Thailand is great, but getting there is kind of rough! For us we went to two other countries before we even made it to Thailand! We saved about $200 a ticket by flying out of Vancouver Canada, which is about 2 hours away from our home. It was definitely worth it for us to fly out of Canada.
With the flights we got we had a long layover in China. (First one was 18 hours and the one coming home was about 13 hours.) We were able to get cheaper flights doing it this way. And to be honest, if my layover is over 5 hours, just staying the night really did seem ideal. Luckily with our flights we landed at around 7:30 PM and didn’t fly out until 11:00 AM the next morning (and then coming home we did fly out at 8:00 AM). China is a country where you NEED a visa. Luckily China does give out short term visas for layovers for free, or without applying for them. We had 24 hours to spend in the city. Only catch is you have to leave the next day, and its only good for that one city.
I lived in China for a year about 10 years ago, so I was so excited to go back with my kids even for a day! We were going to Kunming China which I had never been to, but since we didn’t have much time to explore it didn’t really matter where we went. I was also excited for the kids to say that they’ve been to China. (You have to leave the airport to count it!)
When we packed I wasn’t 100% sure if we would need to collect all our bags in China, or if they would go straight through and we’d just have our carry on. (I read a few different things online.) We decided to be prepared for both, so I packed a carry on suitcase with the clothes we would wear in China and one outfit for in Thailand (in case bags get lost. I have lost bags before so I always pack extra clothes in my carry on!) We took two big suitcases that we checked. (Basically could have gotten by with one, but we weren’t sure how much stuff we would buy in Thailand and we wanted to be prepared.) We checked the kids’ booster seats. We had a carry on suitcase, and each of us had back packs. I also tend to pack about a week out, so we were all set to leave for Canada as soon as Chris got home.
We decided that it would be easiest for us to leave for Canada the night before we flew out. We didn’t want to risk boarder crossings, traffic, car troubles, etc. When Chris got home from work on April 10, 2019 we loaded up and headed to Canada on Wednesday! We ate dinner on our way (Five Guys) and got Dairy Queen in Canada. We got to our hotel kind of late and the kids were already asleep, so we just went to bed.
We woke up around 6:00 AM on Thursday, had breakfast, and went to the airport. This was the first time I had been to the Vancouver Airport and I really liked it! We parked in long term parking and took the train to the airport. Once we got to the airport, it was time to check in. I won’t lie I was a bit nervous that our tickets, for whatever reason, wouldn’t work, and we’d have to go back home. (Although I told Chris if that happened, he’d still have to take work off and we’d have to do something.) Luckily that didn’t happen! We made it through security and there was a giant chess board/game. Chris, Ryan and Lillian played one game then we found our gate.
Getting through security is never fun, but its especially not fun with kids and a bunch of electronics. I had my phone, my laptop, and my kindle. Chris had his phone, his laptop, and his kindle. Ryan had his tablet, his switch, and his kindle. Lillian had her tablet. We also had 2 battery packs for charging our devices. All those things have to come out when going through security as well as small liquids. It was quite the ordeal to get everything out, pray we didn’t forget a water bottle, or battery pack, then load it all back in. (There were a few times we left things in we weren’t supposed to. They check the bags, take out what they found, then re scan that bag.) We went through security a total of 7 times. Also every time we had to go through security we went through some sort of customs as well. Sometimes it was quick, but sometimes we had to unload it all again for customs.
The first flight we took was going to be the longest flight. Our family was able to get the middle row of 4 and we all sat together. For whatever reason this flight ended being pretty empty. Towards the end of the flight Chris thought about moving seats to a more empty row to give us more space. We thought about it a little too late, but thought if any more of our flights were like that he would move. It wasn’t too bad sharing a row as a family, we were able to spread out a little bit more.
We did want the kids to sleep on the beginning of this flight so I gave them a little bit of melatonin. (About .5 mg) and they napped for about 3 hours. The last 7-8 hours they were awake watching movies, (Ralph Breaks the Internet 4 times!!!) and playing tablets and the Switch. These long flights are nice in the fact that there are power outlets in the seats so you can plug in and charge devices. The food wasn’t great on the flight so I made sure to bring peanut butter and honey sandwiches for the kids to eat. We also each packed a bunch of snacks for the airplane. We packed way too many and we didn’t get through them all.
We finally landed in Nanjing China. Our tickets did show we had a short stop, but they didn’t give much detail on length of this layover, so we didn’t know much. We landed and all the foreign passport holders were met as soon as we were off the plan and we had to fill out our arrival cards/visa form. (They do give you an arrival card on the airplane, its a yellow one. We filled this card out, but since we did not have a visa it was not the correct paper to fill out and we did not use it!) We got the right form to fill out that I believe was also our visa form. They took those forms and our passports and had everyone stand off the side. Once our visas were issued they gave us back our passports and we were free to go through customs.
Our bags kept going on to Kunming at this time so we did not need to collect our bags, but we did go through customs and then security again. We made it to our gate and still had no idea what time the plane was leaving. Once at our gate we did see that our flight was delayed. It didn’t have any other information so we just stood around and waited. There was an announcement basically saying there were technical problems and that all flights were delayed until further notice. Chris decided he needed to go buy a drink and since we were delayed I told him to go. About a minute after he left they announced that our flight was boarding. Ryan was stressed that Chris would miss the flight. We did try to find Chris, but I didn’t want to go too far in case we passed each other without realizing it.
