How We... Fly With Kids

A few years ago, I wrote this: Travel Survival Guide.  I only had one child then and he was really little.  But - he has flown a whole lot.  
For the record, he has never flown while stuffed upside down in my carryon - despite the woman who thought so on this particular day:  Carryon Confusion.

Now, I fly with two kids.  Well, a baby and a little kid. 
And, thankfully, I don't fly so much now.  Will has flown well over a hundred times... Ellie has flown around ten times, I think.
Tomorrow, I'm flying again with them.

So, I thought I'd share some of my tips for flying with two.

Ha.  I just went and read my travel survival guide.  Cracking myself up.  Did I seriously always pack a spare onesie?  Didn't even cross my mind this time - though probably a good idea but no room in my carryon. Wish me luck.
Also, I rarely remember kleen handz or whatever I was suggesting in that blog.  Isn't it funny how you let some things go with baby #2?  I often just use baby wipes to wipe down kids or trays or those sticky placemats work well too.

So... flying with two.

R & I have very differing opinions on packing.  I believe in packing to the max.  I never consider how I will actually get myself, my children, & my numerous bags to the check in counter.  I just somehow do it.
R has been obsessing all week on how many bags we should take and how we can most efficiently get checked in.
Seriously.  Hasn't crossed my mind at all.
That said.  Just pack what you need/want & somehow it works itself out.  (Helpful aren't I?  Sorry.  It's late and I'm tired.)

Checking in.  You are supposed to always have proof your child's age.  Will has a passport since he went to Mexico as a baby.  Ellie doesn't and I rarely remember proof.  I have yet to be denied getting on the plane.  Of course, she clearly looks under two.  I am taking proof this time as I don't want to have to write a sad post about not getting to go on a much needed vacation.
A copy of the birth certificate works fine.
Check as much as possible.  

Most airports offer a family line or medical assistance line.  We actually qualify in both scenarios.  Here's a little secret- this line moves faster... possibly because no business person wants in it so they avoid it and the other lines become very long.  
Traveling with breast milk or baby food or even juice or regular milk in a sippy cup?  Just pull it out of your carryon and tell the agent - they may swab it but they always let me through with it.
Traveling with prosthetics?  
Be prepared for wanding/swabbing/pat downs. 
Or - do what we've recently started doing if possible & let your child walk through on their "peg legs."  We take off Will's outer layers of prosthetics & let him walk through on the inner liners.  The inner liners have no metal so they don't set it off & I don't have to take as much time reassembling prosthetics.
He still gets wanded and swabbed and patted down, however.
Side story - last year, on our super fast beach trip (Ellie in the Belly was pulling some stunts and we weren't sure she could survive and the dr gave us permission to go for 3 days) we had a very difficult experience at security.  The man in front of us, traveling alone, had forgotten his id.  So, TSA let him through using a Target credit card.  No picture.  No government issue id.  A Target card.  An adult man.
Meanwhile, my two year old - traveling with his very pregnant mother and his dad and in possession of a US issued passport... was swabbed and wanded... and then for his pat down, they actually rolled his shorts down to pat down the inside of his waistband.  (Nothing inappropriate but with all of our flying, that is the only time they've ever done that.)  He had a freakin US Passport.
Then.  They decided that as his "escort"  (I politely told them I wasn't an escort - I was his mother.)  they decided I needed to be patted down too - at 7 months pregnant.
I'm all for tight security at our airports.  I just wouldn't like to see someone be able to travel alone and board a plane with a target credit card for their id while my two year old goes through all kinds of security checks simply because he wears prosthetics.
Sorry.  Rant over. ;)

Where was I?
Your child can walk through or with you.  Will knows by now that he must always head to the little glass room to be checked and bless his heart, he goes straight to the little mat with footprints and spreads his legs as far as possible.   
By the way, if you end up in there, they do have stickers for kids - just ask!
Also, don't ask if you can take a picture of your child because you think it's cute.  They don't allow that.
Also, don't ask if you can go begin putting on your own shoes, gathering up your carryons, etc.  Even though you know (& they know because they see you all the time) that your child can handle himself just fine during the extra security screening, and that it would be much more efficient for you to go gather your stuff... you can't.  So sit down & enjoy the mandatory 3-5 minute break from your travels.

