C.N. asks from Norristown, PA on July 24, 2007
Seeking Advice on Air Travel with 1 Year Old
Please share your experiences traveling (on airplanes) with your child/children. We are planning to visit my husband who is serving in the Army and I just booked airfare for my 1 year old and myself. I actually called the airlines instead of booking online as I was that nervous and had that many questions. I decided to get him his own seat - I guess because I thought it would be safer - and I think I'm going to bring his carseat. Other new mommies I've spoken to had some advice but they had younger infants (like 6mo and less). My son is big for his age.. he's 24lbs and he's 33 inches. Can you give me advice on actually letting him sit in his own seat? Should I bring his big bulky convertible car seat? How do I transport all this stuff by myself? Should I look into getting this harness thing that someone told me about? Should I bring any additional identification (someone told me I had to have a letter from the other parent to take my son out of state) and do I need a passport? I looked on the Airline's site, the FAA and the TSA.. besides this 3-1 rule with liquids, noone really has any defined FAQ's -- I'm still looking up the identification requirements for my son and myself. If its helpful, we are flying United and I booked our tickets with airmiles so I can actually change the flight (or getting my son his own seat). Consequently, do you know airmiles expire now.. My were going to expire if I didn't use them by 12-31-07 (I haven't traveled since before I was pregnant). Any advice you may have on traveling with a newly mobile 1year old would be helpful.. He no longer breastfeeds and he's been doing pretty good with a sippy cup (trying to get him off bottles) and he's just beginning to walk -- very unsteady -- but he's an expert at crawling..
So What Happened?™
We left Philadelphia on September 19th on United Airlines.
PHILA airport was not crowded on Wed morning and we got right through security. I brought 1 large suitcase on wheels, 1 wheeled carryon, the diaper bag (also served as my purse), the carseat on a neat invention called a PAC BACK (I recommed this if you're taking a carseat as it makes the seat into backpack leaving your hands free), and my son in a travel stroller. My mom dropped us off, curbside check in was closed, so I hooked the two wheeled luggage together and went inside to check in.
Philadelphia airport had a nice play area that we spent over an hour in.
We had a scheduled lay over (supposed to be 50 minutes) in Chicago then a flight into Oklahoma City. Upon arriving in Chicago, we had to go from C to B concourse and that meant taking an elevator down, a moving walkway, then an elevator back up. I DON'T RECOMMEND A LAYOVER IN CHICAGO. The flight into OKC was 1 hour delayed.
United personnel were less than helpful throughout the trip. I requested "special assistance and preboarding" and not one United representative helped me move my things, get my son situated or made a call to let me through the line up or aisle to board. They also didn't bother to talk to me even when I asked how they wanted me to install my carseat (forward or rear facing - I chose forward facing). However, United did charge me FULL PRICE FOR MY SON's TICKET.
During our visit to see my husband in Oklahoma, our plans changed -- my husband's unit agreed to allow us to drive him to San Antonio. I called United to see if I could change our return airport from OKC to SAT. I was told I couldn't change any part of the ticket -- that I'd have to book a completely new ticket.. mind you, I paid full price for my son's ticket.
Then I called SOUTHWEST... Southwest gave me a discounted fare (50% off) for my son. My ticket was also cheeper and both tickets were completely refundable.
We left out of San Antonio on Monday 9/24. I arrived over 2 hours early (I thought traffic would be bad or I'd be longer at the rental car place) and SAT was very small with nothing for kids to do. We only had to board 1 plane with Southwest as we had a stop in Orlando but didn't deplane. That was good. However, Southwest (at least in San Antonio) did away with preboarding and now assigns you boarding based upon a letter and a number. The representatives were friendlier, but that still didn't help me when I trampled down the aisle hitting people with my carseat as I searched for an available row with 2 open seats.
1. Take the carseat if you're planning on a rental car -- my car seat was much easier to use than the one they were going to rent me and my son sat in his seat much better than he would have if I held him.
