Just the thought of baggage checks, long security lines, TSA regulations, and cramped airplanes has the potential to leave a person in search of a Xanax. And that’s when you brave the airport alone, much less with babies and small children in tow.
However, flying with your family doesn’t have to be a stressful event. As a an avid traveler and a pilot’s wife, I’ve spent a significant portion of my life traveling in airplanes, including twenty-five states and seven countries. I traveled on a commercial airline by myself with my son when he was nine weeks old, and have continued to fly with him often in the last 19 months.
With a little bit of planning and a relaxed attitude, air travel can be a pleasant experience for everyone.
Your first step in planning should be checking out the websites for the Transportation Security Administration and your particular airline to discover the most recent regulations. Unfortunately, they seem to change on a regular basis, so it’s a good idea to check before you leave for the airport, even if you have flown in the recent past.
From my experience:
If you are traveling with a child under two and plan to hold them on your lap, you won’t need a ticket, but you will need a copy of their birth certificate at check-in. If that child is under one month, some airlines will ask for a doctor’s note verifying the health of the child.
If you are flying outside of the country, every child must have a passport regardless of age. Unlike a few years ago, this is now true for Canada, Mexico, and the Carribean as well.
The passport process can take as long as six to eight weeks, so don’t put it off!
Federal and international guidelines do not leave a lot of gray area. Do your research to avoid missed flights and ruined vacations.
Beyond the legal do’s and don’ts there are other things that will help your flight experience.
Choose Your Luggage Wisely
While I am often a proponent of carrying everything on and avoiding checked luggage, a trip with small children is not the time. You will have plenty to tote around without a rolling suitcase. Check those bulky bags!
In your carry-ons be sure to pack outfit changes, diapers and wipes for longer than your expected travel. Delays and flight cancelations can leave you stranded in the airport. Running out of diapers doesn’t need to add to your stress.
If you have room, here are a few other things I like to pack:
-A portable DVD player and headphones (for toddlers or older children)
-A few small, new toys to hold their attention.
-Small baggies of crackers or other snacks.
And don’t forget a comfort item for your child!
The Day of Travel
Your bags are packed and you’re ready to go? Here are a few thoughts to help the day of travel go smoothly.
Keep your essential items within easy reach.
Utilize outside pockets to hold things like your I.D., tickets, and toiletry bag. Fishing for lost items in the bottom of your bag is a good way to get yourself (and those waiting behind you) stressed and irritated.
If you’re traveling alone, consider carrying-on a stroller.
Most airlines allow parents to gate-check strollers and/or carseats for free. If you’re the only adult, having a stroller to contain your little one and free your hands can be a lifesaver.
A baby carrier is also a good idea. I loved Megan’s post about using baby carriers while traveling on Simple Organic.
Plan for the pressure.
You have probably heard that it’s a good idea to nurse, feed, or offer a pacifier to your young child during take-off and landing to help their ears adjust to the pressure. While that is fabulous advice, don’t forget about the contents of your bags.
If you have pre-mixed bottles or sippy cups with liquid in them, slightly loosen the lids and keep them in an upright position. If they are tighten and sealed, the pressure can cause the contents to force their way out and into your bag.
The same is true for those snap-closed wipe cases. By the end of your flight, you’ll find everything in your bag is slightly moist. Avoid this by sealing it up in a zip top baggie.
Roll with the Punches
If there’s one thing I know from all my travels, it’s that few trips ever go exactly as planned. Especially with little ones along for the ride.
When things don’t follow the plan, take a deep breath, relax, and enjoy the ride! Your kids take their emotional cues from you. If you’re relaxed, they will be too.
Will you be flying with your children this summer? What are your best tips?