Author Topic: Traveling from Eretz Yisroel to the US with 8 kids (including a stopover)  (Read 2242 times)

Offline Moshe Green

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Around 5 months I posted of an issue that we experienced with British Airways canceling our flight from Israel to the US (https://forums.dansdeals.com/index.php?topic=127565.msg2527108#msg2527108). Dan and the whole “Oilum” were very helpful and Boruch Hashem we were able to get even better tickets directly to the city in which we were headed for at the same price for a ticket to JFK (a savings of $200 a ticket).
After seeing how there’s a whole community in which everyone is looking after the other, since it had been a while since the family had flown and we were now much bigger (Parents + 8 kids, oldest being 12), I thought it would be a good idea to tap into the wisdom of Dan’s Deal’s Forum to prepare properly for the flight (https://forums.dansdeals.com/index.php?topic=127925.msg2541975#msg2541975).
There was much good advice including, but not limited to;
@AsherO suggested bringing tranquilizers (or at least an Ipad).
@yerushabubby prepares small bags of goodies and writing instruments, meals, and suggests 1 place for all docs. Also talking to kids before to prepare them for security and using melatonin. She along with @SSLPhD also had good ideas for snacks.
@aygart advised to eat before boarding.
@Yehuda57 suggested Benadryl and to keep different baggies for giving out through the flight.
@dasmo801 warned to make sure (for parents) to keep stress levels down.
@BCL told from experience that 2 rows is better than 1 long one and the advantages of gum during takeoff and landing.
@motec bb , @Yehudaa, @tavster, @ckmk47, @Abebee and @AsherO posted with tips about which car seat and gear to bring for infants
@SuperFlyer‘s idea was to have children be tired before the flight.
Regarding masks, @dasmo801, @Yehuda57, and @AsherO also had what to add.
@sillypainter, @JMHO , @yitzgar, @E R K and @moish had some security tips.
Many others also shared their experiences about what to expect from kids on the plane and how they behave.
It was all extremely helpful and informative and I can say that, with much help from Hashem, we managed the trip, both there and back, not forgetting any kids on the way, keeping our sanity, not suffering from hunger or thirst, and only losing a few cheap pieces of clothing and games.
Here is a rough account of how the trip went from beginning to end. The focus is only on the flight and specifically how we managed with our large family.
Before Pesach. Flight is 10am with El-Al landing in England, and then after a 4 hour stopover, a second flight with British to the US, landing at around 8/9pm.
On the way back is a 10pm flight overnight, which arrives In England at 10 in the morning. After a 4 hour stopover, we take a 4 hour flight back to Israel.

Offline Moshe Green

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Packing:
We packed many suitcases for the way. [Because we had never done such a large trip before, we had to borrow most of the suitcases.] We had to bring clothes for the whole family, but since it was Pesach, we needed both winter and spring clothes, plus Shabbos/Yom Tov as well. We brought the food products that our family likes from Israel and also presents for the family in the US. Because we were staying in an empty apartment, I made sure to order a few games and toys on Amazon to both have on the plane and to greet us when we arrive in the US. Those that we ordered to the US, we would bring back with us to Israel.
Besides for the luggage that would go under the plane, we made sure to pack a carry-on with 1 change of clothes for everyone, including underwear and socks in case there would be an unscheduled stopover and even if there would not be, it would be able to be used the first day after landing because we were landing very late in the US. For the little, little ones, we packed a second outer pair of clothes. Pajamas were packed as well to have, “ready to go to bed”, when we arrived.
We designated 1 carry-on as the “Master Carry-on” with all the essentials. Passports (20 of them), Tallis/Teffilin, money in various currencies (Shekel, Dollar, and some small English money in case we would want to buy something in the airport), some essential sefarim and books. This carry-on was carefully guarded and always kept next to mommy or tatty.
Another 2 carry-on’s hosted the snacks. We prepared many snacks throughout the way. Because of Pesach, though, we tried to limit the Chometz and put in more Kitnios and Kosher for Pesach foods. The snacks we had were not necessarily based on healthy choices but based on the ability to dish them out easily and quickly and generally keep the kids busy. We brought some empty bottles as well to fill up after security.
One carry-on had our lunch for the stopover. We brought fresh rolls, cheese slices, prepared tuna, and sliced cucumbers. These would get through security and stay fresh until we got to eat it. It would also be filling and our kids would eat it even if they didn’t have a 100% appetite.
In the toy carry-on we really stocked up. Not only did I want them to keep busy but I also wanted to have as little exposure to other ideas and sights that we try to shelter them from in Israel. We brought with us; a Gameboy, a tablet, a writing tablet, a mini-whiteboard, a magnetic board, reading books, comic books, activity books, coloring books, sefarim and even a pack of cards or 2. These were very helpful and although it seemed like overkill before the flight, it really was all necessary.

