I started to get anxiety about our travel to Georgia a few weeks before we actually left. How would Abby do? How would the cat do? Most importantly, how would I handle it all? We do our best to be as prepared as possible, but you can only do so much, and we’re humans, so we make mistakes.
This was our first time flying with Annabelle, our cat, in the cabin with us. Previously she has flown as excess checked baggage, but the airlines we were using this time did not allow that option. She is not a great traveler, and we were quite concerned that she would howl and make noise the entire time. We took her to the vet in Orrville for our required health certificate and asked for suggestions, and he recommended a mild sedative for her. Thank you, thank you, thank you, kind vet. Annabelle was calm and quiet from the time we left until we arrived at our house in Tbilisi. A miracle!
My mom wanted to take us to the airport, but we had too many bags for one vehicle so we also hired a van to help transport our luggage. This was our first time flying with Abby’s new convertible car seat (we purchased the Britax Boulevard Clicktight). It is a beast, weighing in at almost 30lbs. Since the new seat doesn’t click into our stroller like the infant seat did, we used a bungee cord to latch it to the stroller and we pushed it like that, while I wore Abby in my Beco. This was the most convenient way for us to move through security, because they allow me to walk through without removing Abby, and they also didn’t require us to take our stroller/car seat contraption apart.
Our first flight was short and sweet, and we arrived in Detroit only a few minutes before boarding began for our flight to Amsterdam. The seat arrangement was 2-4-2, and originally we were assigned 3 seats in the middle section. There are rules about where a car seat can be on the plane, and I didn’t love the idea of how we would have to set up if we were in the middle section. We switched so that we had the aisle seat of the middle section and then the aisle and window seats directly across from that. We put Abby’s car seat next to the window and took turns sitting beside her, which actually worked out really well (during my time in the other seat I got to watch an entire movie!). Abby did pretty well, but because her car seat is so big, we couldn’t position it rear-facing with a nice recline, and I think that contributed to her lack of sleep on that flight.
We arrived in Amsterdam about 7 hours later, landing at 5:30am local time (about 11:30pm EST). Abby and I waited with all of our things while JR picked up our gate-checked stroller. Or so we thought. Apparently, our stroller didn’t make the flight. This is the second time that has happened to us! What is the point of gate-checking an item? I was too tired to fully express my rage. I calmly asked the attendant where we should go to file a claim, as I was certain our item wasn’t really missing, as much as it was just sitting in Detroit. She was insistent that we could not file a claim in Amsterdam, we would absolutely have to take care of it with Delta/KLM in Tbilisi. When I explained that there is no Delta/KLM at the Tbilisi airport, she was like, oh well, bummer for you, try there anyway!
Okay, so no stroller, nothing can be done at the moment, moving on. I’m not sure we could have physically moved through the airport without assistance. I asked her if she could call one of the golf carts over. She said, oh sorry those cannot transport baggage. She also said Abby and I couldn’t ride on them anyway because they can’t transport babies. So basically those golf carts that always look like an ideal way to move through an airport are completely useless, in my humble opinion.
She brought us over the wee tiniest luggage cart we’d ever seen. Sigh. We loaded up and tried to locate their Baby Lounge in the airport, which I’d read about online. It was pretty glorious. It’s a separate large room with a long counter and sinks for changing babies, and then 8 sleeping pods. Here are some photos:
Amazingly, Abby went right to sleep in one of these cribs and slept for over 3 hours! This was quite a feat considering that you could hear EVERY sound in this room, including one dad who was coughing like he had the Black Plague. One minor complaint – the seating for adults leaves a bit to be desired. You can see where a person could sit beside the crib, but I wanted to sleep, not sit. JR and I contorted ourselves into some crazy different positions using our carry on bag and the floor to try to get a few hours of sleep. I also seriously contemplated crawling in the crib.
Finally, it was time to leave Amsterdam and board our final flight to Tbilisi. The flight took about 5 hours, and we were all exhausted. Abby’s car seat did not fit in the seat rear-facing, so we flipped her around and she slept almost the entire time, which allowed us to sleep as well. We landed in Tbilisi around 5:30pm local time (9:30am EST). All of our luggage was there – hooray!
Of course, when we spoke to their lost and found to fill out a claim for our stroller, the employee was shocked that we didn’t handle it in Amsterdam. He insisted the claim form should have been filed with KLM there. I was displeased.
Thankfully, the Embassy driver was able to help us file our claim, and he and JR’s work sponsor took us to our TDY house where we feasted on homemade chicken noodle soup, salad and bread (thanks to our fantastic social sponsor Laura!) and promptly passed out.
We did not have internet or a phone at first, so I was unsure where to start hunting down our stroller. Sunday morning, I sent my Mom a FB message (using JR’s work phone) with all of the information and asked her to look into it. Amazingly, the stroller was found in Detroit and delivered to our door Monday afternoon. Two takeaways from this trip – gate checking is not a guarantee that your item will arrive at your destination, and my mom can get things done for me even from thousands of miles away. Thanks Mom!