Travelogue of Europe (Part 1): First Long Voyage, May/Jun 2019

Our Family Photoshoot in Amsterdam

“Your flight to Amsterdam Schiphol airport has been changed to Terminal 1,” said the airline staff as she typed on her keyboard intently. She returned our passports and pointed towards a general direction, “Go pass the immigration and take the SkyTrain inside to transfer.”

As we were approaching the SkyTrain’s doors, my hubby let out an exasperated “OH NO!”. We were supposed to collect our pre-ordered Vodafone SIM cards at the counter in the public area. The hassle of finding and getting new cards when we arrived and the waste of paying extra made us cringed. We had to get our hands on those cards!

Time was running short. So the game plan was for me to continue my way with the toddler and hand luggage, while hubby rushed back to see what could be done. Turned out, Changi Airport’s information counter staff was more of a help than the one from Changi Recommends.

She pressurised arranged for the runner from Changi Recommends to enter the transit area and pass hubby the SIM cards. With a runner on standby, it seems like forgetting to collect is a common scenario. It’s easy to buy and collect the items from Changi Recommends, just make sure you remember to collect and avoid the mad rush!

If you want to avoid such a scenario, you can have your SIM card mailed to you or picked up before the trip with these Klook merchants: 4G Europe Data SIM Card (6GB) ; 4G Europe Data and Call SIM Card (20/3GB).

Clicked. Booked. We were flying to Amsterdam Schiphol airport in 5 weeks’ time for a 3-week holiday. With Baby EX turning two soon, paying 10% for a long flight was value for money. Yet, I was immediately shoved into a pressure cooker after the ticket purchase. How to tie up loose ends at home/work, plan a detailed itinerary, and pack luggage in less than five weeks? What’s more, it’s a long trip with a toddler.

Time to let go and not over plan. Be spontaneous. And that’s what happened. My itinerary this time round was the least prepared of all I did in recent years.

Then, there was another pressure point. I was nervous about the long flight, especially after a tumultuous experience with Korean Air. Would we survive the long hours, the 14 hours?

We were hoping to have an empty seat beside us so that we could plant Baby EX in it. Sadly, because of code sharing, it was almost a full flight! Our back up plan was for hubby to find an empty middle seat elsewhere in the plane to move to. In this way, baby EX could have her own seat beside me — this made things much easier. My legs and hands were also spared from numbness.

“Could we change the aisle seat with you?” I thought aisle seat was coveted when we asked the gentleman sitting by the window. Later we realised the aisle seat of our first row was not good at all. The seat was in an awkward position where the aisle lights was always on and we were always exposed to passengers walking up and down the aisle.

We wanted to inflate Plane Pal, an inflatable cushion, in the legroom space for baby EX to lie flat across the seat and cushion. She would be in the middle seat, and we didn’t want him to stretch his legs across her when he needed to head out to the toilet. Hence we asked to change seat.

Judging from his tall, lanky frame, Dutch men revealed as world’s tallest, we supposed he returning home to Netherlands. “No,” came his curt answer. His quiet stoic shell shielded him from any more conversation we wanted to make. The ice around him melted only towards the end of our flight. What amazed us was that he didn’t head to the toilet or got up once at all during the flight. And in divine arrangement, we were on the same flight back to Singapore after three weeks.

Baby EX kept falling off from the cushion because the bulk seat area was too wide for the the cushion to be steadied. All night, I had to keep her from falling off and thus didn’t get any sleep! But at least Baby EX got to sleep and was thus not cranky as much. Good thing, my hubby came to take over my shift later on so I could catch up on some sleep.

This turned out to be a better flight. Even Baby EX was praised by our tall neighbour to be a good traveller! Of course we kept her busy with toys and crafts prepared by me, food and music by Singapore Air, and sleeping time by her body clock. Moreover, Baby EX’s got a few sneak peeps of the shows (air safety, etc) playing on the seat screen — her first screen time moments.

Speaking of which, she had many milestones during this trip. In the beginning of the trip, she climbed up and down the two steps in our Delft Airbnb, unassisted. She spoke a lot more and started to speak in three syllabus! So excited to be in a big house, she kept babbling and running around. And towards the end of the trip, she started to count 1,2 and 3 on her own.

Our milestones: our first trip to Europe, and survived a long flight with a toddler. We made it to Netherlands happy!

P.s. Tips for Parents at Schiphol Airport: Baby rooms are located adjacent to most public toilets. For greater comfort, visit Baby Care Lounge on Holland Boulevard (after security), between Lounge 2 and 3.

A Few Quick Tips

  • Enjoy popular attractions around Netherlands at a discount with Holland Pass.
  • Always have coins ready. Coins are usually needed to buy metro tickets, for lockers, for entry into toilets, etc.
  • Speaking of which, for greater convenience, purchase anonymous OV-chipkaart for travel in Netherlands.
    • It’s like Singapore’s Ez-Link, Taiwan’s EasyCard, Hong Kong’s Octopus Card, and Bangkok’s Rabbit Card.
    • To travel by train (not metro/subway), you must have at least €20 (S$30.30) worth of credit in your card. Card is valid for 5 years and you can apply for online refund credit.
  • In Netherlands and Belgium, you have to pay to use public toilets. There is usually diaper changing table that you can open out in the toilets, if not the handicap toilet. Toilets that are free to use are only available at attractions (e.g. Louwman Museum), cafes, or restaurants.
  • In a flip manner from Asia, I observed that Europeans like to order their drinks first and enjoy them for quite a while before ordering food. That’s why the servers in Europe would always ask what we want to drink first, leaving us alone thereafter, before coming back again to get our food orders. But for us hungry Asians, there’s no time to waste, give us our food quick!
  • “Please wait to be seated.” This is a common sign outside restaurants in Singapore. Thus we were programmed to wait for the servers to show us to our table. However, in Europe, get on in and find your own table.
  • Bring your own shopping bag to the supermarket, otherwise pay quite a token sum for plastic bags.
A short video of EX eating in Netherlands. It’s the time we were introducing her to adult food. Was such a joy to see her eating heartily when she was younger. I still remember we were so amazed by her taking the bread on her own accord and dipping it into the soup to eat. We didn’t teach nor show her. Eating like a food connoisseur, see last segment of the video. 

More of my travelogue of Europe (Netherlands and Belgium) will come in Part 2, 3 and 4. Let me know what you like me to include in those articles. Leave a comment below. :)

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