What do a root canal and running a marathon have in common? Both are easier and a bit more pleasant than flying with kids! In all seriousness, air travel with kids isn’t for the faint of heart, but here are a few tips that just might help a little….or a lot!
Pack Only What You Have To: Sometimes it feels as though you need an entourage just to transport all your children’s gear: Car seat, stroller, portable crib, diaper bag, feeding supplies, etc. But when you travel, bring only what you absolutely need for the actual flight and purchase/rent/borrow everything else at your destination. Most hotels, even many economy-class hotels, provide cribs or high chairs free of charge. There are also services such as Baby’s Away or Babierge that actually deliver gear to your hotel or condo. They will bring car seats, cribs, high chairs, strollers, even toys, right to you—so you don’t have to lug gear through the airport. If you do need to bring your own gear, however, be prepared to check it.
Lastly, pack a spare change of clothes for your child and for yourself in your carry on, in case your child throws up, or has an accident or a diaper blow out.
It Is Possible To Stroll Right Up To The Gate: If you are like many moms, your child’s stroller is like a second home on wheels. Not only does it keep your kids contained, but it stores a ton of stuff. When traveling, bring a portable stroller (must be collapsible or foldable) to the airport that you can then take right up to the gate and check free of charge. Just keep in mind that you will need to go through security, so plan on being asked to take everything out of the stroller (including your child).
However, if you elect to not bring your stroller up to the gate, or use your car seat on-board, airlines will check each for free. Keep in mind that like any baggage, your gear may be damaged if not protected, so it’s a good idea to either use the original box your items came in or purchase a bag for them. Best of all, these bags are generally very roomy and provide a little additional packing space, free of charge!
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Don’t Forget About The Security Checkpoint – Plan For It: This can be one of the toughest part of flying with kids, however with just a bit of planning, it can be pretty painless.
Tip: Try to avoid is having lots of small bags—just have one big bag to throw on the conveyor belt. Next, wear easy slip-off shoes and no metal jewelry or belts (one less thing to struggle with when you are also trying to keep an eye on your kids). Finally, be sure to check your diaper bag for liquids, gels, and creams, and put only the essentials (diaper cream, liquid meds, first aid supplies) in a quart-sized zip-lock bag. Note: Formula and breast milk are allowed, but you may need to go through an additional inspection process.
Bring Your Child’s Safety Seat On The Plane
You are not required to, but both the Federal Aviation Administration and the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly recommend that you use an FAA-approved child restraint device for your child. This requires that you purchase a seat for your infant or toddler. Legally, you may carry a child up to 24 months old on your lap, usually free of charge, but this isn’t the safest option.
A couple of other things you want to keep in mind when it comes to car seats on planes.
- Purchase a window seat. That is where the seat must go, so that it doesn’t block the exit in case of emergency. Car seats are not allowed in exit rows or aisles.
- Make sure your car seat is FAA-approved. The label should read, “This restraint is certified for use in motor vehicles and aircraft.” Flight attendants are instructed to look for the label, and you may run into problems if it’s missing.
- Booster seats are not allowed for use on airplanes.
- The FAA suggests that all infants under 20 lbs ride in a rear-facing seat; 20-40 lbs ride in a forward-facing seat and 40 lbs and up use the regular seat restraints. As always, consult the manufacturer’s user guide for instructions on securing the seat.
And as an added bonus, kids generally rest better and feel more comfortable in a seat that is familiar to them. That means an easier flight for you!
Jennifer Beall Saxton is the founder and CEO of Tot Squad, a trusted partner of retailers, stroller, and car seat brands that offers car seat installation, baby gear cleaning and stroller repair. Franchising opportunities and more information on Tot Squad is available at thetotsquad.com.