The Trip Starts with Careful Planning and Packing:
We all know, and understand, just how much equipment it takes to travel with young ones. This is true whether they are infants, toddlers or youngsters. They require copious amounts of trappings. So, making a list several days ahead of time and adding things to it as you think of them, will help to pull it all together in the end.
Try to keep it to the necessities, such as:
*For Infants: diapers, formula, and baby food. You would be surprised how many people think airlines provide these items as a courtesy. That may still be true, in some instances, on international flights or on some air carriers from other countries, but in the United States, that is not the case. Domestic carriers do not have these items available. Please bring a sufficient amount for your flight plus extras in case of delay.
*For toddlers: Pack their favorite toy or blanket that is of comfort to them. Bring snacks, toddler foods, fruit, crackers, whatever they will eat. But, please bring them food. Unless you plan to buy food in the airport, (it gets pricey) this is essential.
*Toys – pack their favorite small toys. Stuffed animals large enough to require a seat should be left at home. Also, children love to have a book read to them or someone color with them.
*For older children: the all important portable DVD and movies they will enjoy watching. This is also great for the toddlers. Don't forget the PSP-2 and games, or the Nintendo DS Lite. These are your friend when traveling with this age group.
*MOST IMPORTANT – bring the headphones for these electronic items. There will be no end to the dirty looks you will get and the complaints flight attendants will get if you forget them.
*Food – What child in this age group do you know doesn't like to eat? Bring their munchies as this age group usually wants more to eat than the little bag of pretzels or snack mix they will get on the airplane.
Mom and Dad, you are parents, not pack mules. It is most appropriate for your children to carry their own small backpack or rolling suitcase that contains all their goodies. Besides, you need at lease one hand to retrieve them when they dart off from you, and they do! I have even seen 2-3 year olds pulling their little bags behind them that are all decorated with the latest character in vogue. Too Cute! You will need your strength to wrestle the car seat and your own suitcase into the overhead bin. Heave Ho!
**Special Note – Please, Please, do not pack and check into cargo, any medications you or your children may need to take on a regular basis. These must be in a separate one-quart baggies and identified to TSA at security.
We Are at the Airport – Oh My Gosh Look at the Security Line! – Did You Remember to Pack Your Patience?
First and Most Important: Allow Yourself Plenty of Time to Get to the Airport!! Leave extra early and give yourself plenty of time to complete your check-in and clearance through the security process. I say again , Allow Plenty of Time.
Now the real fun begins, but you can do this. Just take a deep breath and get in line. I hope, dear friends, you have checked those three very large suitcases you packed with 17 days of clothes for your 4 day weekend jaunt. If not, turn around, go to the ticket counter and do so immediately. This is especially true if all of your toiletries are packed, are more than 3 ounces and not in a zip top quart size freezer bag. If you haven't heard, that is the rule, "3/1/1". No more than three ounces in a bottle, in a one quart baggie, and one per person. However, if you check that bag, hey, no problem. Not to mention, do you really want to wrestle them, along with your children and all their belongings, on to the plane and stow them. NOT. CHECK that bag!!
While standing in line, chasing little ones, trying to drink your coffee, and referee quarreling siblings, take out your tickets and your identification as you are going to need them.
Once you have managed to work your way to the front of the line and given Mr.(or Ms.) TSA inspector your ID's and tickets:
*Throw all of the bags, strollers, and other items you have brought with you up on the conveyor belt to go through the scanner.
* If you have baby bottles containing formula or breast milk, baby food or juice bottles, inform the TSA agent and separate them from your 3/1/1 bag.
*All laptops and DVD's must be put into a separate bin.
*Don't forget to take off those shoes – little ones too.
*You must let toddlers walk through the security screener on their own. Babies, of course, you carry – you must take them out of the stroller or whatever carrier they are in. Sorry, can't keep them in the harness on your front side, you must carry them.
TSA will never separate you from your children so do not fret over this issue.
