International Travel LAX Toddler Travel Trip Reports United Airlines

Home for the Holidays: 26 Hours to Taiwan with a Toddler Part I – United Domestic First and LAX Star Alliance Lounge

Toddlers. Insisting on pushing stroller through terminal in PJs at 530 AM...
Toddlers. Insisting on pushing stroller through terminal in PJs at 530 AM…

We’re still recovering. A few days ago we set a family record by traveling for 26 hours straight – really 28 hours if you’re counting door to door. It was quite the journey, one I don’t know how we would have survived were it not for points and miles.

A caveat to everything I write here. A gigantic amount of respect and props need to go to parents who take their almost 2 year olds to Asia as lap infants in coach. It amazes me that entire planes home to Asia during the holidays are gigantic screaming nurseries in the sky. I think the <1 year olds are no problem lapwise, but once you have a running, super curious toddler: man, I’m not totally sure why airlines don’t lower that lap age to 18 months.

Obviously in business class we had it a lot easier and the rules worked for us! Here’s how the marathon trip went. It was such a marathon, I’ve split it into two (still too long) posts.

United Domestic First BOS-LAX

As I’ve noted elsewhere, we switched flights after losing out on the Hello Kitty plane (think I’m going to try to mention that in every single post in this series :)). We also decided not to bring a car seat, which meant we need to somehow get to the airport for 4:45 AM to catch a 6:00 AM flight.

I opted to call a car service which came with a car seat, it came out to about double a normal taxi ride (~$60) but that was obviously still cheaper than parking at the airport. The hidden costs of having a child!

A child who has watched very little TV was quite into the safety video
This child who has watched very little TV was quite into the safety video

I was actually most worried about this flight, it’s about six hours and although there is more space in first class, I knew it was still going to be pretty tight. M was pretty agreeable waking up early, going through security, etc., and we even had time to go to the United Club to change her (pretty decent in BOS FWIW).

Breakfast was actually pretty good. This is a double portion though
Breakfast was actually pretty good. This is a double portion though

The flight ended up going alright, after sleeping the first 45 minutes or so she woke up and we all ate breakfast together (thank goodness for hot food in first). After all that there were over four hours left so it was about killing off an hour at a time.

There would be a lot of this the rest of the way
There would be a lot of this the rest of the way

Introducing her to her new headphones, that took about an hour (and were a real hit). Reading some books, another hour. Playing with the seatbelts, another hour (though requiring my displacement). I even got her one of those demonstration seatbelts to play with. Walking up and down the aisle? Another great activity.

Delirium setting in...
Delirium setting in…

Between all that and periodic snacks, we avoided any major meltdowns though she got close at the end. For some reason she started insisting on lying on the floor, so we just let her do that until the very end. In the end, though the flight was stressful, I thought it ended up going better than expected (though to be fair I had very low expectations).

Full on delirious on the floor mode!
Full on delirious on the floor mode!

Long LAX Layover & Star Alliance Lounge

We ended up at LAX quite a bit earlier than scheduled, leaving us with a whopping seven hour layover. The benefit of this was a lack of stress getting between terminals. The downside was…pretty much everything else.

How is TBIT so nice and the rest of LAX so...not
How is TBIT so nice and the rest of LAX so…not

Things started out nicely as we met up with a buddy of mine for lunch after a long walk from one end of the airport to the other. By “lunch” I mean some bagels bought from an Einstein Bagel Brothers stand because as nice as Tom Bradley International Terminal is on the planeside, it is equally as crappy on the landside. 

Thankfully we found a little sitting area where we could hang out for awhile, M was sufficiently amused by running around in the open space. Oh, and protip: it’s never Smarte to pay for a carte at LAX. While there are some stacks of carts that will charge you five bucks, there are loads of other carts lying around for free if you walk around a bit. I don’t mean like carts people left behind, it’s like carts with the Smarte Carte sign and just no money needed. Makes no sense, but don’t pay the money. I digress.

It's not smarte to get your carte from one of these (smartecarte.com)
It’s not smarte to get your carte from one of these (smartecarte.com)

After getting our EVA business class boarding passes, we went through security (“Hey people, this is TSA precheck, don’t take anything out, I’m not trying to trick you, this is supposed to be faster, DON’T TAKE ANYTHING OUT FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS GOOD AND TRUE”) and went straight to the Star Alliance Lounge.

I had read some nice reviews of the lounge beforehand and I think they are spot on – it’s very well designed, peaceful, and the outdoor seating area with a view of the runway is great. Well, it’s peaceful when you don’t have a delirious 2-year old bashing her head on corners because she is so tired she can’t stand up straight and bawling in response (seriously, she drew blood).

I'm a fan of the decor
I’m a fan of the decor

So yes, although she had taken a short nap after lunch, M needed some rest pretty badly. She was not going to get it. Ultimately we survived the lounge without disturbing everyone by hanging on the outdoor patio and watching the planes land.

It's a nice outdoor patio, although some people were oblivious to the non-smoking signs on every single table
It’s a nice outdoor patio, although some people were oblivious to the non-smoking signs on every single table

The food at the buffet table was okay, the highlight was quesadillas that some magical lounge attendant was passing around (magical because I never saw said attendant and quesadillas just would appear at my table). There is also a DIY noodle station which is good when the broth is hot (protip: you can ask the kitchen when they are refilling it or even for some hot broth).

The first of many bowls of noodles that have been consumed over the past few days
The first of many bowls of noodles that have been consumed over the past few days

What really saved our ridiculous layover was being able to take a shower at the Star Alliance lounge. Though the lounge was pretty full, there was no line at all at the showers (though there are 8 stalls I think so it should move quickly even if there is high demand). After all three of us had showered and changed, we all felt better and ready to tackle our 14 hour onward flight to Taipei. Especially after M met her hero at the Sanrio store before we boarded.

It was great to take a shower, but the water pressure in Room 2 was seriously lacking
It was great to take a shower, but the water pressure in Room 2 was seriously lacking
She made us go back four times
She made us go back four times

Final Thoughts

As I hinted at the top, I now think it is nearly impossible to take a child who’s almost 2 as a lap infant on a long flight in coach. For me, I don’t even think it’s worth the stress. Your child may vary, obviously. But the most stressful part of this trip was the long layover in LAX, which really is kinda sucky as an airport. The planeside beauty of Tom Bradley just kind of highlights what a stressful airport the rest of LAX is. But the Star Alliance Lounge is pretty great if you can get in there, so at least LAX has that going for it!

View from the patio
View from the patio

Other Posts in this Series

Introduction

United Domestic First and LAX Star Alliance Lounge

EVA Royal Laurel Class Review

Using Public Transportation in Taiwan with a Toddler

Visiting the Taipei Zoo

Eating in Taipei

Grand Hyatt Taipei King Suite Review

A Tough Flight with a Toddler

Public Transportation in Hong Kong with a Toddler

Typical Hong Kong Tourist Activities

Hong Kong Disneyland with a Toddler

Joe
Just an average joe trying to fly his family for less
http://www.asthejoeflies@gmail.com

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