Traveling to Dubai With Kids

Traveling to Dubai With Kids

I’m writing this at seven in the morning, after waking up at two-thirty with jet lag. Boy child was up, but I think he went back to sleep. Husband and daughter are still in bed. They’re all handling this better than I am. Even the dog, who stayed home, is like, “What the hell are you doing awake at this hour?”

Anyway, we just got back last night after a full week in Dubai. Why Dubai and why now, when it’s about 110 degrees every day? Why did I choose to miss out on some of the absolute best Chicago weather for that? Because my in-laws currently live there, and they’re coming back to the states for good at the end of the month. This was our Last Chance Kitchen to haul the family out to Dubai and not have to pay for a hotel room 😉

I’ll be honest, I had not been excited about this trip. I am a linen suit. I do not travel well. I have anxiety, and doing anything kind of “unknown” is a big deal for me. I’d been having stress dreams about this trip for months–what if the plane crashes, what if it crashes slowly and I’m aware that it’s happening, how terrifying would that be, what if the kids get lost and we have no way to find them because they’re in a new place and have no idea what to do, what if they fall off one of the big water slides, what if the car crashes while driving on the dunes?

None of that stuff happened. Well, the car that drove us over the dunes almost crashed, but it wasn’t the dunes’ fault. It was the fault of our driver who nearly hit a bunch of cars on our way home from desert because he couldn’t stay off his phone. Don’t text and drive, kids!

All credit for the success of our trip goes to my husband and my in-laws, who planned everything perfectly. John, the one who was gung-ho about the trip, took the initiative on our passports and making travel arrangements. We flew Emirates direct from Chicago to Dubai, a 13-14 hour plane ride. If you can fly direct, do it. If you can fly Emirates, do it. (Really, if you can fly Emirates first class, do that, for sure. We caught a glimpse of it beyond the curtain, and OMG. Someday when I’m a billionaire…)

I have a lot of post-trip thoughts, but first I’ll start with how the kids fared, traveling halfway around the world. Here are my professional tips, having done this whole large-scale travel thing exactly one time. Follow these instructions, and you can have a great trip, too.

1. Have awesome kids. These children did not complain or whine. I did not hear a single “Are we there yet?” on either plane ride. Why not? Hmm…

2. Give up on any pretense of controlling “screen time.” A fourteen-hour flight is not the time to worry about whether or not they’ve been watching too much Sponge Bob. Besides, you’re about to spend an entire week all up in each other’s grills. Enjoy your solitude while you have it. We each had our own personal screen embedded in the seat back in front of us, chock-a-block with eleventy million different shows and movies (plus games, music, and news). They got to watch Diary of a Wimpy Kid 3 six times in a row and I got to binge Riverdale without anyone trying to talk to me. Everybody wins.

3. Roll with the jet lag. When we traveled to the other side of the world, my children swapped sleep personalities. The boy one stayed in bed until late morning, while the girl was up at the first sign of Elvis (my in-laws’ dog). The first morning, however, we were all up at 3:30 AM, thanks to the rooster in the yard next door and the early call to prayer. But we got over that pretty quickly. And–this is important–we built in “rest time” every afternoon. Mama’s gotta read.

4. Make a schedule and stick to it, unless you don’t want to. I’ve gone on so many trips where we’ve had nothing planned, or just a few things planned. My mother-in-law was completely awesome and made up an entire schedule for our week. We had two big “events” planned per day. There was no sitting around wondering what we were going to do. We’d go out in the morning (the old souk, Burj Khalifa, Legoland, swimming in the Persian Gulf, etc.), then we’d come home and rest before heading out for dinner/night fun. But, as the week went on, we revised slightly as needed–we skipped out on the IMG amusement park, since we’d already been to Legoland.

5. Keep your phone on airplane mode. I carried my phone around strictly for pictures. When we were out and about, there was no checking work email or Facebook or whatever. I was completely present with the kids, collecting shells, marveling at the real Dubai skyline and the one made out of Legos, tearing my pants while riding a camel–all the stuff memories are made of.

Now would I recommend that you and your kids travel to Dubai? YES. Dubai is awesome and pretty ridiculous. I had been there seventeen years ago, and it’s completely changed since then. Everything is topnotch, and tourism is their THING. They keep building new skyscrapers and new hotels and apartments. (Are all of these buildings filled? Are they expanding too quickly? Is this whole thing a bubble that will eventually burst? Possibly.) But Dubai is at its height right now, and you should check it out. I’m glad I did.

I wrote a book! It’s YA novel, THE SOUND OF US. You can find the details right here! Kirkus calls it “a winning story about a teenage voice student that hits all the right notes.”

I also wrote another book, Any Boy but You, (You’ve Got Mail in the Pokemon Go era). You can buy it here.

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