome.
We went and had our luggage scanned and walked out into the lobby. By the way, if you're traveling to Vlad, realize that even though they call it an international airport, its pretty small. Like smaller than the majority of the airports you know about in the states. So just be prepared for the size.
We were met by A, who brought us straight to the Ministry of Education to get our letter of invitation to visit the baby. Took a grand total of 10 minutes. We signed our paperwork, signed the "book" and that was it.