Offline Moshe Green

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The Night Before:
Everything is almost packed. Van service is ordered. We took the afternoon off with the kids, both to get tested for Corona and also to destress. We went to the park and for Pizza. After bathing, the kids went to bed in their clothes so the next morning (5:30 wakeup) would be easier. The kids are really excited and are having a hard time falling asleep. Mommy and Tatty finish packing really, really, late. In hindsight, I realize that I should have taken off of work that day and focused on packing when the kids were at the park. My wife and I probably got like 2-3 hours of sleep before having to wake up in the morning.

Offline Moshe Green

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The Morning Of:
I decided to daven Netz before leaving. I figured that with all the craziness, even if I would have time to daven in the airport, it would be a crazy davening and the kids would be running in 8 different directions. Thankfully, my friend who’s car service I was using, convinced me that, in his words, “you can get there even 1 and a half hours before the flight”. I was aiming for 2 and a half. After rushing out after Kedusha, the madness started. Although we decided to do “breakfast” in the van (plain rolls), we still had to schlep 10 suitcases and around 10 carry-ons and bags to the waiting van (which also subsequently came late so the driver could daven Netz). Up and down, up and down, I didn’t realize how hard it would be. The driver afterwards suggested that it would have been smarter if he would have davened near us and then showed up after the van was ready to go.
OK. We left 15 minutes later than we planned, I’m chilled but my wife is stressed out. Her sister told her that her mother-in-law said that we should really be get there 4 hours before. Why? Because her sister-in-law missed her flight because she showed up only 3 hours before. I try to reassure her that we are actually gaining time while traveling to the airport.
We arrive at Ben-Gurion 2 hours and 15 minutes before the flight. Just getting the carts and piling everything on and then getting to check in takes 15 minutes. But from there everything goes very smoothly. We give out some Bisli to the kids. The airport (or was it El-Al?) gives out bottles of water and we wait our turn. All the kids are in charge of “their” bag and carry-on and we move up slowly. We are already getting comments, some nice and some inquisitive, of the number of kids, where we are going, etc. etc. [I don’t think throughout the whole trip did we get even one nasty comment.] We get to the desk and plop down our 20 passports. Just weighing and tagging the bags and entering all of our information took some time and we had to do a small bathroom break during the check-in, but it went well. The woman checking us in was so impressed by how the older ones were helping with the younger ones that she gave them some chocolate.
We now had about an hour and a quarter to the flight. We quickly (as quick as one can with 8 kids) went through security. We had spoken with the kids before a bit of what to expect so they weren’t wondering what was going on. They knew that we were being checked to make sure no terrorists got on. B”H, the Israelis actually have semi-normal rules (such as that you can bring water) and moved on. As we neared the gate, 15 minutes before takeoff, I get a call from El-Al, but they reassure me that everything is ok and that I don’t need to run when they see me.
Before we get on, we ask if there are spare places where we may put our car seat [for we didn’t rent a separate seat for our almost one year old], and we are told that, no, there is no place. Turns out that they lied to us and there was place. They put our 2 strollers [buggies for English blokes], one single and one double, and the car seat under the plane after tagging them and we enter the plane. B”H it was not so packed and we have enough overhead room near our seats.

Offline Moshe Green

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Before Takeoff:
Since we decided to take 3 rows of 3 instead of a long row or 2, we have to decide the seating carefully. The kids get settled, fight a little over which seats they are getting [everyone wants a window seat], and we sit everyone down. My wife and I decide to put three of the oldest ones in the front 3 seats and in the last 2 rows, 1 adult with 2 smaller kids. That way we can be there for them if they are scared during takeoff and to help them in general. It also allowed us to keep an eye on the older ones the whole time. We also took the back rows so we would be close to the bathrooms and so the kids wouldn’t disturb any of the other passengers.
We take out a few easily put away toys and a bottle or two of water because we don’t know how long exactly it will be until the actual takeoff. The staff hands us a seatbelt for the baby. One kid runs to the bathroom. At least they realize now over only realizing once we start taxiing on the runway… We also make sure to take out the gum to de-pop (is that a word?) the ears after takeoff.
The stewardesses are impressed (surprised) that all the kids are buckled in as they do their pre-takeoff checking. And then we get the message, “all staff be seated, we are taking off”. The plane goes faster and faster and you can feel the excitement of the kids. I hold one of the little ones hand so he doesn’t get scared and it helps him a little. The kids are glued to the windows as we start to lift up. We point out the cars and buildings and how small they are as we go higher and higher. We pass out the gum. We are officially in the air and on the way to England!

