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BA F with Family to Europe for Winter Break

BA F with Family to Europe for Winter Break

Old Jan 13, 2017, 6:10 am
  #1  
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BA F with Family to Europe for Winter Break

Overview and flight preparation

After reaching BA GGL for the first time, we decided to plan a family holiday over winter break. Using a GGL redemption (aka joker), we were able to book our family of five in F for our preferred dates. Through a combination of Chase 2 for 1 certificates, GUF1 and GUF2, cash, and Avios, five of us were booked in first for the number of Avios it would normally take for four in Club World.


(BA First)

With the tickets from PHX-LHR-PHX booked, we then decided we would spend some time in London, Paris, and Amsterdam. With London having very little to do on Christmas Day, we booked Eurostar Standard Premier service to Paris on the morning of Christmas Eve, a Thalys first class service to Amsterdam, and Euro Traveller seats from Amsterdam to LGW on New Year's Day (the cost and value of CE was not justifiable for the five of us). A combination of trains, tubes/subways/trams, planes, and walking would be our mode of transportation, with the plan being to not need a car seat for our almost 3 year old for the entire journey. We succeeded in packing much lighter than our trip from the summer of 2014.

For the outbound, we chose seats 3A, 4A, 5A, 5E, and 5F on the BA 747, with the idea being that we could surround our son in 5E. We did not realize that 5E/5F were a bit smaller than the window seats, so for the return we switched our seats to 1A, 1K, 2K, 3K, and 4K.

Accommodations

With a family of 5, hotel rooms are not ideal as it usually requires booking two rooms or a suite, and prices were fairly high. We booked one night at the Paddington Hilton, as our buffer in case of IRROPS, before taking the train the next morning to Paris. We used Airbnb for all other nights, with five nights in a lovely and rustic flat on Rue Jacob on the left bank of Paris, three nights in West Amsterdam near our friends' flat, and six nights in a modern top floor flat in Covent Garden. About 45 days prior to our trip, our Amsterdam Airbnb booking tried to extort us by increasing the price 50% under the threat of cancelation. We ended up wasting considerable energy with Airbnb and ended up in a significantly downgraded flat for 3 nights, and it's left a pretty bad impression of Airbnb as the flat in question is once again listed on Airbnb with the only consequence being a $50 penalty and not being able to rent that flat for our original dates on Airbnb.

Sights

We booked advance tickets for the Eiffel Tower (Christmas Day), Versailles, and the Anne Frank House. We also planned to visit Notre Dame Cathedral, Sacré-Cœur, the Rodin Museum, Champs-Élysées, Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam Holiday light boat tour, London Transport Museum, British Museum, Tower Bridge, Natural History Museum, London Eye, St. Paul's Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, with the expectation that we would not see everything (we ended up skipping the Natural History Museum, London Eye, and Westminster Abbey due to time and/or queues). We intentionally skipped the Louvre and Musée d'Orsay because of the age of our youngest, and we didn't want to spend all of our time in museums.


(Abbesses metro station)


(London Transport Museum)


(Versailles)
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Last edited by dylanks; Jan 13, 2017 at 6:16 am
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Old Jan 13, 2017, 6:57 am
  #2  
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I stay tuned

P.S. I see all pictures double
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Old Jan 13, 2017, 7:24 am
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Waiting for the rest!!

And yes OP, your pics are double.
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Old Jan 13, 2017, 8:01 am
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Day 1: December 22nd, PHX-LHR

December 22: PHX-LHR
BA 288
Seats 3A, 4A, 5A, 5E, 5F (First)
Scheduled: 20:40 - 13:30
Actual: 22:05 - 14:30


By 18:30 we were a bit restless, so we departed for Sky Harbor, parked our car, and took the Sky Train to terminal 4. Our youngest was telling everyone for weeks about how he was going to see the Eiffel Tower and lots of trains and airplanes.


(PHX Sky Train)

We checked in at the BA First counter and surprised the agent when we said we had only one bag to check. At first she thought we meant one per passenger. Our plan was that we could check most of our bags, but for the start of the journey, we would carry most things onboard. We were almost able to go with no checked bags, but we simply didn't have enough smaller roller bags that we wanted to bring along. Because BA does not yet participate in TSA PreCheck, we used the priority lane and then a normal security lane. With children, you get to use the older x-ray device which helps accelerate the process. We had an astonishing five bags held for secondary screening, which significantly delayed the entire security area. We really have no idea why, as none of our bags contained liquids or anything out of the ordinary, and nothing was removed by the security staff.

