Trip Preview: Our First Christmas in Europe as a Family of Three

Just a bit more than two months after getting back to Tokyo from a month-long trip to Europe, it was time to go back again. This time, we went to spend Christmas in Europe with my family.

After staying in Tokyo over last year’s Christmas as my daughter was just born, I was happy to spend Christmas in Europe again. I was even happier to go as a family of three this time and to start the tradition of visiting the grandparents in Slovakia for Christmas for my daughter.

Continue reading to learn more including what articles related to this trip you can expect to see here over the next few weeks.

LOT Short-Haul Service
I was pleasantly surprised by LOT’s short-haul service.

Flights

When searching for the flights to book for this trip, there were a few things I had to keep in mind. Price, the complexity of the itinerary as we were traveling with our baby daughter, my wife’s work schedule, and the fact that we wanted to be back in Japan for New Year’s we among the most important ones.

Keeping the above in mind, the three options that were the top contenders included Etihad Airways, Turkish Airlines, and LOT. They were all, at least on the surface, priced similarly and roughly fit our schedules.

I would have loved to try Etihad Airways again (the last time I flew the airline was back in 2015 when it still operated the A340-500s). However, I wanted to avoid having to do a six-hour flight from the Middle East to Europe after a long haul from Japan (and vice versa) given that we were traveling with our daughter.

Turkish Airlines would have been great – I would have loved to check the airline’s lounge in Istanbul and try its service for the first time since the pandemic started. That said, unlike Etihad Airways, EVA Air (which we flew on our previous trip), and LOT, Turkish Airlines wanted over 500 dollars in seat selection fees if my wife and I wanted to sit next to each other in seats with a bassinet for our baby.

That left us with LOT Polish Airlines. I flew in LOT’s business class a few years back and enjoyed the experience. As such, I didn’t mind trying the airline again, this time in economy class.

LOT Polish Airlines
In the end, I booked LOT.

I toyed with a variety of different options (Tokyo – Vienna roundtrip, Tokyo – Vienna – Seoul, etc.) but eventually settled on a multi-city ticket from Tokyo to Vienna via Warsaw and from Budapest to Seoul on the airline’s non-stop fifth-freedom flight. At just over $900 per person, that was not only the cheapest but also the most convenient option.

Rather than flying from Seoul to Tokyo, we decided to fly to Shizuoka and go straight to my wife’s parents’ place. Currently, Jeju Air is the only airline flying the route and the flight’s schedule fit perfectly with our LOT flight to Seoul. The short hop cost about $150 per person including 15 kg of checked baggage.

With that, the final list of flights (all economy class) I took on the trip looked as follows:

While the itinerary didn’t include any new airlines or aircraft types for me, it gave me a chance to fly on LOT’s 787-9 and E190 for the first time.

Given that the Tokyo – Warsaw and Budapest – Seoul flights were very similar, I will only be reviewing the latter three flights from the above list. I will also write guides about flying with a baby on LOT and Jeju Air, and write about flying with a baby in general.

LOT E190
The flight from Warsaw to Vienna was operated by an E190.
Jeju Air 737
On the way back, we flew with Jeju Air from Seoul to Shizuoka.

Lounges

Most of the lounges I visited on this trip were lounges I was able to visit thanks to my Star Alliance Gold status.

At Tokyo Narita Airport, we briefly visited one of the ANA Lounges. By the time we got there, though, it was ten minutes before the lounge closed so it was just enough to have a bite to eat before heading to the gate. The noodle bar that ANA Lounges are known for was already closed.

At Warsaw Airport, we visited LOT Business Lounge Polonez which offers a good selection of refreshments, especially considering the fact it serves passengers traveling on flights within the Schengen zone. While I reviewed the lounge a few years back, I will update the review given that it has gone through considerable changes since then.

LOT Lounge
The LOT Lounge was nice considering it only serves intra-Schengen flights.

At Budapest Airport, we visited the non-Schengen Plaza Premium Lounge. I also paid a brief visit to the other non-Schengen lounge at the airport – Platinum Lounge – which is located right next door and can be accessed with Priority Pass. I will be reviewing both of the lounges.

Lastly, at Seoul Incheon Airport, we skipped lounges and just enjoyed a meal at one of the airport’s restaurants before catching our flight to Shizuoka.

Budapest Non-Schengen Lounges
The two non-Schengen lounges at Budapest Airport are next to each other.

Summary

Unlike our previous stay in Europe which was over one month long, this time we only stayed for about a week. That said, it was still a great trip with a lot of time with family and friends, some visits to Christmas markets, and even an unexpected day of heavy snow.

While aviation-wise it was not too exciting, there were still a few flights and lounges that I think are worth reviewing. Also, having taken three trips with my one-year daughter including two long-haul ones now, I will share some general tips about flying with a baby.

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