Friday, August 19, 2005

First Baby Flight!

Summer is travel time so soon after our first road trip, Peanut took her first flight.

We flew Finnair from Helsinki to Amsterdam. As with the car travel, it was all much smoother than I expected :-)

When we arrived at the airport, the check-in lines were as usual extremely long and slow moving. We didn't have a stroller or carseat with us so dad was carrying Peanut. We spotted an empty Business Class check-in counter and the ticket agent agreed to check us in there.

She put us in a row of three seats and blocked the middle seat so in essence Peanut was given her own seat even though we had reserved her as a 'sylilapsi' or travelling in parent's lap. We had the same arrangement on the flight back. This works as long as the flight isn't fully booked and someone doesn't need a seat last minute.

I had seen on the Helsinki Vantaa website that strollers were available at the airport, but they turned out to be made of metal with no cushions and permanently in a full sitting position so intended for older children. So, we continued to hold Peanut in our laps until boarding.

Finnair does not have a policy of letting hchildren/babies board first. When we asked if we could, the gate agend told us that we should just get ourselves to the front of the line... not the easiest thing when having to hold baby especially since everyone likes to line up 20 mins before boarding begins!

Once on board, a flight attendent brough over a baby seat belt which is like a mini-seat belt with a loop to connect to the parent's seat belt. I was told the baby should face forward for take-off and landing, but I was able to breastfeed her during both. We were also given a bear hand puppet and a Finnair bib.

For breastfeeding I grabbed a blanket to cover myself from the 1st class overhead bin as we boarded and requested a pillow. I was also wearing a special breastfeeding top from Expressiva.

The changing table in the lavatory was spacious enough for a 4 mos old.

I didn't call to make any requests in advance.

AtSchiphol airport in Amsterdam we found a baby care room near the restrooms. It was clean, spacious and had a comfortable chair for feeding.

We packed a babycare bag that included:

> diapers
> baby wipes
> a small cushioned changing pad
> bibs (for drool and spit up)
> a few favorite toys and a book
> saline nose drops for baby
> pacifiers even though Peanut prefers her thumb
> an extra change of baby clothes
> a back-up shirt for mom

Baby Passports
Even for travel within the EU, baby needs to either be in her parents passport or to have her own.

We opted to get Peanut her own since for travel to the US, a baby must have her own passport.

The photos were taken at a local photo shop just like adult passport photos. I had to hold Peanut up and try to keep her still while the photographer attempted to attract her attention!

In Finland, the options for passports are for one or ten years (the ten year being slightly cheaper). We took ten years with the thought that we'll get her a new one in about 5 yrs or so. It seems silly to travel with a 2 mos old baby picture when peanut is 9 yrs old!

Car Rental
We rented a car from Sixt at the airport because they were one car rental company that didn't require you notify them 24 hrs in advance if you need a baby/child car seat. On our reservation form we had indicated that we would need a baby seat.

We were extremely disappointed in their service and do not recommend them at all. The baby seat was nowhere to be found. They had to dig one out of storage - it took nearly an hour and it was disgustingly dirty and horribly outdated!! But, at the point we had no choice. After extensive complaining, they offered to not charge us the daily 7EUR fee for the seat.

I'll definately bring our own car seat in the future. Car seats can be brought on board the plane or go in cargo and not count towards the luggage allowance.

Travel Strollers
We bought a Maclaren travel stroller from Prenatal in the Netherlands. The brand was highly recommended by friends who travel alot. The price carries a premium, but we hope to see many years of quality use from it.

It was very nice to have the stroller on the return trip in the airport. It folded and unfolded easily and quickly for putting through the metal detector. Very lightweight and easy to manuveur. It was taken from us at the gate in Amsterdam where they promised we would get it back at the gate in Helsinki. Not so. We didn't see it again until baggage claim.


ovi_ace said...

Great description of your 1st flight. We are preapring to fly to the UK in Oct, so I shall refer back again.

We were told today that you have to buy a new passport when the baby no longer looks like their photo, so that would probably be 40e every year.

Damned rip-off.

Peanut's Mom said...

baby passports are indeed a bit funny. for the UK, must baby have their own?

good luck for your flight, i'm sure it will go well! And, as with any public situation, i try to just think we were all babies once and did our fair share of crying in places mom, dad & others wished we didn't :-)