We survived 8 flights over 2 1/2 weeks with Charlie and Olive, flying from NY->LA ->Tokyo ->Manila ->El Nido and back. The most brutal leg was flying from Los Angeles to Tokyo, then taking a connecting flight to Manila, which was about 24 hours straight of travel. But believe it or not, it actually wasn’t nearly as difficult as I was anticipating, and because the kids did so well on this trip, we’ve actually been inspired to travel a lot more. Perhaps Paris this Christmas?

The beautiful blue waters of El Nido, Palawan… one of the many islands in the Philippines.


Admittedly, our trip was exponentially easier because my mom came with us. Since Olive was a lap infant, my mom and I took turns holding and entertaining her on all the flights. While that first 12 hour flight was pretty tough since she only took 3 short naps, Olive actually slept for a good chunk for the rest of the flights, so I probably would have been ok even if my mom hadn’t come with us. Still I’m not going to deny that everything was much easier with my mom helping out — from the travel, to getting Olive down for naps in the heat and humidity, to helping feed both kiddos. El Nido is a tough destination to get to, so I was very appreciative that my mom offered to come with us!

The view from Mr. Bee’s parents’ place. They live right on the beach. It’s the rainy season, so that rainbow appeared after some showers.

How did the kids do on the flights? Charlie threw 4 huge tantrums on 4 of the flights, mostly because he was overtired. They probably lasted about 10 minutes, but it felt like hours! Olive on the other hand was very well behaved on all the flights. She did have some fussy moments when she was overtired, but I was able to soothe her with nursing and wearing her. I thought Olive was going to be more difficult than Charlie since we had to hold her and keep her entertained, but she did so well!

As far as sleeping on the plane, on the first two flights (6 hours and 12 hours respectively), both kids barely slept because there was so much going on. But they slept a lot on the rest of the flights, especially the ones on our return.

One thing that was a huge help was we had bulkhead seats for all of our flights except for the 10.5 hour returning flight, but the kids were so tired at that point they slept most of the way anyway (Olive slept 8 hours straight and I was so afraid of waking her, I held my pee for 6 hours!). The bulkhead seats were definitely a big help because we had a lot more space to stretch out. Unfortunately the flight attendants on Japan Airlines wouldn’t let the kids sit for extended periods of time on the floor (like they let us do on Jetblue), even though we didn’t hit any turbulence at all. If we’d been allowed to use the floor the entire time, our flights would definitely have been much easier and more fun for the kids!

Once we landed in El Nido, we took two of these tricycles to town. They’re motorcycles with metal shells retrofitted on them. Thank goodness I had a carrier so that Olive was nice and secure since there are no seatbelts or doors.

Once we got to town, we took a motorcycle to Mr. Bee’s parents’ place. Olive slept in the carrier the whole way! No seatbelts, no helmets. When in Rome I suppose!

The main reason for our trip was because Mr. Bee’s parents hadn’t met Olive yet, and now that they’re getting older, the travel has become really difficult. Mr. Bee’s parents have retired on the island of El Nido, and own some beachfront cottages that they rent out to tourists. This was my third trip here, and it’s amazing how much it has grown in the past 6 years. It’s really a beautiful place, if only it weren’t so far!

The front courtyard. Mr Bee’s parents built everything on this property.

Olive was a pretty great sleeper throughout the entire trip. While we were in LA I was able to maintain her nap routine and put her in her crib awake. But in the Philippines I had to nurse her down, rock her, or wear her for her naps. Electricity only works on the island half the day, which means no air conditioning and the weather is very hot and humid. I often had to nurse Olive down while fanning her because we were both so sweaty when she was nursing. But she was such a flexible sleeper, which was completely unexpected since she only sleeps in her crib at home. On our trip she slept in the carrier, the tricycle, a motorcycle, and below she’s sleeping on the floor in front of the ocean breeze.

Charlie had a lot of trouble winding down to sleep on the first two flights and while we were in LA because there was just too much to see! do! touch!  But it was so hot and humid in El Nido, he took long naps every day and was so exhausted by bedtime that he often fell asleep during storytime.

I ended up not taking my DSLR because I was trying to pack light, and used my iphone for all of these pictures. I’ll meet you back at the end of this post after this little tour of El Nido!

Mr. Bee’s mom had swings built for Charlie and Olive!

OMG we ate so well. Breakfast, lunch and dinner at 7am, 12pm, and 6pm on the dot every single day. Most of the fruits and veggies were from their garden!

