We’re packing again!! This Summer has already been busy, with trips to Mexico and Seattle, among others, but this next trip is the one that’s been on our calendar for almost a year now. We’re getting brave, and taking Baby Flyer to Europe! It’ll be a week and a half of Oneworld award flights, Scandinavian Airbnb rentals, and a few side jaunts here and there.
Our itinerary starts off with a 787 Dreamliner flight to ORD and two nights in Chicago, which we added because our tickets start there. Since we love that city, we added some time so we’ll have a day there to take Baby Flyer back to Millennium Park. From there, we head to Helsinki (Finland), Tallinn (Estonia), and Copenhagen (Denmark). The international part of the trip lasts 10 nights (plus one on the flight out), and includes plenty of planes, trains, but not really many automobiles.
This trip was inspired by Finnair opening up some award seats to Oneworld partners in business class for the summer. Since premium mileage tickets are notoriously hard to find without big taxes and fees, we jumped on them and booked a round trip ticket from JFK to Helsinki in business class for some miles and about $60. It will be Baby Flyer’s first long haul international flight, but hopefully having the extra space and lie-flat beds will make it reasonably comfortable.
Once we get to Helsinki, we’ll have three days and nights to explore the city. Given that this is a family trip, we’re planning baby friendly activities, and luckily, Scandinavia in general is overall safe and welcoming for family travelers. Highlights we’re hoping to hit include the ‘Children’s’ Town’ museum- an interactive exhibit where everything is play-with-able for the little ones, and importantly, is indoors, making it a good rainy day option since we’re likely to get at least one of these this time of year. We’re also hoping to take the boat out to Suomenlinna island, for a little outdoors time, hiking, and sightseeing.
The next part of the trip is taking the Eckero Line ferry across the Gulf of Finland to Tallinn, Estonia for two nights. We’re staying in the ‘Old Town,’ which is a UNESCO World Heritage Sight. Our plans here mainly involve exploring the medieval town, food and shopping. We may venture out to Kadriorg Park, which includes palace grounds, as well as gardens, and several museums, and checking out the KGB museum at the Hotel Viru.
As for the ferry, we booked the Eckero Line through Direct Ferries. It’s a 2 hour crossing on a ‘ferry’ that looks more like a small cruise ship, and we went all out (all extra $40 of it) to book a 4 birth cabin with our reservation. It’s not really necessary, but since the crossing times just about hit Baby Flyer’s naptime, we thought we might find a little privacy nice. It also means we’ll have a private bathroom as well.
Once we get back to Helsinki, we’ll be off to the airport once again to catch a short flight on Finnair to Copenhagen. We booked these tickets separately, and they were reasonably priced, so we didn’t use miles. Technically, if we’d flown Norwegian, we could have saved a few dollars on the ticket price, but this was one of those lessons for people who don’t look hard enough at discount carriers. Given that we’re Oneworld elites, we have free checked bags, and free advance seat assignments as long as we stay on partner airlines. Had we flown on Norwegian, our ‘savings’ would quickly have been more than eaten up by the added charges. Plus, because we’re flying Oneworld, we’ll have lounge access at Finnair’s comfortable and full service lounges before our flight.
We’ve been to Copenhagen before, and it’s stuck in our minds as one of the places we really wanted to get back to. We’re spending four nights this time, and are looking forward to seeing the city as a family. Copenhagen has plenty of kid-friendly places to visit and things to do. It’s full of parks and playgrounds in the city center (Danish companies design the majority of new playground equipment around the world), and since everyone bikes, walks, and takes the train, it’s easy to get around.
This trip will be the test of our planning, and also of our Airbnb skills. We’re staying in a suites hotel in Chicago, but once we cross the ocean, it’s all Airbnb all the time. To start things off, our accommodation in Helsinki is a three bedroom flat in Ruoholahti. It looks to be an easy walk to the city center, or a very short tram ride. It will be nice to have the space to give Baby Flyer her own room, so she can go to bed before we do (hopefully!)
Renting an entire flat or house really makes traveling with babies more enjoyable over a traditional hotel. Having the space, as well as a kitchen, and if you’re lucky, laundry goes a long way. There are of course some draw backs as well. If you haven’t seen the property before, there’s really no guarantees on what it will be like, aside from reviews. Plus, you’ll be hard pressed to find one that’s really baby-proof, but the same goes for hotels in general. If you’re lucky, you can generally find a reasonably priced rental as well, especially when compared to the pricey hotels in this part of the world.
After our time in Copenhagen, we start the trek back home again. We first have a flight back to Helsinki, then a couple of hours to enjoy the airport lounge and collect ourselves before flying Helsinki to JFK, and JFK back to Los Angeles. That will make for a long day, but it gets us back home seamlessly, and I managed to find some award space in business class on American’s premium transcon plane, so we’ll have space for the three of us.
Wish us luck & happy summer travels to you all!!
-CET, CAR & Baby Flyer