Once our bags were repacked, we made our way into the Club at PHX/BA lounge and we found a table for the five of us near the food. The lounge is an ok place to spend some time, but a bit boring for our 9 and 2 year olds. The terminal had a kids play area, but when I took the kids there, I discovered that it had been removed. With the late departure our kids were getting a bit restless, and I ended up walking them around a bit, trying to keep some level of peace in the lounge.


(The Club at PHX, First)

The captain came into the lounge about an hour before departure, explained that London had fog that morning which was the reason for the delay, and that due to very strong winds, we would make up some time during the flight which would be under 9 hours in the air.

Eventually it was time to board and we took our stroller to the aircraft and BA kindly brought it onboard. We were escorted to our seats. What had been a cabin that was half full had filled up with AUPs and op-ups, with two other children in the cabin as well.

Our biggest concern with the aircraft would be convincing our youngest to stay seated and buckled up during taxi and take-off. This was further challenged by the snuggest seat belt setting being such that he could still wiggle out of it if needed. That said, the lovely cabin crew member politely told him that he would need to stay seated during our takeoff, and he listened!



Due to the late departure, we had a fairly long hold at Sky Harbor as we had to wait for the bank of flights to move out of our way. The runway used by BA at PHX needs to be completely cleared of aircraft taxiing to provide enough space for the 747. I'm curious how this will be handed when BA runs two extra flights during May and June!

After 20 or so minutes of holding, we were in the air. We were quickly offered help by the flight crew, with the strategy being to feed the children first (we prebooked kids meals for them for simplicity), then set up their beds, and then we would dine. I sat across from my son in the buddy seat while he nibbled at his dinner, and by midnight all of the kids were asleep for the duration of the flight.





My wife and I enjoyed our dinner. After the usual drinks service and warm nuts, we both started with the Goat's cheese and sweetcorn tart with grilled shishito pepper and caramelised cipolliini onion. This starter does really well on an airplane, and was excellent.



For the main, we both went with the beef which we requested to not be overcooked. It turned out nicely. Not comparable to what you would get at a nice steakhouse, but about as good as it gets on an airplane.



For dessert my wife enjoyed the chocolate truffle marquise mousse cake and I enjoyed the plum and almond tart.



After dinner, I actually slept four hours. It's the first flight I remember in a while where I did not open my laptop or use the IFE for the entire journey.

Up next, breakfast and our arrival into London...
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Last edited by dylanks; Jan 31, 2017 at 6:42 am
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Old Jan 13, 2017, 8:02 am
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Originally Posted by offerendum
I stay tuned

P.S. I see all pictures double
Originally Posted by thekfc
Waiting for the rest!!

And yes OP, your pics are double.
Thanks... and yes, I'm struggling to figure out how to use FT to add attachments and show them inline and not have them also show up at the end of the post... I may need to just upload them elsewhere and link to them, or just show them at the end.

This one is going to take a while to write, so many photos to go through and pare it down!

Last edited by dylanks; Jan 13, 2017 at 8:08 am
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Old Jan 13, 2017, 10:30 am
  #6  
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Your youngest is adorable.
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Old Jan 13, 2017, 11:07 am
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Hi:

Am I correct you have a CHASE British Airways card. That's how you got the 2 for 1 Certificate.

I have another CHASE card that gives miles on a few airlines. I assume I don't get a 2 for 1 Certificate.

Cute pictures. Must have been exciting. You certainly got good value out of this. I like your kid's green pants. Would not mind a pair like that. And the 3 colors; brown, blue and green match perfectly.

How much are the F fees? I know they are high on BA but the 2 for 1 certificates must have made it worthwhile.
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Old Jan 13, 2017, 11:57 am
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The best shots I have of my daughter are always when she is enjoying a snooze in a full flat bed at 36000 feet in white linens. Ah. What shall she do when she grows up and has to slum it.

Nice TR.
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Old Jan 13, 2017, 12:22 pm
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Originally Posted by wrp96
Your youngest is adorable.
Thanks! His personality matches his appearance. e.g. this morning he said to me "Daaadddeeee, peees can we go to the target? I yeeeeed a truck. Or maybe the park. Or a moooseeum"

Originally Posted by Bretteee
Hi:

Am I correct you have a CHASE British Airways card. That's how you got the 2 for 1 Certificate.

I have another CHASE card that gives miles on a few airlines. I assume I don't get a 2 for 1 Certificate.

