Our tickets were a great deal, but they didn’t have great flight times. The itinerary:
– 7:35 PM Flight from San Francisco to Zurich
– Land at Zurich at 3:30 PM (local time)
– 9:45 AM Flight from Zurich to Mumbai the next day
Yes, you read that right, we had an 18 hour layover in Zurich. As US citizens, we knew we’d be able to leave the airport, but that still meant we had 36 hours of travel (not including the time to get to the airport, or the time to go through immigration and customs in Mumbai).
What worried me was not the flight to Zurich. As an overnight flight, I knew the kids would sleep through it. What worried me was the flight to Mumbai. If the kids slept through the night in Zurich that meant they would be awake during the daytime flight to Mumbai. And that was an 8 hour flight…
Thankfully, we were able to get our 4 suitcases, 4 backpacks and 1 stroller to San Francisco without much of a problem. We checked 3 suitcases and made our way to security. Seeing us with two overexcited kids, they took pity on us and sent us through the TSA pre-check lane (no shoe removal, nothing needed to be taken out of our bags). We settled in and had a quick dinner/snack and then went to board our plane. Thanks to Swiss Airlines being a European airline that still values customer service, we were pre-boarded with the other families, and the kids were settled in with their electronics as the others boarded and got to their seats.
As expected, the flight to Zurich was uneventful. After dinner was served, both kids were in PJs, and fell alseep as soon as the lights were out. When the lights were put on about 1.5 hours before landings, the kids woke up, ate breakfast, and were ready to get off the plane just like everyone else.
Of course, we had fully settled in, so we were the last to deplane as I gathered all the books, toys, pillows, shoes, clothing, food, and electronics that had made its way out during the journey. Then as soon as we got off the plane, everyone suddenly had to go to the bathroom. My son was complaining that he didn’t want to walk (it was too far) and my daughter didn’t want to be in the stroller (to much to explore). By the time we got to immigration, there was almost no line because we were the very last from our flight to get there.
Now we slowly meandered our way to the hotel shuttles, taking time to see the duty free shops (hey, we had plenty of time),. Once we got to our hotel and checked in, we had a decision to make. Call it a night, get room service, and stay in the hotel? Or get on a train, go to the city center, and see what downtown Zurich had to offer on a Sunday evening? As the kids ran around like crazy lunatics in the room, screeching and yelling our decision was made. We got everyone dressed and headed to the train station.
After a small gaff which caused us to miss our train due to not understanding the ticket vending machine, we took a local to an express and made it to downtown Zurich. Inside’s Zurich’s main station was a wonderland. They had started decorating for Christmas. We saw a large tree, lights everywhere, and the set up for the Christmas Market. In the station were great shops, including an EdelWeiss shop filled with items (such as bags and t-shirts), and a fantastic chocolate shop where we picked up chocolates for the Indian family and ourselves (of course). Then we walked the Bahnhofstrasse, a main drag filled with shops (that were unfortunately closed, this was Sunday evening). We saw a lovely restaurant that looked fantastic and had a entrocote special. But as we listened to our whiny, loud, and generally over tired children, we ditched that idea and went to a cafe that had pizza. We were the only ones there so the kids could be loud and we could eat in relative peace.
Once done we walked back to the train station and found a convenience store that sold both Möevenpick ice cream and KinderEggs (which are illegal in the US). We purchased both and the kids were super excited to discover the toy behind the chocolate. We boarded the correct local train to go back to our hotel. My son promptly fell asleep (1pm PT, his nap time), while my daughter talked and sang to everyone who came on and off the train. 20 min later, we were walking back to our hotel, my 5 year old asleep in the stroller, and my 2 year old happily singing from her fathers shoulders.
We got back to the room, woke up my son, fed both kids ice cream (which in retrospect may have been a mistake), and then put them to bath. I packed for the next day, then put the kids to bed. Everyone settled in around 11pm nicely. A little too nicely. At 3 am, my son and daughter were both up. And I mean up. Running around, talking, laughing, making no attempt to stay in bed. No matter how many times we chased them back, they came back out saying they weren’t sleepy. Finally I gave in and turned on a light and gave them some books. But when they got a little too loud, my husband got one last bit of fight left in him. He suggested we separate them, I took our son into one bed and he dealt with our wiggly daughter in the other. My son soon fell back asleep. My daughter took a little longer, but finally she too settled down. Still that 6 am wake up call was painful.
We woke up, dressed, and all went down to catch the 7:25 shuttle to the airport. After a little duty free shopping and breakfast, we were left with just 1/2 an hour to go through passport control and go to the gate.
At the gate we had a few small shocks. First, they said those needed wheelchairs would be boarded first. That’s fine, except that seemed to be half the plane. There were several older people and they all claimed to need wheelchairs once they reached Mumbai. It took 30 minutes to get through boarding all of them. Then they finally called families and that’s when we go our second surprise. They were not allowing us to take our carry on suitcase on the plane. They said it was too big. I had to take out 1/2 the content (since it was mostly pillows, blankets, food and change a clothes needed for our mostly, but not totally potty trained two year old) and hand carry them into the plane. We boarded to find, we were on the exact same type of plane we had flow in on. The plane that had held our suitcase on the way to Zurich with no problem. To say I was irate was an understatement.
Settled in, the flight actually went remarkably well. Due to the fact that the kids had not slept much the night before, they both settled into a nap after lunch was served. My son woke up after 3 hours, but my daughter had to be woken up after 4 (just so she’d sleep some that night). During their awake time they entertained themselves with shows, games, and coloring without any meltdowns. I was very proud of them.
Once we landed, we took 4 backpacks, 1 purse, 1 cloth bag (I thankfully had in my purse) full of loose items, and 4 pillows down the long, long, long path to Indian immigration. Immigration was easy (thank you PIO cards), the only hiccup was customs, where the scanners picked up my gold jewelry and made me take it out to verify it was for personal use. When we were done, we saw my brother in law waving to us. We made it!