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First transatlantic flight


Elvis Presby

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We live in the SouthEastern US.  We have flown out west a few times here and there and have driven to the midwest and even up to Canada once.  

My 13 year old has been granted a wish from Make a Wish.  We are going to Italy in November.  

I know airlines are cutting back, but what can I realistically expect as far as movies, meals, etc?  My youngest is 6, but will be 7 by then, so we will not be traveling with a wee bitty (thankfully)!  We drove down to Naples, FL in 2013 and it took 12 hours.  It was so worth it when we got there, but really, anyone who has been in the car with their family that long knows how hairy things can get!  I can't imagine what it will be like in an airplane when we can't stop for a break.

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nomoxian

Posted

I went on a transatlantic flight from Canada to where Europe and Asia meet, so it was a fairly long flight!

There was ample food, but since I'm allergic to almost everything, including the *nuts* (!) in the special meal, I went without. I'd recommend bringing some food on the plane if you're able to. I brought a bit of candy and ate before I got on the plane and I was fine, but kids probably will need to eat more often. Snacks they are familiar with can also help them stay calm, or something new might intrigue them and keep them quiet. When I was 15 (big kid) I took Lego candy with me on a flight to Florida. It's this chalky kind of candy that looks like Lego and you can actually build with it.

he only time I've been on a flight without movies was on a flight that was only a couple hours long, and I slept through most of it! On the transatlantic flight I went on, there were quite a few options for movies, music, as well as language games on the screen that's on the back of each chair. If your younger kid really like a certain movie, it might be a good idea to have it loaded on a tablet. You need to have electronics turned off while the plane is ascending or descending, but for the most part I think you can use them.

Hope you have a happy and calm flight, and a wonderful vacation :)

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Fascinated

Posted

I would add that, if possible, make sure you have the aisle seats so the kids can move around and stretch their legs if they want to, without bothering another passenger.  I hope you are on an overnight flight where most people sleep for a few hours. This also makes the time adjustment easier when you arrive. It will be worth it, though, no matter what. Italy is stunning!!!  Your family will love it. 

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samurai_sarah

Posted

Sorry to hear your child is ill! I hope s/he gets better.

As for what you can expect on longhaul flights - meals, drinks and individual entertainment systems. The easiest way to find out is to google your carrier. Since you said you're going to Italy, maybe you're flying with Alitalia? Don't answer that ;).  In that case, you can expect a choice between two meals, snacks and individualised entertainment. I only know that because I'm a terribly nervous flyer.

It'll probably be better than a 12 hour car ride. You can't get out, but on the plus-side, you don't have to watch the traffic and the nearest bathroom isn't far away. Just bear in mind that "special diets" need to be booked in advance. If you're asking for kosher or halal, they're usually free of charge, the airline just needs to know.

Hope this helps a bit! And I hope that your family and you enjoy Italy. Italy is gorgeous!

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ShepherdontheRock

Posted

If it's an overnight flight, try to book some combination of window and aisle seats. That way, you can lean against the wall to go to sleep, or your kid can get up to use the bathroom. They'll usually turn off the lights midway through the flight so people can attempt to sleep.

They'll provide blankets and pillows, but I'd bring your own pillow if there's room.

Individual on-demand tv screens are standard for long flights nowadays.

But yeah, your airline website, or SeatGuru should tell you what to expect.

 

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MatthewDuggar

Posted

I don't know if you got your tickets yet or not, but check the different airline's websites for amenities as they all vary. (the european airlines are much better IMO) The majority of transatlantic flights will provide meals and personal entertainment (moves, tv shows and games) in Economy.  Also, the majority are overnight flights, so if you can sleep with a limited recline, the time will pass fairly quickly.  I always get very antsy about an hour before landing and the jet lag kills me.   The flight home will probably a daytime flight, but since it won't be your first, you'll know what to expect.

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MarblesMom

Posted

We had TONS of video and audio available, including games, movies, TV shows.  We were fed a few times, but we brought some of our own snacks, too.  If you can get a late afternoon departure, the lights will be dimmed and most people sleep on the way over.  Does your son have an I-Pad or personal gaming device?  He should be able to find a USB port right at the seat.