Cute pictures. Must have been exciting. You certainly got good value out of this. I like your kid's green pants. Would not mind a pair like that. And the 3 colors; brown, blue and green match perfectly.

How much are the F fees? I know they are high on BA but the 2 for 1 certificates must have made it worthwhile.
Yes, it was courtesy of the BA Chase card. I believe our out of pocket was around US $6,000. Certainly not cheap, but a much better value than paying for five F tickets!

My wife gets all the credit for all of our kid's fashion, as it certainly doesn't come from me!

Originally Posted by mkjr
The best shots I have of my daughter are always when she is enjoying a snooze in a full flat bed at 36000 feet in white linens. Ah. What shall she do when she grows up and has to slum it.

Nice TR.
Indeed!

One of the ways I convince my kids to be on their best behavior in F or J is that airlines have a policy of moving unruly passengers back to economy. Our oldest daughter is starting to realize how lucky she is on these trips!

Last edited by dylanks; Jan 13, 2017 at 12:28 pm
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Old Jan 15, 2017, 4:52 am
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Day 2: December 23rd, Arriving in London

About 60 minutes before landing I was served breakfast. I started with a raspberry and mint smoothie, fresh fruit, and a croissant. I resisted the pancakes which had a very nice description, and instead went with the traditional English breakfast along with a pot of English breakfast tea. Overall the breakfast was nice.

Given the very short flight time for this route, it was a bit of a rush to eat and get the kids awake, everyone changed back into street clothes, etc. before it was time to land. After a short meltdown by our son who did not want to sit in his seat for landing, we arrived into Terminal 3. We approached fast track security and were denied access even with First Class boarding passes because we did not have a paper invitation. Apparently this is a relatively new rule at T3 because fast track is shared by many airlines.

Luckily we were able to use the EU/UK line because I am part of the Registered Traveler scheme, which saved us more than an hour of queueing. We fetched our bags from the carousel and were quickly on the Heathrow Express and arrived at the Paddington Hilton by 16:00.

We booked two rooms that were next to each other, and settled in with our daughters taking the smaller room and my wife, son, and I in the larger room. We had a view that looked down into Paddington Station. Our rooms were fine for one night, with no apparent special treatment for having Diamond status, which seems pretty typical with Hilton. That said, we had picked the hotel for convenience, as it would be a short tube ride the next morning to St. Pancras Station.

We quickly showered and then went for a walk and dinner. We picked up a SIM card for my wife, and strolled through a very crowded and festive Oxford Street (I had no idea so many people put off Christmas shopping until December 23rd!) and ended up at Patara on Maddox Street for a nice Thai dinner. By this point our son was asleep again in the stroller and he slept through dinner.

After dinner we rode the tube from Oxford Circus back to Paddington. After repacking for the journey to Paris in the morning, we attempted to get to sleep early. Our son was not particularly interested in sleeping, so my wife took the first shift with him while I slept, and then around 2am we traded, and I walked him around the Hilton lobby and a deserted Paddington station between 2 and 3:30am, where he got to tour all of the escalators and see the start of some engineering works that would see Paddington closed for the better part of a week. We then caught a short amount of sleep before waking up and departing before 6:30am.
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Old Jan 16, 2017, 6:51 am
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Had to smile at your son full of life at such an hour. Had similar experiences in days gone by.
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Old Jan 16, 2017, 2:44 pm
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Day 3: December 24th, London to Paris via Eurostar and Sacré-Cœur

December 24: LON-PAR
Eurostar
Scheduled: 08:31 - 11:47
Actual: 08:31 - 13:15

We chose an early start as we wanted to get to Paris early enough on Christmas Eve to get settled in and visit the markets before they closed early for the holiday.

After a quick checkout, we walked a few minutes from the Paddington Hilton to the Circle line tube service and rode a very empty tube service to Kings Cross - St. Pancras. We also chose this route as it offered escalators or lifts for the entire service.

We arrived at St. Pancras Station with some extra time, so we had a quick breakfast at Le Pain Quotidien which is not extraordinary, but far exceeds the pastry quality we can get in Arizona. After getting everyone their share of croissant and coffee or juice, we cleared security and immigration for our train service. This is the first time I've seen exit immigration checks from the UK.

We then had a short wait before it was time to board the train. We booked five seats then we ended up just using four of them as our son sat on one of us the entire ride. After an on-time departure, we were served a light meal which consisted of bread, pastry, yogurt, juice, and water. It was fine for a light snack.