Take your potty trained child to the restroom before boarding.  It's easier than squeezing into that little plane bathroom.
Here's another random story for you...
last summer, again while pregnant, Will & I were flying to Dallas one evening.  He had a doctor appointment and I had a fetal mri scheduled.
It wasn't a very full flight - maybe 10 passengers.  
Will and I had a row to ourselves.  He was content watching a movie, I think, & I was reading on my nook that my inlaws had given me just the previous month.
Suddenly, he asked to go to the bathroom.
So I heaved my preggo self up and put my nook down and carried him to the tiny restroom.  Because it wasn't a very full flight and because my tummy couldn't fully fit, I don't think I could even shut the door.  I held Will over the toilet (because - gross - didn't want his feet on that floor.)
When we got back to our seats, I picked him up to sit in my lap at the window to watch the city come into view as we landed.  
As I gathered my stuff to get off the plane, I couldn't locate my nook.
I looked everywhere to no avail.  After everyone got off, the flight attendants helped - no luck.
I made a lost and found claim and that agent went to look - no luck.
I immediately called B & N to cancel it but was told only to remove my credit card info - not to cancel it in case it turned up in my luggage somewhere. 
I was so bummed to lose the book I was in the middle of - (Francine Rivers' new book.  Not my fav although I love her writing usually.)
About a month later, I started getting a series of harassing emails.  At first, I responded thinking some good person had found my nook.  But then the emails became very odd and made my husband concerned and he said we needed to call the police.
Apparently, the policewoman on duty was bored as she recorded every single word of every email down.
I didn't think much would happen but...
around the time Ellie was born, the police used the flight records and the emails to locate the thief...
and turns out that stealing a nook is apparently a felony.
So the guy turned it in asap to avoid felony charges.
And I got it back!
And I finished my book thanks to a library loaner in case you were concerned.

Again - I'm off topic.

A good friend (hi, Christin!) once told me that while some rules apply while traveling - some rules don't because the greater goal is survival and trying to keep your kids happy so that the rest of the passengers aren't disturbed.  ie:  if you normally don't allow snacks but notice your child is grumpy, give them a snack.  We buy special airplane snacks.  It works well for us.  If you normally would never dream of letting your child watch a full movie (or 2) in a day but it keeps them content... go for it on the plane.  It's a special treat!
Even if you nurse or feed your baby on a schedule, be prepared to let it go out the window on a travel day.  I nurse on a schedule (usually depending on doctor and therapy appts and life)... but on travel days, I nurse when I can or when she seems hungry and for sure during landing and take off for ears - so sometimes just an hour apart.  It works.  It doesn't mess up our schedule or mess her up for life.
Tomorrow is a new day and you can get back on your schedule then.
Which brings me to another point... time changes.
When Will was an infant, we took him to Utah and I really stressed about his schedule and the time change.  I think that the first night I kept him on TX time but by the next morning, he was on UT time. It was easier that way.  I didn't want to be feeding him dinner at 4 pm or putting him to bed at 6 pm or waking up at 10am.  (Actually, 10 am would have been glorious.  As I recall, he was up 19 times one night on that trip - ear infection and teething.  It was rough.  R finally looked at me and informed me he was going to another bedroom to sleep as he had a big day of snow skiing ahead of him.  Needless to say, he has apologized for that several times over the years!  It's amazing our friends we went with stayed our friends- I think I cried a lot from pure exhaustion on that trip.)
Bottom line - do what's easiest for the majority of people in your group.  You don't want to make everyone cater around the baby's feeding schedule or nap schedule on a different time zone.  So adjust and I promise the baby will adjust too within 24 hours.
(Assuming you are staying within a few hours of your original time zone.  Going to Asia?  I have no idea how to help you.)
I believe travel is good for babies and kids.  It teaches them flexibility and that not everything revolves around them (like it may at home when you do work your day around feeds and naps.)  It's good for them to learn to sleep in new places, to play with new things, to explore new areas, to eat new foods.  Flexibility is a good trait and I think traveling is a great way to teach it.

Back to flying:
Avoid toys that are loud or have lots (or any) of removable pieces.  Melissa & Doug has some cool puzzles that use a magnetic stick so the pieces don't come out.  Those are good.  Books are always great (paperback are lighter.)  Colors work if your child will do that.  I spy is a good airplane game.  Babies tend to love the disposable cups - ask the flight attendant for a few.  Also, they can give you a lid for your child's drink if you order a drink for them.  We introduced Will to his first sprite this year on a plane - it's a special treat now and he loves it.

