Top Tips for Family Travel

  • For those of Indian origin, watch out for changes in the applicability of PIO cards.
  • Using Miles or buy a ticket? Its amazing but one pays almost as much on taxes using miles on SQ, as when buying an Air India ticket outright.
  • Especially when travelling with kids, charge (& TAKE) all devises and favourite things in hand luggage. Obvious, but one always forgets something here, as we did.

Miles or Cash?

I booked the tickets a month earlier for our July 6 flight. Buying a Singapore Airlines ticket is always too expensive for family travel so is never an option. But even when it came to using miles on Singapore Air, taxes cost about U$350, vs buying an Air India ticket for about U$400, so I chose the latter.

The Day of The Journey

We got up at 6am, planning to leave at 7 to catch a 9am flight.  Though packing for the kids had started 24 hours earlier, there was lots of last minute things to finish. We were ready at 7 when we discovered that both my wife and I had thought the other was calling the taxi!  Eventually we were away by 7.20 and got to Changi airport in good time.

Flying home to India is always special. Starting with luggage, a recurring theme in my family.  This time, with 4 suitcases, 2 smaller check-ins and a hand-luggage apiece, the 4 of us fitted into a Grab with capacity for 6 large cases. The 2 smaller items where leftovers from my parents trip that I wrote about on July 1 – so actually their luggage was more like 135kg!

After a smooth checkin and shopping for chocolates (I always regret not having bought more), next stop was the Star Alliance lounge. My son devoured French toast & maple syrup, while I had 2 (yes 2) delicious Indian vegetarian breakfasts. After security, while we waited to board, my wife and I chatted in Hindi about something we didn’t want others to overhear. This works normally, but we forgot we were surrounded by Indians bound for Delhi who understood every word!

Air India Dreamliner Boarding

Air India Dreamliner Boarding

The 5 hour flight was smooth. The kids had a good fight, or rather we did, as they took care of themselves. I saw London has Fallen (3 stars from me – trying to be a James Bond but didn’t make it). And Eye in the Sky (5 stars and one of those cases where one is watching the end tantalisingly as the plane taxied to a halt).

To PIO or not to PIO?

At Singapore checkin, I gave both our PIO (Person of Indian Origin) cards & electronic Visa’s, and the person asked why I had both. The High Commission website had said PIO cards were not valid after June 30, but it seemed they still are. When we reached immigration in Delhi, I got the grilling of my life. I gave only the PIO cards, and after checking the system the officer asked whether I had applied for an electronic visa. When I said yes, then he asked then why did I gave him the PIO card and why I am I not in the electronic visa queue?  Things sounded iffy and I was wondering what we would do if not allowed in.

Then he asked what address I gave for the electronic visa, and I said “I think my father’s”. He asked, “You think”? By then I was almost booking our flights back to Singapore. He asked if we normally stay at home, and when I said yes, he asked then why did you stay in a hotel in 2013? While this was going on, my kids getting impatient were playing on the barrier & I was waiting for another rebuke.

Luckily, we all entered India, though I still don’t know if PIO cards are valid or not. By the way, converting a PIO to an OCI takes 3 months, so fellow Indians plan carefully!

Despite, all this, the delay at the luggage carousel, the humid heat as we emerged form the terminal, and the fact that the 2 cars that had come for us were in different car parks, it WAS wonderful coming home.