As we approached the Channel Tunnel, the train stopped. Apparently an earlier train was stopped in the tunnel and we would be delayed for about 30 minutes, which turned into a rolling delay of 90 minutes. After an hour, we were informed that we could request delay compensation through their website (1-2 hours is a 25% refund, over 2 hours is a 50% refund... if only BA was so forthcoming with delay compensation requests!). I made the request on the 26th, to learn that we had only scanned four of our boarding passes as our son was in his stroller. A quick email to Eurostar resolved that, and we had received our compensation in our bank account before the end of our holiday!

After the delay, we arrived at Gare du Nord, and we bought metro Carnets and navigated a few flights of stairs with our bags and stroller. A few people occasionally offered to help with the stroller throughout our time in Paris.

Once on the 4 train, two men were behaving a bit oddly, so I was on high alert. At first they tried to reach for my laptop backpack, which I saw as both hands were on our bags and I told them no. A few moments later, one of them tried to reach into my pocket, and a I slapped his hand away. A few ladies told him off, and they exited the train, and then we had a quick chat about how it was good that I was keeping an eye on our possessions.

We arrived at the Saint Germain des Pres and were at our flat that we found on Airbnb by 14:00. This flat had a lot of charm. Our hosts had put up a small Christmas tree for us, it had very authentic wood floors, two bathrooms, a toilet, kitchen, washing machine, three bedrooms, living room and dining room. It was a five minute walk from the river and several metro stations, and near several markets and Ladurée!

After getting settled in, my younger daughter and I walked to several markets, getting fruit, meat, cheese, pastries and general groceries for breakfast on Christmas morning and some general snacks.

We then decided to spend our evening at Sacré-Cœur. My wife is a big fan of the movie Amelie, and we were engaged in Paris in the park just below Sacré-Cœur. We took the metro to Barbes Rochechouart as it was the most direct option. I had forgotten that this area is fairly rough and aggressive, so I quickly guided the family to the more quiet area near the church.

Police and military protection were out in full force this evening, with large vehicles barricading the main streets to the church, and probably 100 machine gun carrying police. Our bag and stroller were checked and we were then allowed into the church. My daughters enjoy lighting candles and saying a prayer, and my son enjoyed the Sacré-Cœur replica of the church. The kids also got their first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower during the hourly light show.

We showed our kids where I had originally proposed to my wife, and then we rode the cable car down (after quite a bit of complaining about the number of stairs on the way up... little did they know I was just preparing them for the walking we would be doing the remainder of the holiday!). My son was wearing pretty adorable fox gloves, and had a truck or two in his hands throughout the majority of the vacation.

Our original plans were to revisit Montmarte later a few days later, but we ended up running out of time, so we're glad we were able to make time to see it on Christmas Eve.

We found a decent and casual French bistro that was open for dinner, as most places were closed for the holiday, and then took the 12 from Abbesses Station, connecting at Sevres Babylone and then the 10 for one stop to Mabillon for a much less adventurous ride than earlier in the day!

We walked a few minutes back to our flat. Our girls were enjoying jumping on these pylons, and I got a good laugh out of jumping over them, much to their surprise.

We then all fell asleep after a fun day of adventure.
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Old Jan 16, 2017, 2:47 pm
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Originally Posted by stevie
Had to smile at your son full of life at such an hour. Had similar experiences in days gone by.
Thanks Stevie! Luckily I wasn't too tired, and it was an interesting experience to be in a train station with just a few engineering staff on hand to start repair work. If the escalators weren't operating I'm not sure what we would have done for entertainment.
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Old Jan 17, 2017, 6:59 am
  #14  
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Loving this TR! I also proposed to my wife in Paris and we've returned with our child when he was under 1 and later at age of 3. My wife wants to return to Europe but we'll have to renew our son's expired passport. I'm less ambitious about intl travel right now... Just loving the TR instead
Looking forward to more.
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Old Jan 17, 2017, 10:57 am
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Originally Posted by gaobest
Loving this TR! I also proposed to my wife in Paris and we've returned with our child when he was under 1 and later at age of 3. My wife wants to return to Europe but we'll have to renew our son's expired passport. I'm less ambitious about intl travel right now... Just loving the TR instead
Looking forward to more.
Thanks for sharing and for the kind words gaobest! My goal is to write a day of the trip every day or two depending on my schedule. It's been fun looking back at all of the photos and reflecting on the trip.
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