My Big, Fat, Greek Travel Story
My brother-in-law decided to get married this summer. We were all super excited. He also decided to have the wedding in their parents’ homeland of Cyprus. We get to have a wonderful family vacation. Sun, sand, ruins…what a great place to go. But wait, we have a 10 month old and he’s definitely coming with us. And so the adventure begins.
Our plan of action starts at Christmas. We invite my mom to come with us as her present. Two reasons.
- She can visit the wonderful country that my in-laws are from.
- We get two extra hands on the plane and a very willing babysitter whom the baby knows very well on our holiday.
My son is the kind of boy that doesn’t stay seated for more than 5 minutes. When we go for a walk in the stroller he is happy as long as we are moving. I can’t even stop to buy a coffee without him squirming and complaining. He always wants to be on the go. So you can imagine what it was like on our journey.
There are no direct flights to Cyprus from Toronto. I repeat – there are no direct flights to Cyprus from Toronto.
You heard me. So we need to stop off in any European city of our choice. My husband also has a certain unexplained aversion to most airlines, so we are limited to where we will stop. KLM is on the approved list so we stop off in Amsterdam.
To Cyprus: 7 hours to Amsterdam, 8 hours to wait around then 4 hours to Larnaca, Cyprus.
Back home: 4 hours from Cyprus to Amsterdam, 3 nights in Amsterdam, then 7 hours back to Toronto.
Rent a hotel room in Schiphol Airport to get some sleep and feel refreshed for our next flight. On our way back, we took a 3-night stopover to explore Amsterdam. It was a great city to visit with a baby, you can walk everywhere, and there is so much to see.*
Our travel agent assured me that we would get a bassinet for the baby on the plane, so we didn’t have to buy him his own seat. What I found out about one month before our trip was that we could have a bassinet as long as he was no longer than 29 inches and no heavier than 20 pounds. Well, he was born at 8 lbs 13 oz, so my guy was well over those requirements. I spent countless hours on the phone with the airline, then my travel agent, then the airline again. Only to be left with 3 seats and no bulkhead seat or bassinet.
On our way there, the flight to Amsterdam was pretty much empty so the lovely lady at KLM seated us with a whole row of four to ourselves. So we had a seat for Andreas even though we didn’t pay for it. We had toys and books and a place to lay him down while he slept (sort of).
On the way back our flight was delayed two hours and we had a last minute gate change to the opposite end of the airport AND the flight was full. My husband, who thinks he is above all rules and regulations, cut in front of a very long line of very unhappy people because, of course, we were traveling with a baby.** He then asked another KLM lady if there was any way we could get bulkhead seats with a bassinet. Keep in mind that we already have our boarding passes and this is the way back so I’m sure that our son is even heavier than when we left – but my husband is always trying to find a way to weasel out of these things-like maybe they won’t notice that our son is obviously too big for the bassinet.
“Just keep him seated and when they ask how much he weighs, say you don’t know.” Right. God was listening. She actually changed our boarding passes, (who knew you could do this?) gave us a bulkhead seat and said that we could have the bassinet, but we couldn’t hang it up, it would have to remain on the floor in front of us. BINGO! I felt great, having somewhere to put him while he slept was a true help especially after a crowded flight from Cyprus. Thank you KLM lady!
Just two things about our flights on Cyprus Airways:
- The planes were much smaller and I could swear they were overbooked
- We had an unscheduled stopover where we had to wait on the plane for 45 minutes while 90% of the passengers got off (I never did thank my travel agent for that one).
My mother-in-law, bless her, is a great lady and super helpful. So in the months leading up to the trip she is frantically looking for a crib for Andreas to sleep in. I assure her that he has no problems sleeping in his playpen. But like my own mother would, she continues the search and finds a crib for her grandson. I tell her about safety issues, and to make sure that the crib bars are no more than six centimeters apart. We arrive in Lefkara (the village they are from and where they have a beautiful house) and I look at this crib. Let me tell you that MY head could fit through the bars. OK, it wasn’t that bad, but it was about 13 centimeters! We’re all so paranoid now, because we’ve all heard about the lady who had a lovely antique crib and walked into her baby’s room to find her baby’s body through the bars and hanging by its neck (luckily this particular baby lived, cuz his feet were touching the floor). So I had to tell my MOTHER-IN-LAW that I didn’t want to use the crib.
The crib was a great place to hang our clothes and store diapers and baby stuff. Oh well, I tried.
There is a 7 hour time difference between Cyprus and Toronto. My son slept through the first night without a wake up. Did I mention that about a month before we left we finally got my chronic night-waker to sleep through the night without a feed? Boy did this ruin it all. That first night he slept all the way through, and we thought, “Wow, what a great traveling baby we have, this is a piece of cake,” but the next night he was back. He screamed so much that the whole village could hear him. Every night, every few hours, for the whole three and a half weeks. Yay me!
Thank God I was still breastfeeding. I fell back into the nighttime breastfeeding habit. I really didn’t want him to wake everyone up. So as soon as he started to scream, I shot out of bed and breastfed him. It worked. Thank goodness for nature’s secret weapon.
So you may be reading this and thinking that I had a terrible time, but in reality it was fantastic! We stayed in some really beautiful hotels that were highly accommodating to our baby. Every hotel on our trip supplied us with “travel cots” so Andreas always had a safe place to sleep without us having to lug our own playpen around. We ate really fresh, tasty food, we lived it up on the beaches, and most importantly we witnessed the marriage of my brother-in-law and had a real family vacation. My mom got to stay in the awesome village where my husband’s family is from, high up on a mountain with beautiful panoramic views. My son had his first real experience with the outdoors. He was always under a lemon tree, and learning new things everyday with his two grannies, granddad and great grandmother. We spent our days on the beach and in the sea or by a hotel pool, taking picturesque strolls and eating great food with our family. It was an experience that I wouldn’t change for the world.
Next on the agenda: Both of my husband’s sisters are getting married (one in October and the other on New Year’s Eve). Did I mention that they live in England? Here we go again…
Check out Beautiful Cyprus www.visitcyprus.org.cy Take it from me, it’s worth the trip!
*the one complaint I have with Amsterdam – apart from the weather in June – is that it is not very stroller friendly. Luckily I have a Mountain Buggy, so the cobblestone was not a problem, but there aren’t any wheelchair bathrooms anywhere, not even in the airport. Fortunately for me, I was not alone and didn’t have to take him in with me.
**just want to mention that we did not receive any sort of priority at any of the airports we visited, even though we were traveling with a baby and a very big stroller. Note: next time we will travel with an umbrella stroller, someone in front of me with a 2 year old actually folded her stroller and put it in the overhead compartment on the plane. Genius.