So, we had our first international trip with a baby. Now, we’re headed abroad with a toddler. Here’s what went into our planning, starting with a narrow timeframe and factoring climate into the equation.
I’d been pricing flights and trying to figure out what’s good at the destination. And yes, I’ll admit to indulging my love of flying a bit, too. Here’s what I’m coming up with:
Auckland, New Zealand – Even though we won’t be able to go crazy full-adventure like our last trip to New Zealand, there is still plenty to do there with a little person. There are some decent flights options. Here’s what I can’t figure out: American Airlines and United Airlines spring for shiny new Boeing 787s and then given them a 31-inch seat pitch. For a flight that long? The only other downside here is that it’s not as easy to get around in New Zealand without a car.
Hawaii – Really reasonable price. Can’t figure out if flying Hawaiian Airlines gets me anything points-wise, but I like their 767 (perfect for a family of three) and their good reputation. And it’s honestly hard to agree with Hawaii outside the high cost once you get there. My plan would take us to Honolulu for a few days, then on to Kauai or maybe the Big Island.
For some reason, prices to Japan are a bit on the high side at the moment. That takes them out for this trip. That’s a shame because I’d love more time in Japan than the quick five days we had last time.
After tons of debate and more than a few delays, we’ve figured out the timeframe and destination for Anneka’s next trip abroad. The winner is New Zealand, which we’ll visit in December. That’s right in the middle of summer below the Equator.
I’m pretty excited that Anneka will, before her second birthday, cross the Equator and the International Date Line. That’s a super-impressive start to an interesting life!
If you’re planning baby’s first trip abroad (or second or third, for that matter), let me share some of the data points that made our decision.
Timing is of the Essence
Let’s face it: Most offices are a wasteland during the weeks around Christmas and New Year’s Day. We weren’t able to make late summer or early fall work into our schedules, which made the holiday season a perfect time. We didn’t think we’d get as much out of the Nordic countries at this time of year at Anneka’s age, though I look forward to us all getting our first glimpse of the aurora borealis in the future.
OK, Summer Down South. But Where?
That left the southern hemisphere: South America is out because it’s pretty warm in December. I’d rather leave Curitiba, Brazil, for the cooler time of year. Southeast Asia requires more situational awareness in navigating than a toddler can muster. Australia? Much of it is pretty hot, with Melbourne and Tasmania being the exceptions. That rocketed those two Australian locations high on the list, with New Zealand jumping square into the scrum as a finalist because of its climate, activities and low prices for just about everything.
Flight is the Deciding Factor
Price is always, always, always a consideration. I crunched numbers and timetables on flights to Melbourne and Auckland. The Hawaiian Airlines flights from Phoenix to Auckland then wiped out all challengers. It’s the cheapest by four figures, even trouncing Air New Zealand (which is usually a solid deal … I am sad that I’ve once again been denied the chance to fly Air New Zealand on a long-haul flight).
And let’s talk about time: Hawaiian Airlines allows us to board a 767 in Phoenix and do our international flight dance here instead of flying to LAX or SFO. Our 7-hour flight connects in Honolulu with a 2.5-hour stop, than a 9-hour flight to Auckland. Same airline, no need to get bags and re-check them. Oh, and our Hawaiian flight leaves Phoenix at 8 a.m. one day to get into Auckland at 10 p.m. the next day, versus leaving later in the day to LAX and then arriving at 6 a.m. in Auckland two days later. Huge bonus!
What about the planes? I’m bummed that there’s no Dreamliner flight for this trip, nor a 747-8i. The first flight is a Boeing 767; it’s not a new plane, but it has all the latest passenger amenities and the benefits of 2-3-2 seating; I booked an entire middle block of seats in the front half of the plane. That allows Sarah and me to put Anneka in the middle seat, and us to have constant access to the aisles.
The Airbus A330 is another story. I’m not a huge fan of its 2-4-2 seating. And I have yet to fly an A330 with personal air vents at the seats. There are a few 2-3-2 rows really far aft, which stinks. But there’s that nice access to the aisles to consider.
Here’s where Hawaiian Airlines lags a tiny bit, though: No free on-demand entertainment, and they charge you for blankets and pillows. Not the biggest deal to me, frankly. I can handle spending some time with my Kindle, we generally roll with pillows/blankets and it’s likely the only time I could watch anything is when she’s asleep. So …no great loss.
What About Air Miles?
Hawaiian Airlines isn’t part of a major airline alliance; it has some rough ties to other airlines, but it’s really hard to get miles for their flights. For example, I could get United OnePass miles on a Hawaiian flight, but I’d have to book it through the United website.
Here’s the problem – the prices aren’t the same, and it’s hard to even get any Hawaiian flights in a flight search result on the United website. The best option is to build your trip in Google Flights, then select the Book on United option. But even that can be iffy since you have to fly at least one leg on a United aircraft. And there goes all the benefits of leaving Phoenix on Hawaiian Airlines.
We all signed up for HawaiianMiles accounts, too. That means, if Hawaiian Airlines provides a positive experience on our flights, they’ll be our go-to for future flights to Asia and Oceania. Hawaiian Airlines flies to a wide range of Asian destinations … or rather, they fly Asians from a wide range of origins to Hawaii. I’m sure a few people are using Honolulu as their connecting point between Asia and the US, but I think that’s a smaller subset of passenger. Oh, and this is Anneka’s first time flying in her own seat, and her first air miles account. Cool!
Now that I’ve worked my flight voodoo, Sarah will jump into her speciality … the activities and the itinerary. I’ll post an update on that later.