If your child begins to throw a fit or kick the seat in front of them, take off their prosthetic legs.
Not an option?  Sorry.  Can't help you.
This happened one time for us and now he has learned his lesson.  (I usually take them off anyway for comfort but hadn't gotten to that part of my routine yet.)
I've found rewards work better for us - so knowing he will get a special piece of candy every so often for good behavior or knowing I have a new book waiting in the backpack are good motivators.

Take plenty.  I don't pack a ton in the carryon - just some snacks but always stop for juice, water, crackers, and fruit at the airport.  I've had a few instances where we've been delayed and I ended up needing to feed a meal unexpectedly.  Peanut butter crackers or a lunchable are helpful to have on hand too - small for packing purposes but contain protein for energy.
Once, on a flight from Boston, while on the runway, the pilot suddenly stopped the plane.  We looked out our window and could see a dog running all over the runways.  Apparently, he had escaped from his little kennel and it was hilarious watching various airport security people at Boston Logan chase the dog with nets and golf carts.  At one point I think I counted 8 planes backed up.  We ended up sitting there over an hour while they chased him.  Will fell asleep and took his whole nap while we sat on the runway.  Which meant he was awake for the entire flight.  
That has nothing to do with food but just goes to show you that you never know what might happen.  Bring food.
Another time, we ended up stranded in Dallas during snowy weather and after an entire day of delays, caught a flight to another city where R drove to pick us up late at night... and carpooled home with some very interesting people.

If you are traveling alone with a child, make a friend if possible.  I've made friends with people who have offered to help me at the gate and it's so great to be able to leave a carryon with them while I run Will to the bathroom.  I always take my valuables but leaving a kids' backpack full of cars and books has never been a problem.  (Take your nook with you.)  I made a friend on that snowy delay day who was also traveling with her child.  We helped each other all day and now exchange Christmas cards.  Grandmothers are especially helpful. :)

If you have a disability, you may pre-board.  Did you know that if you are pregnant, you can preboard?  I didn't know this until the end of my pregnancy with Ellie!  It is great if at all possible if you can get on early to claim your seat & get settled.  I don't know of any businessman/woman who wouldn't prefer that a mother with children get on first... so that they can get on and sit as far away as possible. :)

I'm traveling tomorrow so don't want to jinx it but so far, my kids have been great fliers.  I am so thankful because I know this is not always the case.  Rarely have they cried and usually it is for their little ears and it is over quickly.  (Take those homeopathic teething tablets for the ears  - they help sort of.)  They both seem to really enjoy it and I really enjoy flying with them - we get extra cuddle time, we read stories and maybe watch a movie, I get to just sit and not do a single dish or vacuum or fold clothes... it's lovely.

Above all else, always tell yourself that it will eventually be over. At some point, you will get off the plane and never see those people again.  So, even if it goes terrible - if your child throws fits or refuses to nap or screams or whatever... eventually it will be over.  

And that's all I got.  I must go finish packing.  I'm hoping to sneak an extra bag by R.  I can't leave cowboy hats at home when we are going to a cowboy dinner!

1 thoughts:

Ellie said...

My mom used to buy us special toys for airplane rides. One new toy per flight. And the special toys in our backpack were only accessible to us during trips. So it added novelty to the flights. It's exciting to get a new toy and to play with a bunch of other toys that you don't usually get to use!

Poor Will! He's probably a pro with the pat-downs! Couldn't you just take off his prosthetics and put them through the x-ray machine?

I have a brother who works for the TSA and he explained that they get periodic alerts. Example: the terrorists are using women and children, so give extra scrutiny to women and kids. I know there was one alert about women putting explosives in fake pregnancy bellies! And I'm sure we've all heard of people putting drugs and explosives (and even stolen merchandise!) in diapers and prosthetics!

The terrorists are also known to exploit individuals who are difficult/inconvenient to search -and- people who appear to be unlikely to be carrying anything naughty --- like a child with prosthetics. Like Will.

My brother explained that they get certain directives on who to search/scrutinize and they must follow them, regardless of whether they personally feel it's necessary. The security checkpoints and pat-down room are all monitored on video by a supervisor and if you don't follow the directives, you lose your job!

Though I don't get the bit about the guy with the target card! Yikes! Although, I must admit...I don't really care **who** he is; as long as he's not carrying a bomb!!
So I guess, in some ways, it does make sense to be more stringent with the searches and less so with identities.
(Plus, that flub wouldn't be obvious to the supervisors who are monitoring the videos, so I can see how they'd "get away" with it!)

I'd try to take a photo too, by the way! :-)


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