Transatlantic travel with a baby

(First draft written in December 2014)

Baby J and I returned from our first transatlantic journey together. On our way to India, Aaron, J and I flew Emirates and did a three nights layover in Dubai. Talking of which, if you book your ticket on Emirates.com, the system is equipped to process your visa should you need one.

Given that both Aaron and J did not need visas (they are US citizens), their own visit to Dubai wasn’t a concern. On the other hand, I had to submit all the paperwork (everything is online) including scanning and posting a picture that meets their size requirements (which was the biggest inconvenience in terms of sizing a giant size picture to a pint size one – however, they do have a fairly good but not entirely user friendly website that helps with resizing pictures). The entire process took me a long time only because I had trouble getting the right kind of quality passport pages scanned to meet their very specific requirements and of course, my picture as well. Anyway, the processing began immediately (I believe their process center is in India or if not, surely has Indians working on it) and I actually received an email a day later saying that they needed some other document more clearly scanned and sent which I did. I was at least happy that they didn’t just reject my application because of this and requested a clearer one. My 96-hours visa was issued electronically within 3-4 days, I don’t exactly remember, via email. I took a hard copy of it along with me to Dubai.

So back to baby travels.

July 22.2015

It has been over 6 months since our return from India and I never completed writing this post. So, before I forget some more, let me recollect whatever I can remember:

1. Getting him to Dubai was not a problem. Between A and I, we cared for J, got him warm water from the flight attendants whenever we needed as well. When I was asking one of them for hot water, she asked if I wanted her to clean the bottle too. I was like…hunh? You can do that?! She smilingly took my bottle apart and ran steaming hot water through the nipple and bottle sanitizing everything instantly. Otherwise, we were cleaning the bottles in the airplane bathroom. We did carry our own brush and soap for doing this. Next time, I’ll just request a flight attendant.

2. Because we were all jet lagged, J’s 5 am wake up calls didn’t bother us. We were all up and awake anyway. My uncle had got us rooms in a hotel conveniently located from a mall and that had an amazing spread of a breakfast. We absolutely enjoyed our breakfast for the 3 days we were there. At the malls, our poor jet lagged J would unprovokingly fall into a deep slumber and I even had to splash water on him a couple times to get him to wake up. He was in a daze the whole time but considering how much he did sleep during the day, he slept quite well at night too.

3. Having a stroller is not really helpful in India. We did use it once when we went to a mall and that was really good but that’s just it, because of the road conditions in India, you can really only use strollers inside malls and other places with sleek floors like hotels. We did take the stroller and car seat with us for safety reasons and when we all rode together, we just held J in his infant car seat on our lap. Later, after A left, we would just place him in the middle seat of the backseat. He adapted just fine. Definitely take the stroller and car seat. Indian road conditions are still atrocious and with absolute disregard for human lives in the country, you just have to fend for yourself. If the car seat can give your child an added layer of safety, why wouldn’t you want to do it? Stroller is optional but I would still recommend getting at least an umbrella stroller depending on the age of your child. We had the Graco Literider (see post here) with us along with the Graco infant car seat.

4. Because A left early, J and I were on our own for our return trip. We flew Air India. Unlike Emirates that had an amazing service, courteous staff, top notch facilities, utility pouch for infants (on the Chicago-Dubai leg, J was given a little pouch with wipes, a spoon, a bib, and a few other things; on the Dubai-Mumbai leg, he was given two small soft toys), and a bassinet with a strong and wide belt to protect babies and infants sleeping on it (including strict regulations for how big or small the baby should be to lay in it), Air India (no surprise!!) was the complete opposite. They had staff that looked tired and ready to call it a day at any time, no smiles, just service because they have to, very matter of fact – no human connection with passengers, broken bassinet with with protective belt causing J to once fall over when he was trying to bend and I had looked away for a second; allowances to put just about any kid in the bassinet (the woman next to me had a 16-17 month old tall kid and she was still given a bassinet to put her kid in. Unsafe, unlawful, and ridiculous.

I totally get that from an Indian cultural perspective – rules can be bended if it serves a greater good. If I was the woman with the kid, I may even be thankful that I got to put my kid in the bassinet and rest my arms a little. At the same time AI’s careless disregard for rules and propriety appalled me.

5. The Delhi Airport is really good in terms of facilities. There are restrooms everywhere and more importantly, there are diaper changing stations in designated rooms everywhere as well. The room is big enough to nurse in also.

6. We got off our domestic Pune-Delhi flight and had our luggage checked in all the way to Chicago. I did have to pick up the stroller and car seat at the carousel and then return to another check in area – for international transfers (it’s all within the same airport and concourse so that wasn’t a problem). Showed my passport and visa to the officers and was on my way through to security. There, I folded the stroller and let that and the car seat through the security assembly line. I wore J and went through body search security with him on me.

They were kind enough to let me continue wearing him although this is not the norm (again, flexible Indian rules – this time to my advantage). From here, we took an elevator upstairs and stared right in the face of duty-free shopping. Baby J was all quiet but vigilant during all of this. He just laid back in his car seat on the stroller and took it all in. I considered buying some tea but did not, in the end. After some walking around (thank goodness for the stroller), sat by my gate. As the long line to board began to form, I was personally approached by a staff member and asked to proceed ahead of others because of J. I had to let go of the car seat and stroller at an area just before getting on the jetbridge and wore J instead. From here, got the airplane and had an adventurous first flight with my boy, all by myself.

7. In the plane, he slept some, ate some of the airplane food, some of his packet, threw airplane food on the floor, made a mess on the floor with food and later his toys, bumped his head when he fell off the bassinet (earlier, he fell off the diaper table at a changing room because I didn’t fasten his belt and had looked away for a second.

8. This was my first experience going to the washroom with J and even changing his diaper on the plane. I don’t remember if I ever changed his diaper on the airplane on our way to and back from Seattle. Anyway, while using the bathroom, I was able to just hold him in my arms and do things with one hand. As soon as I was done, I would pull the changing tray down and place him there and with a careful eye on him, wash my hands. For changing diapers, he was small enough to let him rest on our portable diaper changing bag and change him without issues. He still needed distractions like his powder bottle to keep him on his back while I changed him.

 

 

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