As part of the compensation packages for overseas assignments, the government pays for us to take Rest and Recuperation (R&R) trips. The rules for R&R used to be that the government would pay for the cost of plane tickets from Asuncion to Miami, and if employees preferred to go somewhere else, the employee would have to pay any cost difference. This year, the rule changed and the government will now pay the cost of a plane ticket to anywhere in United States. (Employees have always been responsible for hotels and all other expenses.) We decided to take a family trip to Alaska since Brian and I have never been and always wanted to.
It’s a long way to go and we knew it wouldn’t be quick or easy to get to Alaska from Paraguay, but we figured it wouldn’t be too much harder than travel to Chicago (which usually takes about 24 hours), so we booked it. Unfortunately, the plane tickets that the government bought for us were not the most direct or convenient, so the assigned route was a bit tougher that travel to Chicago. We were scheduled to fly to Buenos Aires with a 12 hour layover, then a flight to Dallas with a five hour layover, followed by a flight to Seattle with a two hour layover before our final flight to Juneau. Door to door, we were expecting it to take 43 hours. That was the plan anyway.
We left our house on Saturday morning at 2 AM.
We checked in and the boys were in good spirits as we boarded our 4:15am flight to Buenos Aires.
During our 12-hour stop in Buenos Aires we got a room at a nearby hotel. We intended to take naps, but the only ones who slept were Brian and me in alternating shifts while the boys watched Argentina vs France in the World Cup. Unfortunately Argentina lost and the boys didn’t sleep.
Our favorite feature of the hotel was the great playground outside. The kids played there for quite awhile. It was better than anything we’d seen in Paraguay!
And we had a nice lunch of Argentine beef and red wine at the hotel restaurant.
Once we were back at the airport, exhausted Kev fell asleep in the stroller while we waited to board our flight to Dallas.
Once we boarded, the crew informed us that the airport was closed due to heavy fog and low visibility, so we waited on the tarmac for more news. We had been scheduled to take off just before 8pm for an 11-hour overnight flight. The flight attendants told us that if we didn’t take off by 10:30pm, the flight would be canceled and we’d be rebooked on another flight the next day. Finally at about 10:26, we took off. Since we had originally been planning on a five-hour layover, we weren’t worried about missing our next flight. Kev fell asleep one hour into our delay. Danny was asleep by take off and Patrick was asleep about two hours after takeoff. By Brian’s count, Patrick had stayed awake for 21 hours straight. Despite supreme exhaustion, everyone was pretty good. At one point during the flight, Brian came back from the bathroom and found that Danny and Patrick had taken over his seat in between the two boys. Patrick’s feet were basically in Danny’s face and they stayed like that for hours. A flight attendant helpfully directed Brian to a nearby empty seat where he slept for a couple hours.
All three boys slept until just before landing. They were great. In Dallas, we ate breakfast at an Irish pub and the boys ran around like well-rested crazy people.
Unfortunately, our flight from Dallas to Seattle was delayed about 90 minutes and we missed our tight connection in Seattle. Once we finally took off for Seattle, we gave the kids some Pringles chips which Kevin ate by taking bites of large stacks.
Once in Seattle, we had to wait another five hours for the next flight to Juneau. Airline staff gave us a $60 food voucher and assured us our luggage would be on that next flight too. While in Seattle, we ate dinner at a Big Foot-themed restaurant in the airport. The kids had lots of questions about Big Foot. Is he real? Have you seen him? Will we see him in Alaska? What does he like to eat?
On the 90-minute flight to Juneau, everyone fell asleep.
We finally made it to Juneau around 9:30pm with full sunlight. The hotel driver who picked us up said that this time of year the sun sets at 10:30pm and rises at 4am.
After 48 hours of travel we were all exhausted and went right to bed. We were up again early the next morning for our 4:45am shuttle to the ferry terminal for our boat to Gustavus, home of Glacier Bay National Park.
Although we were all tired, we enjoyed the 4.5 hour boat ride, seeing amazing the scenery of Alaska’s Inside Passage as well as whales, sea otters and bald eagles.
A green school bus from Glacier Bay Lodge met the ferry at the dock to drive us and other hotel guests to the lodge.
We checked into the hotel, ditched our bags and had lunch. Smoked salmon for me!
After lunch, we walked around the national park, hiking some of the trails just outside of the hotel and stopping by the park’s visitor center. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it appears that Danny licked a moose antler.
We went back to our hotel room and tried to get Kev to nap but he wouldn’t, even with an excellent demonstration from Brian. We had an early dinner at the hotel, since everyone was so tired, especially Kev who fell asleep at dinner.
I managed to eat salmon with one hand while Kev slept in my lap.
We were all excited for our big outing, visiting the glaciers the next day!