With the fresh experience from the outbound flight, everything went easier on the return trip.
The packing of our material for the return trip was easier than on the outward journey. Everything was already ready and we didn't have to gather things and decide what to take with us. Due to the slightly smaller bike boxes than on the outbound flight, we had to disassemble the bikes a bit more. The big box for the child trailer we built again from a normal bicycle box, which we cut and glued in adapted dimensions.
Thanks to the great helpfulness of Sigrid and Kevin, many things went easier: Kevin had already organized the bicycle boxes for us. The packing was much easier in the garage than back then in San Francisco in front of and in the hotel room.
On the morning of the return flight Sigrid and Kevin drove us with several trips with our luggage to the airport. At the check-in, Kevin was there to help us. Our ticket probably had an invalid status. So it took four employees incl. telephone consultation with somewhere, until we could start with the check-in at all. We suspect that not everything went smoothly when rebooking a canceled flight. As a result, it was not possible for us to order the children's menu in advance for Ariki or to select the seats.
When weighing the luggage, it turned out that the box with the children's trailer was a bit too heavy. So we had to repack a bit more at the counter. With the weight difference and our knowledge of the individual weights in the box, we were able to do this within a few minutes and distribute 2-3 items to other bags where we had not quite exhausted the weight limit.
The only reason we had to repack was because the big stroller box was too big to weigh when we packed it and we hoped that it would fit with the weight as it did on the outbound flight with the same contents. In retrospect, we suspect that the box was not exactly on the scale in Zurich due to the dimensions and therefore the whole weight was not weighed.
Once again, a whole hour passed with solving the ticket problems, repacking and then paying the expected excess baggage fees. Based on our travel experience, we are used to this taking so long. Accordingly, we were able to deal with the situation easily. It was also helpful that Kevin could help us with supervising Ariki, the luggage acrobatics at the check-in scales and the repacking.
After the formalities we had to check in our luggage at a special door for excess baggage. Immediately upon check-in, the TSA officials got to work opening the boxes, which had been well taped a few minutes ago, and checking the contents. So we parted with our luggage in the hope that everything would then be well sealed again.
After the security check we had the opportunity to fill up our bottles with filtered water without chlorine taste. At the gate we could watch the planes with Ariki and eat the breakfast prepared by Kevin. Due to the arrival delay, we had to wait for our flight one hour longer than planned. However, we were able to keep Ariki entertained with plane watching and walks in the meantime.
Since Ariki was under 2 years old, we were allowed to board early again. Even though this meant sitting longer in the plane, we took the chance to install the extra harnesses for Ariki and stow our hand luggage in peace. As with past flights, Ariki fell asleep before takeoff. The early rising and the many impressions had ensured sufficient fatigue.
With enough transfer time in Chicago, we were the last to get off the plane despite the delay, leaving everyone with tight connections ahead.
In the arrival terminal, we headed for the Family Lounge in hopes of finding a slide for Ariki. Since this thing looked more like an American "dog exercise area" (fenced-in space with a few benches), we decided against a visit and continued on to the international terminal.
After a very long queue for another security check, we spent the waiting time again walking, eating and plane watching.
When the last flight took off, Ariki stayed awake despite being tired. Since the food was served relatively late, Ariki was no longer in the mood for eating. But he slept almost without interruption until the landing.
Arriving in Zurich, we enjoyed the luxury of the SBB luggage service, so we didn't have to collect our luggage ourselves and could go directly home with the next train. Due to a construction site, there were rolling stock changes. Therefore, Ariki had to do without the children's compartment with slide. Since he slept for part of the ride, this was not so tragic.
The following day, all our luggage was delivered to our home in good condition. We were relieved to find that the TSA officials had closed our luggage very well again after the inspection.
In conclusion, we can now look back on an exhausting but very nice trip with many experiences.
We are glad that we could already gain sufficient experience with bicycle luggage in the airplane with earlier journeys. Furthermore, we could count on the competent and helpful team of the BLS travel agency in Gümligen for the organization. Without these prerequisites, we would not have dared to embark on this adventure with a small child, bicycles and camping equipment.
With our experience and planning, where we had thought of a plan B for some eventualities, we could face the challenges during the trip relatively relaxed.
Thus, we would like to tackle such an adventure again, but because of the effort rather not every year 😊