We flew American one time and Air Berlin the next... I actually liked Air Berlin a little better!

Good luck!  :)

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47of74

Posted

Something I would highly recommend is to go on to seatguru.com to look up information on seats before you purchase tickets.  They have the different airlines and how they have the seats configured for the different models (Boeing 7xx, Airbus, etc).  They can tell you about how comfortable the seats generally are and if there's any special issues with the seats, both pro and con - such as an immobile seat arm due to its position or the seat having a bit more leg room and so on.  They can also tell you if the seat has a USB port to provide power.  Back in 2008 when I first went the planes tended to use the "cigarette lighter" type power adapters and had them under select seats but nowadays they tend to just have the straight USB ports that hook up to the entertainment systems.

My flights to Europe have all been late afternoon flights, leaving around 5pm or so and arriving the next morning.  Three of them were through O'Hare and my last one was through Atlanta.  I always like to look out the windows so I usually try for the window seats or at least the side aisle seats.  They usually turn off the lights part way through the flight so people can at least try to sleep.  My problem is that I'm a taller and a bit larger individual so it's hard for me to get comfortable in coach seats if someone is sitting next to me.  Last time I went to Italy I finally managed to fall asleep right before they started serving breakfast.  The food was good and they came through on a regular basis to provide beverages, though alcohol cost extra.  Otherwise the flights went fairly well.  When we had problems it seemed to be on the final leg of my flight home with the last flight being delayed.  That was no fun having the flight delayed, especially when I used the Moline airport and had a 1.5 hour car ride home after the flight.

It seems to me that the major US carriers are all pretty much the same service level wise.  I've flown on Delta, American, and United and the service seemed pretty consistent across all three.  When I went to Turkey in 2012 the flight over was on Swiss Air and it seemed a step up from the US carriers.

If you have a complaint I would let the airlines know.  I've gotten free points letting them know when I had issues with the service received.  I by no means am a special snowflake when it comes to flying, I try to be as friendly and accommodating as possible knowing it'll make the flights much less stressful.  But if there's something really wrong I do speak up.

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MarblesMom

Posted

Yes, second the complaining to getting results when things go awry.  Last October, my flight from Waco to Dallas made an emergency landing and I had to jump from the wing (yes, not every plane has a yellow bounce house).  I landed pretty hard on the tarmac, and after a few emails, one of us flew free to Europe.  (Not from the same dysfunctional plane.)

Speak up if things don't go your way. 

 

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Yay! I travel pretty much full time so this is my jam. 

First, as a kid who took a loooot of airplane trips as a kid -- all transcontinental, but still long -- flights are a whole different ballgame compared to those awful car trips where everybody bickers. There's something novel about flying, you're less cooped up, and you don't all have to listen to the same radio station. Embrace it. Your kids will love it. You will too, if you let yourself.

For the transatlantic portion, since you're originating in the Southeast I'm guessing you'll be on a Delta/Alitalia codeshare out of Atlanta -- guessing they're booking for you, so you won't have any control over this. If you can get on an Alitalia operated flight rather than a Delta one, the amenities might be VERY SLIGHTLY better, but doesn't make much of a difference in coach anyway. If you can get on any route flying a 787 Dreamliner for the transatlantic leg -- DO IT DO IT DO IT. 150% better cabin experience automatically. Overhead compartments are further up, less claustrophobic feeling, better air circulation system (less drying and less noise!!).

Most transatlantic (and I'll have you know I first typed intergalactic for some inexplicable reason) flights will be equipped with some kind of seatback entertainment, which may or may not have anything worth watching but usually offers a decent selection of kids options (a couple not-current episodes each of a few Disney or similar shows, in my experience). Bring your own headphones for everyone (earbuds are fine, let's not be bulky packers now) and an iPad is great with some videos they like if you have that option. Meals are not going to be great no matter what. Bring snacks that the kiddos love to keep them happy. 