Our handwashed clothes drying in the sun.

Chickens can be seen wandering the roads everywhere.

We brought this inflatable tub with us since there are no bathtubs there. It was so hot, Olive took many baths just to cool off!

Mr. Bee’s mom had this cart made to push the kids around. In this picture, Olive stood up for the second time ever. Charlie was so proud of her, he’s patting her head!

That’s Mr. Bee, his mom, my mom and Charlie going island hopping on a catamaran. Olive and I stayed behind.

There are so many fish in the water, if you had a net you could probably just scoop them up!

Despite copious amounts of sunblock, Olive got a nice tan! All of us did.

I took these two pictures standing at the exact same spot in front of Mr. Bee’s parents’ place. On the left is high tide. The water comes right up to the sea wall they built. In fact the pounding of the waves would sometimes wake me up! On the right is low tide where you can walk out almost a mile!

This was Olive’s first time in the ocean and in the sand. She loved it! That island in the distance is Cadlao. I think I might be able to swim to it if I had an inner tube.

Can you imagine how much fun Charlie had?! In low tide we caught clams and crabs. In high tide we rode inner tubes and floated in the ocean.

Charlie searching for clams with grandma and the locals in low tide.

Proudly holding two clams.

I bought this 3 in 1 iphone lens from Olloclip for the trip, and it was awesome. The lens has macro, wide angle and fisheye all in one. You can see the detail I was able to get in the teeny tiny hermit crab above using the macro lens!

Most of the locals are very poor. They make less in one month than most Americans make in one day.

The main outdoor market where you can buy produce, fish, meat, and live chickens!

These gorgeous cliffs surround El Nido and the neighboring islands.

A grocery store in downtown El Nido. Mr. Bee’s parents live a 15-20 minute walk from town, and there are no roads to their place.

The locals collect these among the coral in low tide and eat them.

A stove made with a metal cooking oil container cut in half with a cinder block inside.

Cooking our lunch: ramen with chicken and veggies.

The internet cafe. The only place on the property where internet works.

Coconuts as planters.

There are so many coconut trees, I was scared a coconut would fall on my head!

Olive adored the two dogs!

The last undeveloped piece of land between Mr. Bee’s parents’ place and downtown. That cow certainly has a nice view!

This was sooooo relaxing.

All that’s missing is my Corona.

Where the water turns aqua is when it gets deep. Up until that point the water only comes up to your hip at the deepest parts.

Landing in Manila.

Charlie really had the time of his life and constantly said he wanted to live in El Nido. Where else could he swim in the ocean every day, ride motorcycles, ride boats, catch fish, crabs, clams, and run around as much as he wanted? It was truly a trip he’ll never forget. The trip was probably toughest on Olive because it was so hot and humid and she was too young to really play like Charlie, but I’m so proud of her for being such a trooper.

The hardest part of the trip was actually returning home and dealing with the jetlag, exhaustion, and getting back into our routines. Olive in particular adjusted to local time without any problems throughout our travels. It wasn’t so tough for the rest of us either. But we were so exhausted once we finally returned home that Olive slept over 17 hours and Charlie slept 14 hours. We were on a completely opposite schedule, staying up all night and sleeping all day for a couple of days. We’re finally almost back on track 5 days later, but it’s been really tough getting back into our routines. The biggest challenge? Olive has never been a fan of the bottle and since she didn’t get a bottle for 2 1/2 weeks, she has been flat out rejecting them since we returned. Being able to nurse Olive made our trip so much easier because I was able to soothe her and nurse her to sleep wherever we were. But it’s going to be a long road getting her to take a bottle again.

It’s also been tough getting Charlie down for naps and bedtime. He’s just been fighting them, and we haven’t been able to leave him awake like we used to. In fact he’s been so wide awake at bedtime the past couple of nights, we’ve had to take him out in the stroller just to get him to sleep! But Charlie started going to daycare full-time today which should be a big help in getting him back into his regular routine. I think it’s going to take some time to have everyone’s sleep completely back on track again though. That’s probably the suckiest part about traveling with kids!

I’m so glad Charlie and Olive got to spend a lot of quality time with all four of their grandparents. I’d go again in a heartbeat. Traveling internationally with two young children is something we no longer fear, and we’re going to be doing much more of in the coming years. I have lots of travel tips and gear reviews coming up, so stay tuned!