Once you have yourself and little ones through the security screener, collect all of your belongings, put your shoes back on and proceed to the gate. Be sure to check one more time to ensure you have picked up all your items, especially the DVD's and laptops that have been removed from their case. I have seen people leave them, and it is a frantic race to return and retrieve them. People have missed their flights in this manner.
We Have Small Children – What Do You Mean We Can't Have Seats Together!! – Remember, That Patience You Packed?
Okay, you are now frazzled from the security clearance process, the kids are crying and the gate area is packed. Good Grief! Aah, but you are on vacation!
Upon approaching the gate agent you learn the plane is in an oversold situation and you have to wait for those seat assignments. (What! You didn't check in early on line and reserve those seats? That is another whole article.)
Most agents will try really hard to get small children seated with their parents. If the worst case scenario happens and you are separated from one of your small ones, there is still hope. The agent is going to pass you off to the flight attendants anyhow, so here is what you do.
*Identify yourself and the problem at the boarding door of the aircraft, state the problem and ask for assistance. Don't Whine!
*Proceed to the first seat you are assigned, see who is seated around you, tell them you are separated from your children and ask them if they could possibly switch seats. If they are uncooperative, then ask them which one they would like to sit next to and keep an eye on during the flight. (Isn't it lovely being devious?) I am joking about this. Usually, a flight attendant will follow you to your seats and try to work with fellow passengers in getting seats together. It can be a hassle, but it works out.
*If you have purchased a seat for your infant or toddler, and if you are using a car seat for this child, the car seat must go at a window, so be sure any group of seats you get for your family has a window seat. However, if the plane is a wide body aircraft, meaning their are two aisles in the plane instead of one, the car seat can be in the middle section as long as it does not block any passenger from reaching the aisle, in the event of an emergency.
Are We There Yet? – Fun Things to Do Until You Are There!
I know every parent who has ever traveled with a child has heard this more than once. I know I have. But, I can tell you if you have followed some of the packing tips I have given you above, you are prepared for this question.
A good rule of thumb, don't drag out every entertainment item you have brought at the same time. Bring out one at a time as they get bored with the first. Then put the first one away so you will not have so much cleaning up to do at the end of the flight.
Crank up the DVD or GameBoy Advance after the announcement is made about using electronic devices. If you have more than one child in the same age group, be sure to let them sit together and watch the DVD. Use that splitter for the headphones so two can watch at the same time.
Bring out a book or coloring book and a snack.
If you are fortunate to be flying with an airline that has TV on demand, great, you are covered for the older kids. They love that feature. Not all airlines do have this so you must be prepared with your own enterainment.
If you have taken your children out of school for this little vacation, now is a perfect time for them to work on some of their school work they might have packed (or you did, because they wouldn't). Bribery is good – "If you do it now you won't have to worry about it the rest of our vacation." It is also the perfect time for a little one on one tutoring in a subject they may need help with. He is, after all, a captive audience.
Of Course, there is the ultimate entertainment on the airplane – Your Flight Attendants. Kids love to watch them moving up and down the aisle with the beverage or food carts.
When you do finally arrive at your destination, remember to "check your seatback pockets, overhead bins and coat closets for any personal items you may have brought on board with you". Especially, don't forget the small electronic items or cell phones in the seat back pockets.
Kids really love to visit the cockpit and have their picture taken with the Captain. As you are leaving the aircraft is a perfect time to do this. In days gone by, a happier time, we used to be able to take children to the cockpit during flight and have their picture taken. Alas, in this world today, it must be done either before or after takeoff. Every Captain and First Officer I ever worked with was been happy to take pictures with the children.
I hope that you have gleaned something useful from this article. I flew a long time, and saw many people come and go from the aircraft. Many of my favorite passengers were the children. They are funny, fresh and most of all genuine.
I wish you pleasant journeys.
I retired from a major U. S. airline several months ago. During my career I met many wonderful families with children. They were some of my favorite passengers. Many parents were totally prepared for their journey while others needed help. This article will hopefully give those parents who are not frequent travelers some points to consider. When it came time to store the uniform and wings I opened an internet store where I sell Child Craft baby furniture. Please stop by and visit as the store is always open and the customer service is the best.
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