Getting to and from the French Alps from Geneva involved a 2-ish hour drive each way, and this is where the wheels fell off our journey. While it certainly couldn’t taint the entire trip, the rides were the low points of the week. We hired a private transport company to pick us up in two vans with three car seats. When we landed one of the vans was over an hour late. Pre-babies, this would be just an inconvenience, but it shows that when travelling with babies – it pays to bring extras and, if possible, be as flexible as possible. I took the opportunity of the late transfer to feed and change Daniel, so the delay would have been easily forgotten, but the delay was just the start of a disappointing experience.
When we got to the vans – the car-seats were tied down with the seat-belts, and visually they looked fine, but when we gave them a shake, the car seats were not securely fastened. Always check the car seats before you go. We asked that the drivers to tighten the seats which they did (not without claiming the seats were fine first – be firm!) and we were on our way.
Nearing the end of the drive we started to climb up switch-backs towards the ski resort. Now, I hadn’t thought about this ahead of time, but as we gained altitude the pressure in the van changed and the babies started to feel it in their ears. I was so glad that Daniel took a soother, because I could pop it in and he seemed to feel better. (A note on dummies: I find there are basically as many pros as there are cons to using one and it has been a great debate for us. That said, travelling puts us in a lot of public situations, and it has been a very useful tool to have in our arsenal).
As time went on and the babies started to get hungry the van became a tiny hell-hole heading to the alps. The driver was going very fast (probably not wanting to spend a single minute more than necessary in a van full of disgruntled eight-month olds), but his driving only exacerbated the problem. All three moms felt car sick as he careened around the tight corners, often in and out of the oncoming traffic lane, and the babies were not enjoying themselves either. The abundance of toys we had packed were the only things keeping the babies from taking their disgruntled temperament into full-blown meltdown mode.
As bad as this was, we arrived fairly happily, the babies were fed and in their usual good spirits before going down to bed. We enjoyed a great week and the drive was mostly forgotten by the time First Class (the transfer company) picked us up again to take us back to the airport. We had an early morning start, and the problems began when they arrived 20 minutes late. They blamed the weather, 4 cm had fallen over night and the snow was still coming down, however we would have hoped that they would have accounted for the weather and departed earlier. After checking the car seats – two were found to be installed incorrectly and while one was tightened, the other was not usable. The driver faffed about with the seat until we suggested that we pick up a new seat from the First Class offices. At this point, we were running out of time to make our flight.
Because of all our travels, Pete and I have carried Daniel in a sling in many taxis (this is legal in Toronto, Canada and in London, UK). We offered to travel with him in the sling for the 15 minute trip to the First Class office where they could pick up a functioning seat, because we were comfortable doing this. And so we did. I was happy that the driver was extremely cautious the entire way, we picked up a new seat, got Daniel safely in it, and we made it to the airport just in time (we didn’t have 3 minutes to spare and we were pretty much the last people at the gate).
Note: This is not the first time we’ve encountered problems with rental companies and car-seats. Always check to make sure they are installed securely.
Do you have a story about car rides with babies? We don’t have a car so we could use some advice, share your stories with us or be a guest blogger.