I just came back from a holiday trip to visit my husband’s family out in Naples, Florida for Christmas and I am proud of my family and I have learned a lot on this trip! Frankly, during my research and planning there are so many articles that added to my fear of flying with children. I had been planning and dreading this trip since August and am glad to report that the travel was a successful one. Here’s what I have learned:
Buy a seat for your child(ren).
Do not be like this family when travelling for the holidays. We could have travelled with our baby as a lap child but it was better for everyone involved to purchase a seat for both our toddler and our infant. We have four seats and I used Seatguru.com to help me pick out a good seating arrangement. I looked for seat row near the wing (where engine noise would be helpful for kids’ sleep) and my children and I took up the row of three seats (baby sat in the carseat at the window seat, toddler sat in the aisle seat, I sat in between the two children), while my husband sat across the aisle from my toddler. He was also able to grab things out of the bag and grab snacks when needed more easily than I can. My baby slept much better in the carseat than she could on my lap!
Picking a good itinerary and try to get a 1.5 to 2 hour layover where possible.
The trend in domestic air travel is to squeeze out many services and amenities so having a longer layover in between connecting flights so that you can grab a bite to eat, change a diaper, or walk around a bit can make a big difference. Our first flight was changed to leave later than previously booked, which gave us a 45 minute layover. I was not able to change the itinerary as the options are few so we kept our fingers crossed. Our flight was pretty much on time but we still barely made our connecting flight at Dallas Fort Worth Airport because we were given the wrong gate number on top of having to run to a different terminal to catch the connecting flight. The flight did not have any snacks other than crackers for sale (not even a sandwich!) so we were not able to eat a dinner. Skipping a meal is hard on a breastfeeding mom as is and combine that with air travel and it is just plain unpleasant.
Pack the necessities and carry-ons wisely.
Most airlines now charge for every checked luggage, and if you go over on the weight you will pay hefty fees. We travelled with two large wheeled luggage, one wheeled carry-on,two diaper bags, a backpack, a purse, and an Ergo baby carrier. We used an umbrella stroller (our Uppababy G-Luxe with a stroller bag). The stroller bag became our extra checked luggage on our return trip as we became laden with Christmas presents for the children. We had more flexibility when it comes to carry-ons due to the fact that we purchased seats for our children and the airlines tend to be nice about diaper bags, but still when you are traveling with two young children (and carrying an infant carseat) it is best to carry as few as possible. We elected to purchase a CARES harness instead of carrying an additional convertible carseat for the toddler and purchased a convertible carseat sent to the grandparents. It was a lot easier to use the harness than deal with the hassle of the additional larger carseat and gave us flexibility in seating arrangements. On one flight, we had the toddler and Dad sit in the next row behind myself and the baby, with the toddler also sitting at a window seat. Most of the flights had the toddler sitting next to mom, though. Having his teddy bear, a few choice snacks, a book he enjoys, a portable DVD player, and a small collection of good DVDs really helped my toddler behave exceptionally well on these flights. He didn’t even kick any seats!
Focus on your children’s safety and comfort; ignore “other people.”
My children behaved well, better than I expected, and for that I am very proud. That said, there are always people who might roll their eyes or complain even if you have not done anything wrong. I was focused on my children so I really hardly noticed other people’s attitudes, except for the lady who complained to the flight attendant. The lady who sat in front of my daughter on the flight complained to the flight attendant that she could not recline her seat because of my rear-facing infant car seat being in the way and wanted the carseat moved as my baby was sleeping in it. I explained that the seat had to be used rear-facing and per airline regulations it has to be at the window seat. Ultimately, the flight attendant asked another passenger who sat on the aisle seat in front of my son if they could switch seats so that she can recline her seat.
There are also other families and other friendly folks on the plane.
Before embarking on the trip, I did a lot of research and there are plenty of articles and comments that will intensify the fear of flying with children. For every person who hates you for bringing your children, there are more that are nice, helpful, or neutral. I want to go on record to say that there are plenty of people who are nice and helpful to me while on this trip. One lady made my day when she told me that she thinks I am doing an awesome job with my children. Two men on the parking shuttle helped me move my stroller with toddler off the bus. A few other people even asked if they could help me out carrying something, or encouragingly told me I was doing OK as I walked down the airplane aisle trying to not hit anyone with my diaper bag or my baby.
I learned a lot about my children, myself, and my partner on this trip. The experience brought us closer. I am very proud of my children and even a little proud of myself and my husband too.