I have traveled a lot since past few years for work and leisure. However, in 2016 due to my pregnancy and childbirth my travel plans were restricted and I ended up staying back home for more than half of the year. This is something that has bothered me for last couple of months. Cancelling our “Baby-moon” to Belize in March 2016 due to the outbreak of Zika virus was one of the my biggest disappointment, since I was really looking forward to our last couple vacation before the baby comes out.
(But hey 2016 is the year that changed my life, my identity and my purpose! Life came full circle when I saw for myself a new LIFE that I made. )
Moving forward, post my maternity leave and once Vir turned 3 months I only traveled for important work meetings to New York, Dallas and Los Angeles last year. In fact Vir flew for the first time with us to New York in August. I was really nervous of flying with a 3 month old but gladly it all went well and gave me the courage to fly with a baby. Check our my previous post Tips for Travelling With a Baby.
There are several reasons I love my job and one of those is I get to travel and break the monotony of working from home. I was recently informed that I needed to travel to Thailand for a work conference in Dec 1st week !! This was an amazing opportunity and I was thrilled to pack my bags and get on that plane. Since I was going to that part of the world I took a week’s off to stop over at Delhi. This itinerary worked perfectly for our family as Deep could manage Vir at home in Delhi with his parents while I was off to Thailand. Also our son could meet our family members, and get the blessings of his great grandparents.
When one travels to India especially for the first time with a baby there has to be a plan in place. From the Flight to the Baggage, to the Baby gear to the Stay, everything needs to be well planned !
In this blog post I will share with you my experience on flying with Vir on a 21 hour flight from Houston to Delhi and way back, which turned to be 30 hour door to door journey both ways.
The Preparation! – Thankfully Vir’s passport was ready before he turned 2 months, and I was able to plan this trip. Once I was informed about my travel, I immediately applied for Vir’s E visa to India (which was applicable for a single entry only for a 30 days period. I intend to apply for his OCI card soon) Our tickets were booked 2 days prior to our travel. Due to the last minute bookings me and Deep were unable to get seats together in Premium Economy with United. However I was glad to at least get a bassinet seat after a lot of coordination with United’s customer care. I have to tell you that it was very painstaking task and until I sat on my seat on the flight, I wasn’t sure if I will have a bassinet in front of me.
I made a checklist of all items I needed in India for Vir and packed the luggage accordingly. Since I had to be away for 5 days I was glad that I had slowly started introducing formula to Vir while breast feeding. Thankfully he was accepting both breast and formula at that time and feeding was not one of my worries. For a 2 week vacation we managed to fit in all our stuff in 3 suitcases and 1 carry on. Among the few home chores, we arranged boarding for my fur baby Rio at a local pet home, stopped all the mails for the 2 weeks we were away at the local post office center and got rid of all the perishable food from the refrigerator.
The Flight !
Baggage: I made it a point to travel light and carried only the important items needed for Vir. Between me and my husband we had one carryon bag, a boppy pillow, an umbrella stroller, a diaper bag and a backpack and 3 check in items. The carry on and my diaper bag had all baby supplies.
Security and Boarding: Even though we reached the airport 3 hours prior to our boarding, I was delayed by an hour at security check. I was patted down twice by 2 different officials due to the alarms on my swipe test. Since I had to carry Vir in my arms, I had to use the walk through metal detectors, due to which they had to swipe my clothes and my hands. And every time they tested it, the machine would sound the alarm. I still don’t know why that happened, but they say it could be due to the use of lotions and hand sanitizers.
Tip( Highly recommend going early then planned to the airport, as you will never know what might cause delays. )
One of the perks of being a parent is that you get to board first and that was a relief! We gate checked Vir’s stroller each time while changing flights.
Bassinet Seating My Nightmare: My fear of not having the bassinet seat came close to being a reality!! As we boarded our long leg flight from New Jersey to Delhi I saw that we had just 1 bassinet in front of the 3 bulkhead seats on the plane!! And to my disbelief I had to share the bassinet with another mom for the entire 14 hour journey. Once the air hostess attached the bassinet in front of us she informed me that it was in the name of the other mom, and claiming subtly that the bassinet is hers. I couldn’t believe the inefficiencies in the system at United and the ignorance of the customer care and the gate managers, as none of them informed me on the bassinet seating policies and arrangements even after checking with them several times. To add to my misery, the flight was full, due to which me and my husband didn’t get to sit together either. Vir ended up on my lap the entire flight, except for that one time when I got the bassinet to use the restroom.
My loving son was truly an angel the entire 14 hour flight; he didn’t fuss at all, slept most of the time and fed properly. His cooperation made this crazy experience worthwhile and helped me calm my nerves. Now my nervousness of flying such a long distances with a baby is out of the window.
(Tip- The thing that worked in our favor was that I booked the flight during his nap time. That way he slept more than half of the journey. Also I highly recommend wearing a baby wrap or carrier that way your hands can be free)
Once we landed in Delhi we rushed to the immigration and were shocked to see no lines. I guess fewer international flights land at 9:30 pm. We also learnt that there we had to go for immigration check at 2 different windows as Vir holds an American passport. We were out of the airport in less than 25 minutes yet it still didn’t feel we were done, as we had another 1 and half hour drive from the airport to reach home.
Flying back to Houston !
After good 2 weeks of stay, meeting with family members and indulging in a lot of Indian street food it was time to head back. Finally my good luck kicked in and we couldn’t have asked for a better flight experience on our return journey from India. This time I really didn’t care about the bassinet. I just wanted to be seated with my husband, so that I don’t have to hold my pee forever !!
While we were checking in we saw that the fight was almost 80% full. That was amazing as it meant that we had the chances to get an extra seat apart from getting to sit together. We booked our seats in the center row purposely as there were 4 seats in that row, which also meant there was a good chance of getting a vacant seat next to us.
Like I mentioned, my luck finally worked and we not only got to sit together but even got an additional seat for Vir between us on our first flight !! We changed our planes in Munich and requested the gate staff to see if they can seat us next to an available bassinet or upgrade us to the larger leg space seats or check if there is a row with an additional seat for Vir. (It never hurts to ask, you need to be patient and hopeful, something I say to Deep all the time). Thankfully, it worked again and we got an additional seat for Vir. I couldn’t believe that not only did I get to sleep for at least 6 hours, but also saw a movie (Life of Pets) and grabbed both dinner and breakfast on the flight!!
Tip ( In my opinion a return flight on Monday or mid of the week are not fully booked and there is room to change or move seats.)
If you follow me on Instagram , you would have seen on my stories, that post we landed in Houston we were stuck at immigration for more than 2 hours. I cannot explain how miserable it is to stand for that long with a hungry baby and I cannot understand why all security windows cannot be open when there are 6 international flights landing at the same time! We were glad to be back home as we couldn’t wait to meet our fur baby Rio !! This was an extremely tiring and long vacation for us. We cancelled all our travel plans for Christmas and New Years as I didn’t want to head back to the airport so soon and neither did we want to leave Rio again so fast.
I have a Travel Goal of visiting minimum 5 new places in 2017. I want to get used to travelling with our baby and learn along the way and share my experiences, learnings and tips with all my readers- as I am hopeful it will help some of you!!
Wish you all a wonderful 2017 !!