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Plane Trips: A Guide for New Parents.

November 20, 2014 1 comment

 

When you move far away from your family, you need to go back home to visit. Sure, they can come to you, but then you miss out on seeing friends and going to your favorite places. We’ve been taking our four year old on planes since he was not even three months, and I’ve even done it once without my wife, so I’ve learned a thing or two. Pay attention.

The golden rule is to Get there EARLY!  My parents were the type to leave early for everything, so for plane trips we left earlier than early.  It’s new to my wife, but I’ve convinced her to at least humor me.  Besides leaving a time cushion for unforeseen traffic or a long security line which you hopefully won’t have to go through (see below), there’s a couple of other good reasons to get there early:

1) That “feeling rushed to make a flight” thing sucks, and with kid(s) it’s even worse. There are lots of extra things to leave time for. Slower legs if they’re on foot, bathroom/diaper changes, bottles/snacks, and the fact you have extra luggage/stroller/carseat/etc, all stuff that you didn’t need pre-kid, to carry around.

2) If you are traveling with an under 2 year old and you didn’t buy him/her a ticket, you can’t use the boarding passes you print out at home or show on your phone. You need to go to the counter where you check bags and get yourself a boarding pass with the name of your child as a “lap infant”. TSA won’t let you through security without this, at least not in my experience.

Speaking of TSA, we’re batting about .650 in the “getting to skip the long line and going through the much shorter special first class security line simply because we have a little one” game.  I’m not sure if this is officially in the TSA training or not, but it seems many TSA workers have a soft spot for babies. Truthfully, that other family with the seven year old who won’t stop straying from the line to see what’s in the gift shop while the twin five year olds simultaneously hang from each of their parents arms as they try to manage their luggage and keep the seven year old from booking it probably need this benefit more than a couple with one newborn/toddler. Well guess what…they’re not getting it.  But you might, so take advantage if the situation presents itself. Overwhelmed looking faces, either real or fake, can help. I’ve even had a case where one TSA officer told us to stand in the long line, but when we got back there and told another officer what we were told, he was like “she said WHAT!?!?…with a BABY!?!?…come on over here right now…” and off we went to the first class area to skip the line.

Anyway, back to the list:

3) Once you make it through the line, if you’re doing the lap infant thing or didn’t get to pick seats together when you bought tickets, go see the person at the counter near your gate and tell them your situation. They will do their best to give you a three seat row to yourself so that you have more room and no chance of getting seated next to a baby-hater.

So you got there early and everything went smoothly? No problem. Killing time is easy. If your kid is like mine, a huge fan of “big things that GO!”, what better place to be than the airport? One trip we even did the bus/train/plane three-peat…took a bus from the satellite parking lot to the terminal, went on the “train” that goes from terminal to terminal, and finally the plane itself. Even just looking out the window at the planes, fuel trucks, and luggage carts, is built-in entertainment.

Kid not interested? No worries. If they’re mobile, let them run around the terminal a little (or a lot). Some even have dedicated play areas, but these are optional to me. The more they expend energy, the more tired they get and the better the chance they fall asleep on the plane. And if you haven’t yet figured it out, getting them to sleep on the plane is the ultimate goal.

Lastly, on the plane. With infants, the theory is that you let them nurse to try to circumvent the pressure in their ears.  With kids old enough to play with toys, you’ll want to have something new that they’ve never seen before, and a tablet with some pre-downloaded kids shows and movies. A while back there was a popular blog post in which someone made goody bags for the other passengers as a preemptive measure for when the kid cried.  However, fellow dad blogger Mike Julianelle mocked this idea, and he is correct that this is an unneeded gimmick.  You have every right to be on the plane.

Planning ahead and knowing a few things can make flights with little ones less daunting.  And, while there are no guarantees, with the right pilot, your kid just might get to have a personal flying lesson to top the whole thing off:

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