I'm a big fan of families sitting in the center of a 2-4-2 or even 3-3-3 configuration. Aisles on both sides make things easier. As a solo traveller, I personally am always a window seat person because I have a serious bladder of steel, so I don't need to climb out over anyone else to go to the bathroom and don't have to deal with them climbing over me. 

Sign up for the most practical associated frequent flyer program for each person who is flying (that would be Delta for Alitalia). Miles don't add up fast if you don't travel a lot, but it's a lost opportunity if you don't collect them. It's free! 

I have plenty of other thoughts, but a lot depends on whether you're booking or they are, how you might want to consider packing, etc. Please feel free to PM me if you'd like! Also, a great blog by a woman who has gamed the miles-and-points world and travelled extensively with her husband and 5-year-old daughter is www.mommypoints.com -- highly recommend you check it out. I'm not a family traveller and I still read it religiously.

 

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47of74

Posted

Yay! I travel pretty much full time so this is my jam. 

First, as a kid who took a loooot of airplane trips as a kid -- all transcontinental, but still long -- flights are a whole different ballgame compared to those awful car trips where everybody bickers. There's something novel about flying, you're less cooped up, and you don't all have to listen to the same radio station. Embrace it. Your kids will love it. You will too, if you let yourself.

For the transatlantic portion, since you're originating in the Southeast I'm guessing you'll be on a Delta/Alitalia codeshare out of Atlanta -- guessing they're booking for you, so you won't have any control over this. If you can get on an Alitalia operated flight rather than a Delta one, the amenities might be VERY SLIGHTLY better, but doesn't make much of a difference in coach anyway. If you can get on any route flying a 787 Dreamliner for the transatlantic leg -- DO IT DO IT DO IT. 150% better cabin experience automatically. Overhead compartments are further up, less claustrophobic feeling, better air circulation system (less drying and less noise!!).

Most transatlantic (and I'll have you know I first typed intergalactic for some inexplicable reason) flights will be equipped with some kind of seatback entertainment, which may or may not have anything worth watching but usually offers a decent selection of kids options (a couple not-current episodes each of a few Disney or similar shows, in my experience). Bring your own headphones for everyone (earbuds are fine, let's not be bulky packers now) and an iPad is great with some videos they like if you have that option. Meals are not going to be great no matter what. Bring snacks that the kiddos love to keep them happy. 

I'm a big fan of families sitting in the center of a 2-4-2 or even 3-3-3 configuration. Aisles on both sides make things easier. As a solo traveller, I personally am always a window seat person because I have a serious bladder of steel, so I don't need to climb out over anyone else to go to the bathroom and don't have to deal with them climbing over me. 

Sign up for the most practical associated frequent flyer program for each person who is flying (that would be Delta for Alitalia). Miles don't add up fast if you don't travel a lot, but it's a lost opportunity if you don't collect them. It's free! 

I have plenty of other thoughts, but a lot depends on whether you're booking or they are, how you might want to consider packing, etc. Please feel free to PM me if you'd like! Also, a great blog by a woman who has gamed the miles-and-points world and travelled extensively with her husband and 5-year-old daughter is www.mommypoints.com -- highly recommend you check it out. I'm not a family traveller and I still read it religiously.

 

Last summer I flew out to Portland with Delta, rented a car, and drove back to Iowa.  I was able to go through three national parks doing that and see some states that no one else in the family had seen.  Because I had enough points I upgraded to first class for my flight out to Portland.  That was really nice, having the larger seat and the first class meals.  I've got quite a few points on American too, I'm saving those so I can use them on a really long flight sometime.  One thing is that depending on the program miles do eventually expire so you'll need to watch and purchase more miles if you want to maintain your balance.

Another big thing I would say that I just thought of is that if you have multiple flights is to try to build plenty of layover time into your schedule.  I made the mistake twice of not giving myself quite enough time and having to race through the airport to my connecting flight (and barely making it in both cases).  In both cases the initial flight was delayed due to weather or control tower weirdness.  I know layover can suck but it beats having to rework arrangements and I think it's better to have too much layover time at the airport than not enough.  Especially last summer since I wanted to see the Larry Craig Memorial Bathroom and Grill at MSP but had to race from my initial flight to my flight to Portland.

