We arrived in Ireland! It took much longer than anticipated, and the travel part was disastrous, but the good news is that the insane stress did not lead to Daniel and me divorcing, and baby James showed his value in gold. So I’m keeping both of them! However, here is my advice about travelling worldwide with a 19-month-old. It mostly entails not depending on aeroplanes.
Over the last several years, I’ve travelled to and from more than 20 different nations. During that time, despite the fact that I was constantly on the edge of my seat as the bags whizzed by on the moving baggage belt, not a single item of my luggage was misplaced. I’ve never had to rush to two different gates only to be told that the doors had just closed, I’ve never had an airline refuse to issue me a ticket (even though I’d already booked a seat), and I’ve never sat in the last row of a plane with a shoddy tray table and had coca cola pour into my lap every time the plane moved slightly. But all of those things occurred only last week when we brought our young boy on his first overseas travel. In a single day.
Now, I’m the one who spilled the Coca-Cola on my lap. That wasn’t something I should have been consuming. The remainder, on the other hand, was a complete disaster. The weeks leading up to infant James’ first major vacation were filled with worry and planning. You hear horror tales about taking a 19-month-old on any flight, much alone three…one of which is over 9 hours (I know, some people do it alone, with four children… but they are gods). Daniel and I had read the blogs, packed the snacks, milk, and toys, devised a game plan, and then rehearsed it over and again to calm my mounting nervousness. Believe it or not, by the time we’d packed two months’ worth of diapers, camera equipment, clothing, and laptops, cleaned our home for our beautiful house sitter, said our goodbyes to our darling Frankie dog, and were on our way to the airport, I was ready for the trip and the 8 weeks overseas.
Things began to go wrong as soon as we got at the airport. We would have missed our Dublin trip if our first flight (United) had been delayed. I’ll skip the gory details of getting rebooked three times and rushing through the airport twice and instead jump to the point when we eventually boarded an aircraft to Chicago on a different carrier (Delta). We were informed that after we arrived in Chicago, we would be transferred to Aer Lingus and flown to Dublin. They informed us that our tickets had been reserved on the following flight and that we could pick them up at the Aer Lingus counter in Chicago when we arrived.
Unfortunately, it was easier said than done. We were greeted at the Aer Lingus counter in Chicago (together with 10 other individuals from different connecting flights…including a lady in a wheelchair) with a notice stating that they had already closed 20 minutes earlier and gone home. The flight wasn’t due to leave for another hour and five minutes. As a result, we contacted Aer Lingus’ customer support department. We reasoned that this would be a simple repair. We informed the customer support representatives that we needed to get our tickets immediately or risk missing our flights. We informed them that we had a baby and that a lady in a wheelchair was there. “Sorry, it’s our policy to shut 75 minutes before the flight departure,” they said. We’re sorry, but there’s nothing we can do to assist you.”
Even though 10 individuals had just arrived from connecting flights, and though we were all booked on that Aer Lingus aircraft to Dublin, even though we were all trapped without their assistance, Aer Lingus refused to help. We were all late for our flight. The lack of customer service was startling. I understand delays and rebookings, but what occurred there was very horrible.
We returned to the United counter, where the kind lady booked us on a Lufthansa aircraft to Frankfurt, followed by a connection to Dublin. At 5 p.m., we landed in Ireland only to discover that the Dublin airport had lost track of our bags. Is it possible to blame them? It would have been amazing if they could maintain track of it after all the juggling from one aircraft to the next. This meant we only had a few diapers, baby clothing, toothbrushes, and other necessities to tide us through. This meant that until the suitcase was found, I’d be wearing Coca-Cola-soaked pants. Again, the Coca-Cola incident was all my responsibility. But we aren’t here to chastise me.
There was, however, a silver lining: we were in Ireland. The hotel Conrad concierge, David, ran out to get us diapers, diaper rash cream, and wipes the night we arrived; Failte Ireland’s Sinead brought James some much-needed wellies and toys; and everyone we met was eager to assist us in any way we needed it — whether it was doing our laundry at Tankardstown house or getting us toothbrushes, Ireland showed us some serious hospitality.
It was a nice reunion when we finally got to our bags today. I’ve been here for five days now, and I can’t tell you how many people have approached me and said, “I heard you lost your bags, that’s terrible.” “And with a child!” Today, a farmer informed me he found out about it on Twitter;) He also joked, “not much is kept secret in Ireland.”
We’ve had a lot of luck with airlines throughout the years, and I suppose it’s only a matter of time until the chickens come home to roost. I also recognise that the airlines employ only dedicated employees who work in one of the world’s most demanding environments (in any country). I only suggest that you don’t close your gate before a busload of connecting passengers arrives, Aer Lingus. Because Ireland is a fantastic destination. And individuals have a right to arrive on schedule. Thanks.
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