Offline Moshe Green

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In the Air:
The kids are super excited and settle in. When the fasten seatbelt sign goes off we remove all the goodies. The games and books, and also the food and snacks. After the peering out of the window loses its luster, the kids start getting bored. We hand out the games and books and they seem satisfied for the moment. But as time passes, they seem to get bored of those as well. They start playing with the screen in front of them and I tell them nicely that we are not watching any movies. Not even kid ones. They take out the headphones and open up the blankets and experiment with the buttons. “Yes, do you need anything?” asks a stewardess. “Sorry, the kids pressed it”, we apologize. Eventually I told the staff to ignore out calls.
Masks [this was during the time called “Corona” (circa 2020-2022) for those who are old enough to remember it] were annoying but the staff, B”H, didn’t cause so much trouble. We basically made sure to have them on our faces the whole time and if they slipped off we waited until nudged by the staff to properly place them on our noses.
Soon they give out the food. Because we haven’t eaten anything substantial, even the rubbery something (egg?) is tasty. But only for the adults. The kids are not impressed. We ask them if they want some of the food we brought with us but they aren’t really hungry.
As time went on, my wife and I literally focused on the kids the whole time keeping them entertained and busy so they wouldn’t go crazy. But with Hashem’s help, I think we did a great job. We did maybe one tour of the plane and a few bathroom breaks but other than that, they kept themselves busy with all the games, toys, and books. Once in a while we would offer some snacks but they weren’t so interested.
One important point was how El-Al dealt with the water situation. They actually went around in the beginning of the flight and gave out water bottles to everyone. That was great. Not only did we not have to ask every time someone needed a drink, but it was nearby the whole time.
Because it was a morning flight, none of the kids really slept but at least they weren’t tired and cranky. I actually got to read a little while holding one of the kids on my lap.
Sooner than we knew it, it was time to land. We started putting everything away and started cleaning up all the garbage that accumulated around our seats. I wanted to make a Kiddush Hashem that although we “have so many kids”, we still know how to stay clean. We put everything in the carry-on’s and bags, trying not to forget where anything is and put them in the overhead compartments and under the seats. We did leave out a few things for the 20-30 minutes until the actual landing, including the gum. The kids were not scared at all of the landing except maybe the 2 years old.

Offline Moshe Green

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Stopover:
We didn’t bother rush getting all our stuff together right away because we anyways had 4 hours in Heathrow until our connecting flight. We took our time, cleaned up a bit more, and waited ‘til most people had gone to start moving. Every child was given a bag that s/he was in charge of and we slowly made our way out. We thanked the crew and asked where we would find out strollers. When we got to the strollers, we put the small ones and some bags onto them and started on our way towards the next flight.
But things took waaay longer than when traveling alone. First we stopped at an escalator. Going up and down escalators with a double stroller is not suggested so we had to wait for the elevator. Problem was, the kids wanted to use the escalator (they aren’t so common in Israel) and we therefore had an argument by each one (there’s lot of them in Heathrow). Sometimes they won, sometimes we won. One party was always unhappy with the results.
Another thing was breaks. We had one or 2 bathroom breaks, a snack break, and a lunch break on the way. At least the lunch break was while we were waiting for our boarding passes for the British flight so that saved 10-15 minutes.
But it all added up. By the time we arrived by our gate it was almost time to board. My wife and I who hadn’t eaten yet quickly ate a sandwich or two and we went to board. For some reason, the crew had us board last instead of first and we had another 45 minutes (the flight left late) to hang around. The kids pretty much kept themselves busy with watching the planes take off again and again. Heathrow is one of the (or the most) busiest airports in the world and my kids counted like 35 takeoffs.
When the line finally finished and everyone boarded we quickly rounded everyone up and went to the plane. This time we made sure to take on the car seat. The kids, already seasoned travelers (from their flight 10 hours before,) easily settled in to their seats and were already playing with the screen in front of them even before takeoff.

