Expert Travel Advice For Families From The Stork Exchange
Allow me to introduce myself; my name is Olivia Mai and I have two small children.
I have a confession – I only go away once a year… so how can I justify calling myself a travel expert I hear you say? Well, I have a third baby, one that I can’t bring on holidays or leave behind – my own little business!
I am the founder of The Stork Exchange
baby equipment rental. We hire everything from car seats and strollers to travel cots and highchairs, and since June 2014 we’ve been based at Dublin Airport. We work with the airlines, airport authorities, and car rental companies at Dublin Airport… and it’s a pretty good vantage point to pass on much of what I’ve observed myself, and feedback I’ve been given from my customers. So even though I’ve never travelled long-haul with a baby, my customers have, and I now know that if there is turbulence the air hostess will ask you to take the baby out of the bassinet and strap him/ her to you until the seatbelt sign has been switched off! I’ve never been to Copenhagen Airport, but I’ve heard that if you have to transit through a European Airport with a small family, Copenhagen Airport will make your life much easier by providing excellent family services such as prams for their passengers and great children’s play areas.
One area where I do have a lot of insider experience in, is with car rental companies and working with the airlines, and hopefully you will find my articles over the coming weeks filled with information that can help inform you and prepare you for travel.
If I were to give two pieces of advice to a parent traveling with a baby or small child based on direct experience from seeing what goes on behind the scenes at the airport they would be:
1. Never bring an expensive pram on a flight
Or if you really, really have to, use a proper pram bag. The reason I say this is because almost as soon as The Stork Exchange
opened its doors at Dublin Airport, the airlines came knocking; they wanted us to provide replacement equipment for their passengers due to damage or loss while being handled by their staff. Car seats are more likely to be left behind because they are bulky and awkward... but prams are more likely to get damaged or have pieces lost in the hold. Many airlines will not cover the full cost of the pram if it is not “adequately packed” so rule of thumb – black bin liners are not adequate protection! If you do bring your own pram and use it right up to the steps of the aircraft, make sure to collapse it for the ground handling staff, tuck in all the straps etc and put adaptors and any paraphernalia into your hand luggage.
2. What about car seats?
One of the most frequently asked questions I get is whether to bring your own car seat…it’s a real quandary for parents as the alternatives aren’t great. Car seats are not built to sustain the weight of tonnes of luggage that could potentially be thrown on top of them in an aircraft hold. You don’t necessarily know either, if there has been damage done to them unless you take the cover off and check for cracks or breaks. The simple fact that The Stork Exchange
can get insurance to have our strollers go abroad, but not our car seats speaks volumes. BUT car rental companies are notorious for providing old / grubby / wrong sized car seats… and as the saying goes there is no smoke without fire. The inspiration for my own business came when I rented a baby seat abroad only to be handed a dirty, old Stage 1 seat on arrival which was, we subsequently discovered when I went to wash the cover, home to a fat little maggot living off Liga and raisins and lord knows what else.
So what’s the solution? Firstly, voice your complaints to the car rental companies, loudly… it is about time they provide decent car seats for parents. Secondly, look for a rental company that specialises in baby equipment rental – there are tonnes of them out there, and they understand the issues parents face traveling with kids... and finally, if you bring your own car seat, again put it in a travel bag and check it on arrival.
Keep an eye out for my articles over the coming weeks and months and hopefully you’ll glean a few practical tips for when you’re next planning, preparing for or travelling with your little ones.
Next on the agenda is travelling with Pre-Schoolers, so buckle your belts and enjoy the ride!