People were boarding and everyone was lined up, and then Chris came. We were all excited he made it back! We were getting back on the same airplane we were just on, this time it was so crowded! This flight was about 3 hours and we made it to Kunming!
We landed around 7:30 PM at Kunming. We had to go through customs again and get our bags, then we needed to get Chinese money, and call our hotel. I had a hard time figuring out how to call our hotel, but we took the number to the information desk and they got it all set up for us. As we were waiting for our ride Lillian lost her first tooth, in CHINA! How cool!
Our ride came and we made it to the hotel. We dropped our stuff off, and even though we were exhausted we decided to walk around and get some food. I was hoping to find a certain kind of noodles, and we went to a place that might have them, but they didn’t. (Either they were out, or they just didn’t serve noodles.) We went back in the kitchen and just pointed to some stuff, and they made us fried rice. Lillian loved it, and it was nice having a fresh cooked dinner. We went back to the hotel and crashed.
The next morning we had a few hours before we needed to leave so we walked around. We got juice and fruit for the kids. I got a pastry I love, and we ate lots of dumplings. It was so good and fun to be back in China. Chris ordered a Coke for all of us to share, but for whatever reason he said Coke Coke. The Chinese guy thought it was hilarious and started laughing and saying “Coke Coke.” We all got a kick out of it! The rest of the trip we always said Coke Coke when we wanted a coke.
After walking around for a few hours it was time to head back to the airport. We got the kids McDonalds, talked to some English students while we waited to check in. We did have to collect our bags in Kunming so we needed to recheck them for our flight to Chiang Mai. We went through security again, and made it to our gate to find out our flight was delayed. We were about 2 hours delayed which would have been fine, but we were catching a flight from Chiang Mai to Khon Kaen and we did not want to miss it. We were supposed to have a 4 hour layover in Chiang Mai, but it ended up being only 1 1/2 hours. Right when I was starting to get super nervous about missing our next flight we boarded and made good time. The kids slept the whole 2 hour flight.
We landed in Chiang Mai with an hour and a half until our next flight departed, and we still needed to go through customs, get our bags, recheck our bags, and go through security. Thailand feels so much more laid back than China and going through everything was a breeze. We made it to our gate with an hour to spare! The domestic section in Chiang Mai almost felt more like a bus station, and the AC wasn’t great so we were happy to have such a short layover. Kids were exhausted.
The flight to Khon Kaen was only an hour. Lillian fell asleep and when we landed she would not open her eyes. Finally we got her eyes open and she would not budge. It was our turn to get off and she would not get up. Finally we convinced her to get off. We got our luggage, and got our car. My maps on the phone wasn’t working great. It wouldn’t navigate us so I had to follow the map and tell Chris where to go. It was dark, we were on the wrong side of the road, we were beat, and it was stressful. Luckily our hotel was close and not too hard to find. We made it to Thailand!!!!
Coming home seemed to be a lot quicker and not quite as crazy. Maybe we were experienced. Also we did have one less flight since we drove from Khon Kaen to Chiang Mai. It was also nice having our long flight last. Coming home we knew we were going to get our checked bags in Kunming so instead of clothes in our carry on suitcase we put the kids’ backpacks in it. That way they wouldn’t have to carry them, but they could still use them on the airplane.
Chris also put all the electronics in his bag and he was the only one responsible for them. We also left all our liquids behind. Going through security was way more smooth this way!
We made it to Kunming about 7:30 PM again. We did have to wait a little bit to get our Visa, but getting luggage and going through security was quick. We didn’t need money so we were able to just call our hotel right away. We made it back to the hotel quickly. We walked around China again and went to a few restaurants. We got noodles, dumplings, peanut noodles, and more dumplings! We had a good time! We made it back to the hotel and went to bed.
We woke up the next morning at 4:30 AM so we could make our flight. We wanted to get McDonalds for the kids, but they didn’t have what we wanted so we found food somewhere else. We went through security and we felt like pros! We made it to Nanjing in about 3 hours.
Nanjing we had to go through customs and security again, but it was quick to board the plane. The lay over was basically just long enough for us to go through customs and that’s it. We didn’t even have time to go potty or to get drinks.
We were on our last flight and the longest! We were all pretty tired but I wanted us to try to stay awake for a few hours. The kids watched a movie and played tablets and 3 hours into the flight I gave them some melatonin. I gave them 1 mg this time and they were out. (Chris and I took some too, but we took 3 mg.) We were all out. I don’t sleep well on planes but I slept for at least 3 hours straight and dozed on and off. I think Chris was about the same. The kids slept for 7 hours!!! It was amazing. None of us ate the meals, and we didn’t eat many snacks.
The last hour of the flight the kids woke up and watched a movie and played their tablets some more and I was able to finish my book before we landed. (I read 3 books on the trip and listened to 1 audio book! Chris read 2 books. The kids didn’t read.)
We did have to go through customs in Vancouver and that did take some time. They had kiosks where passports were scanned and would take your picture and printed it on paper. Then you would take that paper to customs people, and you would go through. This did make the process go a lot faster! Once we made it through customs we had to get luggage. Chris helped several people grab their luggage, and we finally got ours! We did have to take the train to our car, but we found that quickly and easily!
After we got our car we went and got brunch then headed for home. For some reason the boarder had an hour wait and was pretty backed up. Traffic also wasn’t great, but still worth the $200 a person we saved. We finally made it back at about 4:30 PM on Sunday April 28, 2019.
It was hard to get there and back, but I think it was totally worth it! Going through security/customs so many times was definitely the worst part, but again totally worth it! We are already wanting to go back to Thailand!