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Flying With the Kids – A Little Preparation Saves a Lot of Gray Hair
The trip begins with careful planning and packing:
We all know and understand how much equipment is needed to travel with young people. This is true whether they are babies, toddlers or young adults. They require copious amounts of clothing. So making a list a few days in advance and adding things to it as you think of them will help pull it all together in the end.
Try to keep it to the necessities, such as
*For Babies: diapers, formula and baby food. You’d be surprised how many people think that airlines provide these items as a courtesy. This may still be true, in some cases, on international flights or on some air carriers from other countries, but in the United States it is not. Local carriers do not have these items available. Please bring enough for your flight plus extra in case of delay.
*For toddlers: Pack their favorite comfort toy or blanket. Bring snacks, baby food, fruit, crackers, whatever they will eat. But please bring them food. Unless you plan to buy food at the airport, (it gets expensive) this is essential.
*Toys – pack their favorite small toys. Animals stuffed enough to require a seat should be left at home. Also, children like to have a book read to them or someone to color with them.
*For older children: important portable DVDs and movies they will enjoy watching. This is also great for little ones. Don’t forget the PSP-2 and games, or the Nintendo DS Lite. These are your friends when traveling with this age group.
*MOST IMPORTANT – bring headphones for these electronics. There will be no end to the dirty looks you will get and the complaints flight attendants will have if you forget them.
*Food – Which child in this age group do you know who doesn’t like to eat? Bring their own snacks as this age group usually wants more to eat than the small bag of pretzels or meal mix they will take on the plane.
Mom and Dad, you’re parents, not pack mules. It is more convenient for your children to carry their own small backpack or rolling suitcase that contains all their goodies. Besides, you need at least one hand to pull them back when they get away from you, and they do! I have even seen 2-3 year olds pulling their little bags that are all decorated with the latest trendy characters. Very cute! You will need your strength to hold the car seat and your suitcase in the overhead bin. Heave Ho!
**Special Note – Please, please, please do not pack and check in cargo, any medications that you or your children may need to take on a regular basis. These must be in a separate quarter bag and identified to TSA at security.
For complete and in-depth information on the Transportation Security Administration’s rules and regulations, please see its website: click here
We’re at the Airport – Oh my God Look at the security line! – Did you remember to pack your patience?
First and foremost: Allow yourself plenty of time to get to the airport!! Leave early and give yourself plenty of time to complete check-in and clear 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’ve checked those three very large suitcases you packed with 17 days worth of clothes for your 4-day weekend jaunt. If not, turn around, go to the ticket counter and act immediately. This is especially true if all of your toiletries are packaged, are more than 3 ounces, and not in a quart-sized freezer bag. If you haven’t heard, this is the rule, “3/1/1”. No more than three ounces in a bottle, in a one-liter baggie, and one per person. If you check that bag though, hey, no problem. Not to mention, do you really want to fight them, along with your kids and all their stuff, on the plane and put them. NO. CHECK the bag!!
While you’re standing in line, chasing after little ones, trying to drink your coffee, and wrangling sibling judges, get out your tickets and ID because you’ll need them.
Once you’ve made it to the front of the line and given the TSA inspector Mr. (or Ms.) your IDs and tickets:
*Throw all bags, strollers and other items you brought with you onto 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 DVDs must be placed in a separate bin.
*Don’t forget to take those shoes off – even the little ones.
*You must let little ones go through the security screen on their own. Babies, of course, are carried by you – you have to take them out of the pram or whatever pram they’re in. Sorry, you can’t wear them in your harness on your front side, you have to wear them.
TSA will never separate you from your children, so don’t worry about this issue.
After getting yourself and the little ones through the security screen, collect all your belongings, put your shoes back on and proceed to the gate. Be sure to double-check to make sure you’ve received all your items, especially DVDs and laptops that have been removed from their cases. I’ve seen people drop them and it’s a mad race to get back and retrieve them. People have missed their flights this way.
We have small children – What’s to say we can’t have seats together!! – Do you remember that patience you filled?
Okay, now you’re bored with the security clearance process, the kids are crying, and the gate area is packed. Good grief! Aah, but you’re on vacation!
Upon approaching the gate agent, you learn that the plane is in an oversold situation and you have to wait for those seat assignments. (What! You didn’t check in line early and reserve those seats? That’s a whole other article.)
Most agents will go to great lengths to seat young children with their parents. If the worst case scenario happens and you are separated from one of your little ones, there is still hope. Anyway, the agent will put you through to the flight attendants, so here’s what you do.
*Identify yourself and the problem at the aircraft boarding gate, state the problem and ask for help. Do not complain!
*Proceed to the first seat assigned to you, look at who is sitting around you, tell them you are separated from your children and ask them if they can switch seats. If they are not cooperative, then ask which one they would like to sit with and keep an eye on during the flight. (Isn’t it nice to be crafty?) Just kidding about that. Usually, a flight attendant will follow you to your seats and try to work with other passengers to get seats together. It can be a hassle, but it works.
*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 be in the window, so make sure any set of seats you get for your family has a window seat . . However, if the plane is a wide-body plane, meaning there are two rows on the plane instead of one, the car seat can be in the middle section as long as it does not obstruct any passengers from reaching the aisle, in case of an emergency.
Are we there yet? – Fun things to do while you’re 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’ve followed some of the packing tips I’ve given you above, you’re prepared for this question.
A good rule of thumb, don’t drag every fun item you brought along at the same time. Take them out one at a time as they get bored with the first one. Then put the first one away so you don’t have as much cleanup to do at the end of the flight.
Pick up the DVD or GameBoy Advance after the electronic device use announcement has been made. 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 headphone splitter so two can watch at the same time.
Bring a book or coloring book and a snack.
If you’re lucky enough to be flying an airline that has on-demand TV, well, you’re covered for older kids. They love that feature. Not all airlines have this, so you should be prepared with your entertainment.
If you’ve taken your kids out of school for this little break, now is the perfect time for them to work on some of their schoolwork that they may have stuffed (or you did, because they wouldn’t ). Bribery is good – “If you do it now, you won’t have to worry about it during our vacation.” It’s also the perfect time for a little one to tutor in a subject they may need help with. After all, he is a captive audience.
Of course, there is the ultimate in-flight entertainment – your Flight Attendants. The kids love watching them move up and down the aisles with their drink or food carts.
When you finally arrive at your destination, remember to “check the back seat pockets, overhead bins and coat closets for any personal items you may have brought on board.” Especially, don’t forget small electronics or cell phones in the back seat pockets.
Children love to visit the cabin and have their picture taken with the captain. As you are leaving the plane is a perfect time to do this. In the days gone by, in a happier time, we could take the kids into the cabin during the flight and take their pictures. Alas, in this world today, it must be done either before or after the ascension. Every captain and first officer I’ve ever worked with was happy to take pictures with the kids.
I hope you got something useful out of this article. I flew for a long time and saw many people coming and going from the plane. Many of my favorite passengers were children. They are funny, fresh and above all original.
I wish you pleasant travels.
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