Tag Archive for: Europe

Family amenities coming to European charters

A Thomson Airways family booth. Photo from Skift.

A Thomson Airways family booth. Photo from Skift.

At a time when U.S.-based airlines continue to squeeze family travel passengers, the world’s largest charter carrier, based in Europe, has announced plans to make the flying experience more family-friendly.

The company, Thomson Airways, this week revealed plans to create family booths on board certain flights. This concept, still just in the design phase, would allow parents and children, or friends, traveling together to sit face to face, enjoying conversation and a shared dining experience with a folding table between them.

As noted in a Skift article earlier this week, this isn’t the first time family booths have been tested; Southwest offered the same sort of family-friendly perk years ago, but discontinued it due to outcry from passengers who were NOT families traveling together.

This time, however, the message is clear: The booths are for families, and they likely will stick.

They also aren’t the only family-oriented perks Thomson has discussed and/or promised. Some of the other benefits include:

  • On-board kids’ club with childcare
  • Triple seat with folding middle seat (for which, presumably, you’d still have to pay)
  • On-board snack bar with kid-friendly items

If some of these perks (ahem, on-board child care) sound familiar, that’s because Richard Branson also has talked about implementing them in the future. Whenever these sorts of family-friendly improvements happen—really, regardless of whether they happen or not—I’m just glad people are talking about them at all.

12 Days to London

These flower-pickers are ready for the Big Time.

These flower-pickers are ready for the Big Time.

Twelve days. That’s all that stands between our family and an overnight plane ride from San Francisco to London, which will be our home from Aug. 21 through Christmas.

For months, the Big Move has seemed like a mirage, something that sounded great but wasn’t actually happening, a family-focused fantasy akin to my daydream of winning the Main Event at the World Series of Poker.

But it’s real, people. And it’s happening SOON.

Powerwoman and I have spent ample energy this month scratching stuff off our respective pre-trip to-do lists.

She has gotten most of the fun stuff, like buying the girls new winter clothes and researching playgrounds in our new neighborhood (it’s Maida Vale, for those of you scoring at home). I have been left with the inglorious tasks: Freezing the gym membership, temporarily suspending our cellular service, and requesting a Capital One credit card (with no foreign transaction fees) in Powerwoman’s name.

Of course we’ve also spun wheels trying to tie up loose ends here at home—thankfully, my parents will be seizing the opportunity to house-sit and lay claim to a “vacation” home in Wine Country for the fall.

Still, if I had to guess, I’d say my wife and I have spent the greatest amount of time focusing on easing the transition for L and R.

On the most basic level, this has translated into reading them books about our new home (the favorite has been “The Tiger Who Came to Tea”; “This is London” ranks as No. 2) and studying maps of the city to give them a sense of what landmarks are where. On a more nuanced level, it has meant making sure we’re bringing enough from home to make the new flat feel familiar.

With this in mind—and after much deliberation—it appears that we’re taking the (ridiculous) kittens calendar from the fridge in the kitchen. It also likely means we’re carrying-on an entire suitcase of stuffed animals. And R’s (new) purple inflatable alien.

We’ve taken other steps toward smoothing the transition. Like teaching my parents how to Skype so the girls can have video check-ins with the cat (and, I guess, their grandparents). And procuring postcards for L to fill out and send to her friends at preschool back here at home. Heck, we’ve even packed Halloween decorations so the girls can feel like they’re not missing out (sadly, the Brits don’t really do the whole costume-and-trick-or-treating thing).

For a two- or three-week trip, I’d say this type of preparation would be a bit much. But for four months on another continent, I think it’s spot-on.

Our rationale behind this obsessive planning is simple: We want the move to be an adventure, not an exercise in missing stuff from home. One could argue that we’re rejecting spontaneity (to a point); instead, we like to think we’re trying to incorporate enough touchstones so the girls are comfortable and willing to explore on a whim.

For better or for worse, these comfort levels are critical to the next few months in our world. They play an important role during every long-term family trip; how you choose to support/indulge/address them is up to you.

To what extent have you bent over backward to make your kids comfortable in a new place? How much is too much?

Next Stop: Babyland

Long live paper maps.

Long live paper maps.

Call me old-school. Call me a Luddite. Heck, go ahead and call me a loser, I don’t care. I like paper maps. And I plan to share this passion with my travel-loving kids. No matter what.

The maps are sort of everywhere. Each child has one on the wall in her room. We raid the local AAA store and get “research” maps before every big road trip. Occasionally, instead of building with blocks or coloring, we’ll just unfold a map of the U.S. and talk about states.

Our latest endeavor transpired this week. In the first official effort to give the girls a better sense of where on the planet we’ll be when we move to London, I bribed them with mini marshmallows and invited them to join me for an up-close-and-personal session with a world map from Little Passports.

The two of them internalized the session in different ways.

R, who is 20 months at this point and already is learning her colors, pointed to every blue nation and proudly screamed, “Blue!” as loud as she could.

L, who turns 4 on Tuesday, fixated on distances. On one hand, she was fascinated by how far England is from home (here in California), and asked me repeatedly to trace the likely flight arc of our plane. On the other hand, she couldn’t get over how close London is to Paris; when I told her we’d take a train between the two, she reacted as if I told her we’d ride unicorns.

The “lessons” lasted out for about 30 minutes total; after that I had to wash some dishes so I left the girls to play on their own.

That’s when Babyland was born.

For L, this magical place was the perfect destination for little sisters—a place where toddlers would feel at home. It was an island oasis. For babies. In the middle of the Indian Ocean.

Naturally, this was no ordinary island. As L explained it to R, in Babyland, people eat strawberry yogurt with every meal, dance to Bruno Mars at all hours of the day or night, and never leave home without at least two stuffed kittens.

She added that in Babyland, ladybugs can talk. And they all know you by name.

Many of these facts were still making their way into my notepad when I looked up to spot L with a purple crayon, drawing a flight arc that stretched to Babyland from London. She explained to her sister how planes would follow that route, and how, someday, the four of us would take one of those planes and see it all for ourselves.

L kept talking, and R listened quietly, hanging on every word. I put my pen down and listened, too.  After about five minutes, my cheeks hurt from smiling so much. Long live paper maps.