Jet setting with babies
Renate & I recently travelled to Holland to introduce Will to the Dutch family and friends.
It was a success but the airlines, airports and travel agent (Flight Centre) were hopeless in providing us with the information we required before travelling, all telling us to check with everyone else. We hope that this will help you if you are planning similar trips. The airline and ground staff everywhere were very helpful and we were pulled aside and managed to skip some queues.
We could use our Mountain Buggy from the moment we arrived at the airport until we got into the car in Holland including the 3hr stop over in Kuala Lumpur. Front packs are good but with stop overs, waiting at the gate and travelling through security checkpoints we preferred the buggy so Will could sleep and make travelling through checkpoints easier.
The key to being able to use the buggy in this manner is that either at check-in, or at the gate (airline/airport dependant) you need to get a special tag for the buggy (purple for KLM, red for Malaysian Airlines). This basically means at the gate you pack up your buggy, and dump it on the air bridge and they put it into the hold. If you are lucky they’ll do this for you.
Upon arrival they put it back on the air bridge for you (either by the plane door or half way along the air bridge). We got a bag for the stroller so that we could take the wheels off and it protects the buggy from the enthusiastic baggage handlers. We heard that the tiny umbrella strollers can be taken on board although we saw these being dropped off the same as our Mountain Buggy.
You can take as much liquid as you want. We took a lot of bottles of boiled water and no problem getting through security they might just open the bags to check. They checked the buggy and at some checkpoints they wanted Will out of the buggy before inspecting it.
On the Plane
We had requested bassinets and these had been confirmed but confirmed doesn't mean confirmed. On one flight the attendant took one of someone else as our baby was smaller :-) You have a seatbelt extension that allows your baby to be connected to your seatbelt and this is required for take off, landing and turbulence (seatbelt sign). Yes, just after you feed your wee one and get them settled in the bassinet the seat belt sign comes on and you need to take them out.
Blankets are provided for the bassinette (same as an adult gets), so you may want to take a swaddle or sleeping bag.
We feed Will during take off and landing to help keep his ears from building up pressure. He had a bit of a cold on the way back so he struggled on the way into Kuala Lumpur. We used a saline nose spray and Pamol coming into Auckland and it was definitely better.
Will slept most of the time on the plane. We put it down to the white noise created by the plane.
Washing the bottles was easy as the flight attendants can do this and/or you can help. We had some washing liquid and the bottle brush with us but we didn't sterilise as we had plenty of bottles for the flight and stop over. We simply washed them so they didn’t stay yucky.
In terms of feeding we used a whole bunch of the single serve packets of formula and that worked a treat. We took extra just in case but ended up using less than we had planned for. Boiling water is available on the plane to make up formula along with the pre-boiled water we bought along.
No problems here as Will just slept. Restaurants can be happy to heat food and/or give you boiled water for the bottles although we didn't try this.
We did pay for a few hours at one of the airport lounges as we could base ourselves in a quiet corner.
For children the luggage limits are: 10kg checked-in and 10kg on-board) and I think you get the stroller for free if you check it in. We didn't use the 10kg limit on the way but needed another bag checked-in for all Will's gifts and of course the Dutch goodies.
At the Destination
You are still going to need all your milk powder, nappies, car seat etc. We were lucky in that Renate's parents were able to organise pretty much everything at their end before we arrived, borrowing from neighbours and friends.
Since Renate's parents were in New Zealand recently we gave them a couple of cans of formula to take back rather than risking an unknown brand.
- Check and double check the buggies procedure and make sure you get the special tags.
- In Holland we were waiting at the plane for the buggy but it went straight to the baggage carousel. This was a stuff up by the staff at KL (they gave us the white luggage tag but not an additional purple tag to pickup at gate).
- Pack more spare clothes for the plane and in transit (s#!t happens).
- Make sure your wife's permanent resident VISA allows her to re-enter New Zealand. Apparently in New Zealand permanent resident is only permanent if you don’t leave the country.
- Get your kids used to drinking/eating cold stuff. That way if you are stuck they will eat without a fuss.
- If travelling to Europe avoid (at all costs) the US and Shanghai. They both require you to jump through all their extra security hoops (ie, your literally enter the country then have to leave again without a single transit procedure). This just causes a lot of unnecessary pain let alone with children.
- The games on the personal entertainment system appeared to be aimed at children from say 5 years old rather than younger children.
Of course all this may be dependant upon airline and airport but in general this all worked for us. We feel a lot better prepared for our next adventure.