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2xx1xy1JD

Posted

Alitalia planes are a mixed lot.  We got the Dreamliner last year for one leg, and it was AMAZING.  The other leg had an older plane with no individual screens, just pop down common screens for the movie.  Take an iPad or 2 just in case.

Bring your own snacks, since there is not a lot of choice on board.  I also like to take a bottle of water.  Have everyone wear comfy clothes in layers.  I recommend sweat pants, t-shirt and hoodie, with a change of clothes in the carry on bag.

Remind the kids to go to the rest room before boarding, because you can't go during boarding and takeoff.  Go just before the meal service as well.  Then, go just before the rush when everyone wakes up during the overnight flight.

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Pennyrose

Posted (edited)

Some tips I don't see covered yet:

Keep a close eye on any favorite items that may be taken out of carry-ons and could be easily left behind at a seat (toys, pillow, case of game cartridges). To avoid losing them I'd suggest using corded clips (like pacifier clips that keep them attached to strollers). You can rig something like that up with binder clips and sting in a pinch. (sister's blankie was left at an airport during a stopover because we didn't think of this)

On international flights I took a a kid sometimes the things I opted to take in my carry-on for entertainment got boring once I was limited to just those things during the actual trip. So, I'd suggest picking up a few new toys, games, and comics to take with you and surprise the kids with if/when they tire of everything they brought.

Others have mentioned things like ipads above. I second the suggestions. Load up with apps and movies. But don't forget about classic travel games, like I-Spy, hang man, travel board games, joke and puzzle books, and so on. If you run out of battery and can't re-charge you'll be glad you have some of these.
(BTW, for the ipad and such get a travel data and texting packages or you'll get hit with a huge roaming bill when you get back. Use wi-fi at airports and cruise docks by making sure to turn internet off on the device in those areas. Those are often treated as out-of-package roaming areas.)

Make a scavenger-hunt type list of places to see, things to do, new experiences to try, and random stuff to watch for like how many people you can spot wearing purple hats. Give everyone a copy so they can track their progress. Perhaps make taking a picture of your sighting/experience for the list part of the game, so you'll get a lot of great pictures in addition to the usual people-in-front-of-attraction type shots. 

Hope you have a great trip :)

Edited by Pennyrose
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We were in Italy, mainly Rome, last November.  Some other tips - the selfie stuck sellers are so persistent and common in the tourist areas that it's just easier to buy one,  they don't bother you when you've got one.  Water fountains are potable, and my son enjoyed looking for them and drinking from them (put your finger over the end and the water comes out the top like a bubbler).  Guided walks were great and much more interesting for kids than just walking and looking at ruins. Gelato shops were great for bribery!

Living in Australia, flights just about anywhere are LONG.  I second taking iPads, your own snacks in case they don't like the onboard ones,  and some new /unseen games, and sitting in the centre section so you've got two aisle seats.  We have found there's been plenty of entertainment in flights in recent years. Sometimes snacks have been a bit scarce, but you can always request some. My son was a fussy child, so I tended to take plenty of food for him.  I do always take water bottles as it's easier than getting up and getting paper cups.  (Obviously these have to be empty when going thru airport security.). Our kids always used to do holiday diaries - writing in them, cutting pictures out of brochures and glueing them in when we were out for dinner.  My 19yo daughter likes to re-read hers occasionally, and these days she still does one, but on her iPad.   My son isn't as interested).  

i hope the trip brings lots of joy and happy memories to your family, and I wish your child a healthy future xxx

 

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Elvis Presby

Posted

Make a Wish is handling all the details.  We are flying out of Atlanta.  They will give us a detailed itinerary soon, but we don't have it yet.  At this point, I do not know the airline.  In searching the flights on our travel days, the shortest duration flights all seem to have a layover in London on the way and Amsterdam on the return.  Of course, I am just guessing until we get specifics.  I believe it is an overnight flight, or at least an evening flight because we are arriving the day after we depart.

We are all very excited and looking forward to this trip.  It will be so worth it!

