HOME TO ABU DHABI is aptly titled, as we are flying both to and from our home. Our family’s adventure in leaving one home to go to another has begun. As an aside: When we settled into our hotel room, we noticed a few birds sitting on our windowsill checking us out. Upon further inspection, there were two of them making a nest right outside… If that isn’t a good sign, I don’t know what is!

First impressions:

First things first: Luggage will weigh more at the airport than at your hotel or home. I’m not sure if Archimedes’ Law of the Lever, or simple wishful thinking is to blame, but somehow your luggage will weigh an additional couple of pounds when you arrive to check in. If you are over by a pound or two, the person may give you a break. Try to use the “I’m moving to another country and man has it been hard to get everything I’ve ever owned into these suitcases, have you tried that?” routine (pro tip: smile, sweat, cry, whatever suits the situation and the person you’re dealing with).

If you have a young child or baby that can look sad and maybe even drop a tear, you’re golden. However, if you’re in the boat that most of us have been in, you’ll either have to reshuffle belongings in the airport from one bag or another or just pay the exorbitant fees the airlines charge you these days. For a comprehensive list of prices for luggage, check here.

Some have paid the fees and been fine – but for us cheapskates, here’s a little tip: Southwest Airlines in the U.S. sells duffel bags for $25 (USD) that can be purchased at their counters. They can sell you the bags even if you’re not a Southwest passenger, though they frown on it – so a little honey goes a long way. The duffel is pretty massive and will swallow most of your overweight belongings plus some.

Stuff a bunch of things in there and you won’t have any difficulty making weight. If you fill it (and I mean STUFF it) with clothes, you can check that as well and come away clean. It’s always a good idea to leave one carry on bag slot empty. Just because of these kinds of contingencies. If you have an extra slot to fill, you’re golden.

Etihad is a good international airline, though the seats were a little cramped and the décor seemed quite dated. Having said that, my experiences thus far with international air travel have been with Korean Air, who have set the bar quite high. Having said that, the service was good and the employees were all top-notch. The in-flight entertainment was adequate for the long haul, and it was great for our son.

It was night when we arrived, so I wasn’t able to make a clean assessment of the Abu Dhabi international airport. The ADEC representatives were very courteous and helpful, and the transition the awaiting buses was fairly seamless.*

*Have your eVisas printed and available because you’ll need them to get through customs. It’s not the end of the world if you don’t have it, but I imagine if you can’t even find your email where it was located, you may be in for a long flight home.

We were sent itineraries that mentioned a certain hotel, which everyone seemed to be excited about – and the pictures online presented a beautiful place where would be staying. However, as has been said over and over in countless different ways, that was not the case for us. The hotel we checked into was called the Park Rotana Abu Dhabi, and it was excellent.

We pulled in and were ushered through to a nice waiting area to give up our passports and get our room keys. Not to worry, our passports were taken to solidify visas and process the group through while we all waited comfortably in our rooms.

A word of warning for people arriving from here on out: It seems that a breakfast is no longer considered complimentary. Rumor has it that the feature was canceled a week before we arrived for teachers leaving and arriving in the UAE. We had budgeted for a free breakfast and were looking forward to saving some dirhams, but alas – as they say in Nicaragua: “Tranquilo.”

BUT, if you decide to eat the breakfast (at least at this hotel),
it will be around 50 dirhams for each person – and let me tell you, it’s worth it. The breakfast is fresh and the options are amazing. It’s certainly worth the money if you can do it, and if everyone gorges, you should be good until dinner.

For those interested in doing things when you arrive, check out our friend Alona’s post (Honey in the Desert) for some inspiration in and around Abu Dhabi. Also check out the wonderful Jina and Eddie at Global Eksperiences. They are all super knowledgeable and friendly ~ feel free to give them (or us, for that matter) a message with questions or observations.

Here are some of my favorite pictures from the move so far. We’ve had a wonderful time at the hotel and were able to have a small car tour of the city with our Uncle and Cousin who live in Dubai.

Click here to keep reading about the move to Abu Dhabi and my second impressions…

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