Offline Moshe Green

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On The Second Plane:
This flight would be different. The excitement had worn off already and the kids were a drop more tired. Another plus was that British had basically ended the mask rule and although they told us in the beginning that US law required it, they never reminded us once to put them on properly (we had them on our chins the whole time, though).
The kids being a little restless turned into the older ones wanting to watch movies on the screens in front of them. Now, they didn’t want to watch the rated R stuff, just the cartoons. But being that we don’t even have a computer in our house, let alone let them watch non-Jewish movies, my wife and I weren’t so crazy about the idea. There’s no reason to expose them to things that they don’t need and hopefully will never have connection to. In the beginning, we told them no but the smarter ones just went to the empty seats behind us and watched there. It was hard, policing them the whole time, but I think it was worth it. I showed them that there were fun games to play as well and they tried their hand at some of those. [On the flight back I simply made a deal with them that they would get $5 if they agreed not to watch anything and give me back $10 if they did. That worked well. ]
The younger ones were easier. They stayed with their books and games. Coloring and snacking also helped. The baby got her own [empty] seat and slept much of the time in her car seat. Some of the younger ones fell asleep for an hour or so, giving us a reprieve from the constant dealing with them.
Food was an issue. Because they served two meals, we knew that it would be a struggle. I went to the crew and asked them for a garbage bag which they then gave me. This way we could dispose of everything not needed right away and not wait for it to fall on someone or the floor. This garbage bag got filled up with 18 bulky plastic Kosher meal covers and tons of wrappers and garbage from the meals and snacks. We literally filled up the whole bag. Regarding eating the meals. We helped the kids unwrap them [one was not fully sealed and got tossed] and made sure that that they ate something filling. This takes much persuasion but it’s worth it. No one wants a Kvetchy kid on the plane. One or two kids got their meal on their lap. That’s what the extra clothing was for. Mommy and Tatty ate last.
One thing that must be dealt with is the vast amount of food in the Kosher meals that isn’t eaten. Do you, a) eat it even if you have to stuff yourself, b) save it for later or after you get to your destination, or c) throw it out? It really depends on what the food item is, but when it’s 9 meals, the question is more complicated.
Being that it was an afternoon flight towards the US there wasn’t any issue of davening, but on the way back towards Eretz Yisroel I made sure to wake up before the kids did and daven Shachris like a Mentch.
Time flew by and before we knew it we were about to land. The plane was flying low and we could see the lights shining and the rivers lit up. It was very beautiful and the kids enjoyed it as well. Down, down we went and we had finally landed in the US!

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Arriving and Baggage:
It was late and we were tired but we were all excited to have arrived. We again waited for all to go out before gathering our stuff together. We plodded our way through the airport and got on the last shuttle to Arrivals. The crew was very impressed with the way our children acted and behaved and also how they helped so much and complimented us on it. We waited for our luggage [B”H everything came] and loaded most of them on to two carts. We then made our way out. USA here we come!

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Impressed that you remember to thank the folks that helped you out.
Unfortunately not always obvious.

Offline AsherO

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Around 5 months I posted of an issue that we experienced with British Airways canceling our flight from Israel to the US (https://forums.dansdeals.com/index.php?topic=127565.msg2527108#msg2527108). Dan and the whole “Oilum” were very helpful and Boruch Hashem we were able to get even better tickets directly to the city in which we were headed for at the same price for a ticket to JFK (a savings of $200 a ticket).
After seeing how there’s a whole community in which everyone is looking after the other, since it had been a while since the family had flown and we were now much bigger (Parents + 8 kids, oldest being 12), I thought it would be a good idea to tap into the wisdom of Dan’s Deal’s Forum to prepare properly for the flight (https://forums.dansdeals.com/index.php?topic=127925.msg2541975#msg2541975).
There was much good advice including, but not limited to;
@AsherO suggested bringing tranquilizers (or at least an Ipad).
@yerushabubby prepares small bags of goodies and writing instruments, meals, and suggests 1 place for all docs. Also talking to kids before to prepare them for security and using melatonin. She along with @SSLPhD also had good ideas for snacks.
@aygart advised to eat before boarding.
@Yehuda57 suggested Benadryl and to keep different baggies for giving out through the flight.
@dasmo801 warned to make sure (for parents) to keep stress levels down.
@BCL told from experience that 2 rows is better than 1 long one and the advantages of gum during takeoff and landing.
@motec bb , @Yehudaa, @tavster, @ckmk47, @Abebee and @AsherO posted with tips about which car seat and gear to bring for infants
@SuperFlyer‘s idea was to have children be tired before the flight.
Regarding masks, @dasmo801, @Yehuda57, and @AsherO also had what to add.
@sillypainter, @JMHO , @yitzgar, @E R K and @moish had some security tips.
Many others also shared their experiences about what to expect from kids on the plane and how they behave.
It was all extremely helpful and informative and I can say that, with much help from Hashem, we managed the trip, both there and back, not forgetting any kids on the way, keeping our sanity, not suffering from hunger or thirst, and only losing a few cheap pieces of clothing and games.
Here is a rough account of how the trip went from beginning to end. The focus is only on the flight and specifically how we managed with our large family.
Before Pesach. Flight is 10am with El-Al landing in England, and then after a 4 hour stopover, a second flight with British to the US, landing at around 8/9pm.
On the way back is a 10pm flight overnight, which arrives In England at 10 in the morning. After a 4 hour stopover, we take a 4 hour flight back to Israel.


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