Belfast, United Kingdom
54° 34' N 5° 56' W
Apr 20, 1999 19:52
Distance 0km

Text written in: English

Preparing for departure

When Erin Burnett arrived at the beginning of this year we were informed by many friends and relatives that our travelling days were over. This made me determined to prove them wrong and continue on our global explorations as a family of three. However first of all we had to conquer the basics of family life, such as how to feed, clean and entertain baby Erin. Being perfectly honest, Ruth shouldered most of the burden whilst I went out to work.  

In the early days even a trip out to the shops at Supermac, sorry Sainsbury's since 1997, felt like an expedition. A weekend trip to Fermanagh required the assistance of the Shore Porters Society! But we have learned, adapted to family life and feel ready to strike out once again across the planet, albeit gently at first. We have consulted various medical texts, scanned the Internet and taken advice regarding travelling with infants after hearing various scare stories.

“PARENTS planning to take young babies on long-haul flights were advised not to worry yesterday after research suggested some infants could be at risk of cot death from the reduced oxygen levels in the cabin.

Experts said that flying appeared to be safe in the first year of life although it was probably wise to wait a week after birth to ensure the infant was healthy.

They were responding to findings from a study of 34 infants who were exposed to air containing 6 per cent less oxygen than normal, similar to that in an aircraft cabin or up a mountain. The babies were carefully monitored and four suffered a fall in oxygen levels in their blood associated with disturbed heart rhythms and shortness of breath. They were given extra oxygen immediately.

The study, by Professor David Southall and colleagues from the North Staffordshire Hospital Centre, in Stoke-on-Trent, published in the British Medical Journal, was carried out after two sets of parents seen at the hospital reported losing a child to cot death after a long-haul flight.

In an editorial in the BMJ, Anthony Milner, professor of neonatology at St Thomas' Hospital, London, said the findings needed to be put in context. British Airways, which flies more than 34 million passengers a year, says there have been no recorded instances of cot deaths during a flight in the past 10 years.”

The Independent - 21st March 1998

Medical worries behind us; all we had to find was the right trip.  We spent Easter as usual in Enniskillen, from the 2nd – 4th April 1999.  We would never seek to travel during peak periods, however the period between Easter and the first bank holiday in May is rather more off-peak and affordable.  In truth I had no definite plans until about a week ago.  I sometimes go out for a run at lunchtime up the Rocky Road (Gilnahirk) to the Golf Club; a rather bracing uphill effort.  Anyway I start and finish at the shops at the bottom, one of which is a travel agent.  In the window I noticed an advertisement for cheap charter flights to Florida direct from Belfast, starting just below £100 return.  I made a mental note of the travel company on the poster (Travel City Direct).

I must confess I had never heard of Travel City Direct or flights from Belfast to Orlando.  I had a look on the Internet and discovered that the company is part of the XL Leisure Group, quite a big outfit.  Travel City Direct offers a number of trips to Florida from main airports around the UK.  Belfast is a sort of add on, as flights start in Manchester and then stop at Belfast International to pick up additional passengers.  Ruth did a little research on Teletext and found out dates, times, prices and availability to Florida.  I quickly booked some time off at work and Ruth made the necessary arrangements with Travel City Direct on the 14th April.  We will be away from the 21st April until the 2nd May. 

Since last week Ruth has moved into pack mode (or pack and repack as the kitchen sink will not fit in our luggage)!  Can you buy nappies in America?  We do have an impressive medical kit arranged in case of emergency – tablets and creams for just about any predicament.  Factor 45 sun block for Erin, Calpol, insect repellent etc.  Unfortunately we cannot take the pram, which is rather large and unwieldy for air travel purposes.  We must look for a modern buggy sometime.  We did make another decision today; Ruth purchased a seat for Erin on both the outward and return flights.  Until today she was just going to be sitting on our knees for the eight-hour flight.  We have upgraded her at a cost of £44 and will take her car seat on board with us, which should aid a more comfortable journey.  You know, I have never actually been on a charter flight before.  I suppose it will be like a Greyhound Bus in the sky, as opposed to a full service airline.  But I managed to cross America from Seattle to Boston on Greyhound, so an eight-hour charter flight will not kill me.  Of course I didn’t have the complication of my own crying baby then! 

It has only been a year since we were last in North America, yet it feels a lifetime ago.  It’s going to be different with Erin in tow, no sleeping in railway stations or overnight trips on Amtrak.  We need certain stability, although we have no accommodation booked for Florida and no flights booked to the Bahamas.  I have a notion to revisit the Kennedy Space Centre, which I last visited in 1991.  But that’s really about it; we have no fixed plans.  We will see when we get there.