The holidays are upon us and that means you probably need some tips for traveling with children. No matter what you believe in, between Thanksgiving and New Year’s you can find a reason to celebrate. More celebration means more families, and for some, that means air travel. What is the one thing people don’t want on a plane? Unfortunately, it’s babies. Just because we are in the holiday season does not mean you need to shell out money you don’t have on goody bags for people sitting near you. This is a cute idea, but why not focus on your child instead of other passengers? Coming from a fellow traveling mom and someone who has friends and family working for airlines, here are some tips for traveling with children.
1. Check Your Car Seat
One of my best tips for traveling with children is to check the car seat. A lot of families wonder if bringing a car seat is necessary. After all, the rental car place will provide one, won’t they? The short answer is yes, sometimes they will. The long answer is, at most car rental agencies car seats are on a first come first serve basis. If the agency runs out before you get there, you are out of luck. Don’t fret if you’re reading this at the airport and realize you forgot one. Some airlines will stock up for this exact reason. Ask, but know not all airlines carry them and they are almost always first come, first serve.
2. Hold Infants
Flying a plane is scary for an infant – especially the first time. What is more comforting? Being held in his parent’s arms or being stuck in a car seat next to them. Hold your child for comfort. Bring the seat onto the plane if you must, but there are times your child will need to be in your arms during the flight. If you want to bring your car seat onto the plane, make sure it is approved for air travel by the FAA and has all necessary stickers for the flight crew to check.
3. Buy a Seat for the Toddler
Toddlers are big. They are heavy. They are squirmy. Holding one on your lap for a long flight is exhausting. Let your toddler have their own seat, especially if they flew as an infant.
A baby and a toddler are going to need to eat. Don’t expect the airlines to have food for them on hand. Most airlines don’t even provide adult in-flight meals anymore. Bring extra snacks for you and your baby. Baby bottles can be taken through the security line, although they will be tested for safety. In the many airports I have been to, I have rarely seen stores selling baby food. Bring your own to avoid the letdown of not finding any or not finding the flavor your child will eat. Snacks distract children and help an upset tummy settle.
Don’t forget the toys. Remember, we are trying to find distractions. If you are on a long flight, bring multiple toys. Kids get bored quickly and will want different playtime options. No matter what you do, don’t forget your child’s favorite stuffy, blanket or sleep buddy. Monkey la-la has earned just as many frequent flyer miles as my son.
If you have a toddler and are going internationally or will travel a lot, invest in a tablet. Stock it with your child’s favorite games, books, and movies. At the very least, put a couple kid shows on your smartphone in case the in-flight entertainment system isn’t working.
7. Prepare for Takeoff and Landing
Takeoff and landing are crucial moments when traveling with a child. The noises are scary, excitement is spreading through passengers and the sudden changes in air pressure can really hurt little (and big) ears. Adults can chew gum to get rid of this pressure, but babies can’t. The best way to get rid of this pressure is to allow them to suck on something. Have a bottle ready or, my son’s favorite, a nice lollipop to suck on.
8. Bring What You Need
Most airlines understand infants and toddlers require more luggage than others. Depending on where you go, you might be traveling with a car seat, stroller, pack 'n play, high chair and who knows what else. As long as you are in the bag number requirements (airlines differ) some will let you check these items free of charge. Call ahead of time to check with your particular carrier.