Since I continue to get a lot of hits on my blog from folks searching for tips on how to travel with an infant or a toddler, I thought I would share logistical tips and details from our recent Houston-London-Paris trip.
I should note that I handle all the planning and logistics of our travels myself. Although I get help booking hotel rooms with Starwood from an extraordinary Starwood Ambassador, everything else (cars, flights, activities, trains, etc.) is booked by me, unless mentioned otherwise. My extensive work travel, plus our history of personal travel, has left me feeling pretty confident about my abilities to handle these tasks on my own. Besides, I am probably too type-A to use the services of a travel agency. John typically handles all the on-the-ground logistics (getting taxis, getting directions, mapping activities, etc.).
Traveling to London
Airports: We flew directly from Houston (IAH) to London (LHR).
Checked Luggage: We checked 2 very large-sized suitcases pre-flight (John had his + George and I shared mine). Since I have Premier 1K status with United, there was no charge to check our luggage on either leg of the trip. There also wasn’t a charge even though our bags were overweight (!). I would have gladly paid the fees for this though because not hassling with suitcases on board is ideal. We usually have too much going on to fiddle with that kind of stress.
Gate-checked: We checked George’s Uppababy stroller (including his toddler seat option) at the gate just before we boarded and used the Uppababy traveling bag. Once we landed in London, we picked up our stroller on the jet-bridge.
Carry-ons: In terms of luggage we brought on board, we had my large MZ Wallace carry-all bag (my small cross-body purse was tucked inside), George’s baby bag, George’s food bag (milk and refrigerated food) and John’s carry-all bag. We each carried an extra change of clothes in our carry-ons in the event of a mishap. Fortunately, we didn’t need to use them. I also always bring a 1-liter bottle of water on all flights that I take (purchased once through security). It may seem excessive, but I have been on planes that have sat on the runway for hours without food or beverage service and I like to be prepared. Especially, when traveling with George.
Aircraft: We flew United #4, a 787 Dreamliner and we were upgraded to the Business First Cabin. This is a very, very large plane with many great amenities, including lie-flat seats, large restrooms and baby changing tables in First Class. For our seating arrangement, John took an aisle seat and George and I sat across from him (with G in the window seat). The row seating was 2-2-2, so this was the best arrangement for us. We always buy G his own seat because we believe that it is the safest way to transport a child. While it can be expensive, it’s safe and G is always comfortable and secure in his car seat. This arrangement also gives John and me some extra flexibility to move around once G is asleep and secured in his car seat.
Food at IAH: We arranged our schedule so that we had time to eat a quick dinner before we left on our trip. Since our flight left from Terminal E at IAH, we had plenty of options to choose from for dinner. There were several high-chairs in the main dining area by our gate, so we picked up some sandwiches and fruit from Einstein’s and had a quick dinner.
United Club at IAH: Terminal E has a great, large Club and we popped in to do a diaper change in their clean and spacious bathrooms. We also used our brief time in the Club to organize our carry-ons.
Transport to the Hotel from the Airport: I arranged car service from Heathrow to the Park Tower Knightsbridge Hotel via the hotel concierge. With just a few emails, we were able to get this set up pretty easily. The Tube and Heathrow Express options were unavailable due to scheduled maintenance to the tracks (repairs are usually scheduled around the holidays). Our car was a very nice Mercedes van and it was very spacious and comfortable. Our driver was very nice and had cold water and reading material for us.
Getting Around London:
Taxi: We used taxis to get around London during our stay. As I mentioned in a previous post, strollers fit inside most taxis without collapsing them first. We literally wheeled George into taxis while he was seated in his stroller. As long as you can lock your stroller, baby is safe and sound for the ride.
Walking/Stroller: We did a lot of walking in London and used our Uppababy Vista stroller to get George around town. I was so glad to have a full-size stroller on our vacation – the cobblestones and ancient settings can be hard on a stroller, and baby. Plenty of people were managing around us with flimsy strollers, but we preferred to give G a nice, smooth ride.
Traveling to Paris:
Train: As I mentioned earlier, we took the Eurostar from London to Paris (and vice-versa) and each of us had our own seat. I know it’s expensive this way, but you don’t want to be THAT family that tries to squish an adult and a kid in the same seat, all the while imposing on your seatmates. Besides, we personally think it is safer for George to travel in his car seat when possible.
Traveling from the Train Station to the Hotel: We arranged for car service from Gare du Nord to the Prince de Galles via the hotel’s concierge. I was able to set this up with a quick email to the concierge staff. Sometimes it is possible to snag a larger taxi outside of the station without reserving one, but we didn’t want to risk it with George. As many of you know, when traveling with a baby, time is always of the essence.
Getting Around Paris
Walking/Stroller: We did far more walking in Paris than in London and we were grateful for our Uppababy stroller. George took several long naps in the stroller while we were out and about and we were thankful that we could provide a nice, smooth ride for him.
Traveling to Houston:
Lunch at LHR: We didn’t eat lunch at LHR, but there were plenty of options. We picked up some water and some on-board snacks for G before heading to the United Club.
United Club at LHR: I blogged about the Club already, but it’s worth noting that the Club is exceptional. We spent some time in the Terminal 2 location and had a quick snack before we departed. There are plenty of food and drink choices to make a meal out of the food offerings there, and if we had needed to do that, we would have.
Aircraft: We flew United #5, a 787 Dreamliner and upgraded ourselves to the Business First Cabin by paying the taxes on our ticket. For our seating arrangement, John took an aisle seat in the seat in front of George, and George and I sat in the row behind him. The row seating was 2-2-2, so this was the best arrangement for us and everyone had an aisle seat.
What did George eat?
We always travel with food and drinks for George. Always. There is nothing worse than a hangry baby! On this trip, we brought 2 bottles of milk, 1 bottle of water and a small container of fresh fruit in George’s food bag (an insulated bag from SkipHop). We typically use the fruit to supplement other meals, but it could serve as a stand in meal in a pinch. We also packed several snacks in George’s baby bag, including containers of goldfish, pretzels, marshmallows, Cheerios and Mum Mums (i had back up provisions packed in our checked luggage). I also packed oatmeal packets because that is another meal that can be made in a pinch. We are also really fortunate that George is a very good eater and it is very easy to find a meal for him. Most places we ate at had dedicated kid meals and menus and places that didn’t tried hard to accommodate us.
I hope this information helps you in some way. Additionally, I am always open to travel tips and suggestions, so please feel free to share yours with me!