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MatthewDuggar

Posted

I will second the comment regarding allowing for ample time if you have a connection somewhere.  I'd rather sit for a few hours in an airport than have to potentially run to miss a flight.  I was travelling Nice > Madrid > Miami once and the flight from Nice to Madrid was running 2 hours late.  I was convinced I would be stuck in Madrid until the next day, but when I got there and went to the service desk, the man said the flight to Miami had not left yet and that i I ran I would make it.  I did, nearly killing myself and my somewhat elderly mother.  Turns out we could have walked normally as that flight left almost 3 /2 hours late and we ended up sitting on the plane waiting for more connection passengers to arrive.  Also it helped I could afford business class at the time, so it was literally like a flying spa on that one.

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47of74

Posted

Make a Wish is handling all the details.  We are flying out of Atlanta.  They will give us a detailed itinerary soon, but we don't have it yet.  At this point, I do not know the airline.  In searching the flights on our travel days, the shortest duration flights all seem to have a layover in London on the way and Amsterdam on the return.  Of course, I am just guessing until we get specifics.  I believe it is an overnight flight, or at least an evening flight because we are arriving the day after we depart.

We are all very excited and looking forward to this trip.  It will be so worth it!

Yep, I've been to Italy three times and I had an absolute blast each time.  I remember the first time I went there and got to the hotel room after the flight.  Finally able to unwind for the first time in about 25 hours I was like, "Oh F---, what did I do?"  But after going to the orientation and having the tour director take us out on a tour of Rome I started having fun and had fun the rest of the trip.  Last year I finally had enough confidence to do a few days in Rome on my own once the tour was done.  That was awesome because I got to see what I wanted on my own schedule.

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 You've gotten a lot of good advice. I haven't traveled to Italy, but we've done a lot of international travel with our kids (age 16 and 13) because my husband's family lives in England.

Yes, the flights are long, but a lot of the time there's an ample amount of entertainment available, particularly for the young teen age. Sometimes you have to rent a device in order to get access (~$10 or 15); other times it's all free and available on the seat back in front of them.

Most of the time our teens will play on their video game devices and watch a movie, then sleep for awhile. Neither of them find it easy to read books on the plane (motion sickness), but watching movies is okay. We play hangman or draw doodle graphics and try to guess the answer (like pictionary).

We almost always order at least one "special" meal - often we'll get a vegan or fruit plate - then combine the aspects of them between people to make sure everyone gets something they like. Most airlines will share typical meals for each type - my daughter is vegetarian so 

We also take snacky things - beef jerky, trail mix, goldfish crackers, cheese and crackers, a couple apples or bunches of grapes. The last time we flew the crew accidentally left almost 200 meals on the ground. There were two meal services on the flight (~13hr) and a lot of people were going to be given only little baggies of nuts/crackers. Everyone on the flight who had extra food passed it back so that the people in the back who didn't get served could eat something. It was actually quite touching. Anyway, that cemented my decision to always carry a snack bag.

If anyone in your party has difficulty walking long distances, contact the airline and make sure you have transportation (they sent little buggies) arranged before you travel. Nothing saps your energy more than walking long, cement corridors, not to mention that doing it fast and under pressures is stressful.

Have a wonderful trip! Post a trip report when you return, if you can - it's always fun to travel vicariously :-)

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Elvis Presby

Posted

So, I got flight details yesterday.  We are flying Delta.  I'm very comfortable saying that since it would be easy to figure out from my posts that I live in metro Atlanta and everyone knows Delta is #1 in Atlanta.  We are flying direct to Rome.  We are departing Florence and have a short layover in Amsterdam before returning to Atlanta.  Just knowing these few details has helped me at least plan a little!  I am a first born and I love to know things ahead of time.  

The wish coordinator did say that the final itinerary should be sent to us very soon.  We are all looking forward to that.  We leave in 19 days!  

My husband and I are trying to lose a little weight before we leave.  I fully intend on gaining some weight in Italy and it would be great if I only gained back to what I weighed before we left!  

I really can't think about anything else these days besides Italy!

 

 

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