And now, the conclusion….
Our trip home was, admittedly, long. We left early in the morning from the Copenhagen airport, which is relatively small and easy to navigate. There are a couple lounge options for Oneworld flyers. We stopped at the “Apartment” lounge, which was the best option at the time. However, CET has been back to Denmark since and they now have an even better option near the British Airways gate, past passport control that’s worth a visit.
From Copenhagen, we connected back to Helsinki to catch our return award ticket to JFK. This gave us a chance to spend a few hours in the premium first class Finnair lounge accessible from the international gates. It’s always fun to check out the best lounge at a Oneworld airline’s ‘home’ airport. This one is unmistakably Finnish, complete with a real sauna, right in the airport (yes co-ed and everything).
There are also plenty of good food and drinks, as well as a nice kids’ are with all kinds of books, blocks, and other toys. Baby Flyer had a good time making a mess, which in the Finnish tradition, we then cleaned up ourselves before heading to our flight. This lounge, with or without littles, is worth a visit. It’s less crowded (at our flight time anyway) and with a higher level of amenities than the Finnair Schengen lounge we went to on our way to Copenhagen, and even that one wasn’t too shabby.
The Helsinki airport is clean, lovely, and quiet in comparison to many others, so we were able to let Baby Flyer stretch her legs on the way to the gate. She, of course, insisted on carrying her own passport. If you’re so inclined, there’s also plenty of food and shopping options along the way.
The boarding process was fairly orderly, and we pushed back on time for JFK. With a few exceptions, flights from the US to Europe are overnights, with the return trips being in the day. This is good and bad- you don’t feel like you’re up all night, but babies also don’t sleep for as much of it. Plane time is play time, at least for awhile.
Finnair gave Baby Flyer an activity/coloring book, and another Moomins cloth/blanket for the flight. We’d packed all kinds of toys and entertainment, so she made herself at home in front of our seats to play. The food, drinks, and IFE were much the same as on the outbound, and we picked up a couple more of the Marimekko amenity kits to take home.
We made it back to the US fine, but ran smack into a painfully long line at immigration/customs. We have Global Entry, but Baby Flyer didn’t. This meant we had to wait in the ‘regular line’ which was an hour long, even for the automated passport control. This mistake won’t be made again, thanks to our Amex Platinum’s generous reimbursement program for Global Entry, all three of us are signed up now!
We did finally clear, and then had to pick up and re-check our bags to LAX. That all finally completed, we had a brief stop back in the Flagship Lounge to recharge for a few minutes. Really, the travel caught up with us when we boarded the flight home from JFK to LAX. Thankfully, seeing this coming, we’d cashed in some AA miles and booked two business class seats on AA’s best domestic plane – the 321-T. It’s business class is as good as many international routes, and features fully lie flat seats in a 2-2 configuration, which is perfect for two people and a lap infant.
We barely made it through the meal service before all three of us fell soundly asleep for the remainder of the five hour flight. It was just what we needed to be in good shape to navigate LAX on landing, and get ourselves safely home. What is nice about the return flights is that they land later in the day on the west coast, so even if you don’t sleep much on the flights, you can go home and get everyone to bed and beat the jetlag.
They say that travel with kids isn’t a ‘vacation,’ it’s a ‘trip.’ It’s a good way to put it. You definitely have to plan more, improvise more, and have patience. Overall, though, the memories are worth it, and sometimes it’s nice to slow down and just do simple things in another country- like watching street musicians, or hanging out at a playground.
This trip was definitely one we’ve since looked back on fondly, even though we definitely learned a thing or two about what works traveling with an 18 month old, and what doesn’t. That’s all part of the adventure though, and as it turns out, we’re even going to try to do it all again, now with a 2.5 (!!!) year old.
Thanks for reading & Travel well.
~CET, CAR & Baby Flyer