2. That PAC-BACK think was really nice to have
3. Arrive early enough that you have time to get through security and talk to the gate attendant to get vital things like a stroller check tag and to recheck your boarding passes that you have 2 seats together and one is a window seat which is where the car seat is supposed to go.
4. Practice your manuevering of all the things you're going to bring and how to hook the car seat into the airplane or a different vehicle. For example, I removed the base of my son's Alpha Omega 3-1 to make it narrower and fit better into the airplane. I also took off the armrests before I went to the airport.
5. Bring snacks for the child and for yourself. My son drank applejuice in a sippy and munched on cheerios for takeoff and landing. I wished I had brought something more substantial for him to eat though as he did have an upset stomach after we got home last night (he spit up the applejuice etc.) and I was starving because we boarded the Southwest flight at 10:30 in San Antonio and arrived in Phila at 5 pm so we had 6 straight hours on the aircraft.
6. I had bought a travel DVD player and this really kept my son occupied. I played his baby einstein videos. I also brought a few tiny books and we read those too.
Good luck to all those moms who brave the realm of air travel. During my journey I spoke to a few moms that had 2 kids traveling with them.. my hat's off to you.. I couldn't do it...
E. answers from Philadelphia on July 25, 2007
I traveled with my son (now 4.5) when he was 18 months and my daughter (now 20 months) just last month. My daughter sat on my lap, but with my son there were extra seats on the plane and he had his own seat both ways. The first flight he was in his car seat, and did fine. On the way home the filght attendant wouldn't let him bring his car seat on because it didn't say airline approved so he sat without it. I was worried, but he was so excited to be in a big boy seat belt that he sat through the whole flight. Also, to make take off and landing easier I brought snacks and drinks. Both of my kids love fruit snacks but I try not to give them to the kids too often. On the flights I brought a ton and fed them to the kids one at a time. They were excited to get them, so they didn't stop eating and they were chewing and swallowing the whole way up to altitude so no ear trouble. Chocolate milk, packed in one of those little insulated bags, worked great on the way down. Good luck, and just try to enjoy the trip. He will feed off your sense of fun or nervousness, so try to project fun!
L.T. answers from Philadelphia on July 25, 2007
Check the airline and tell them what car seat you have. I bought a Britax brand car seat because that was the only one I knew htat was certified for air travel. Althougth when my son was 15 months we went to portugal which is a 6 hour flight and i didn't use the car seat. he just laid on my lap and fell asleep for the ride. I also gave hime benadryl so he would ease into the ride and it worked like a charm. That's what other mothers had told me to do.
I needed my husband's signature for the passport. i don't necessarily remember if i needed a letter for him to travel.
The car seat can be helpful when you get to your destination because you will need one if you rent a car or what ever travel form you are taking. I knwo in Portugal they were strict on that as well as here.
If you go to www.onestepahead.com they have storage bags specifically for traveling iwth those kind of items.
As far as traveling alone, i would see if you can get assistance from the airline to help you with your luggage. you can also bring your stroller right up to the plane and they will take it store it for you until you land and bring it out when you leave the plane. Just make sure you have tags for everything.
I hope this helps a little if you need more info, email me and i'll try as much as i can but calling the airline is the best bet.
I hope your husband is ok. I'm also an army wife and many kudos to you for juggling so many hats.
Y.L. answers from Philadelphia on July 25, 2007
If you are travelling from state to state, all you need is a driver's license and a birth certificate for your son if you want to be safe. I've never seen them check the birth certificate though. When travelling alone with a child, less is best. You might want to bring a small carry-on back with things for him to do, a few diapers, snacks, wipes (good for cleaning up messes too). It all depends how long your flight is. If you can avoid bringing the carseat on the plane, do so. Check with the airline to make sure it's okay for him to be without a carseat. Some airlines require it after a certain age. Some airlines also offer carseats.
Good luck and have a good trip.
A.C. answers from Reading on July 26, 2007
I have actually flew a couples times with the kids once by myself, great idea booking the extra seat, I don't know if they already told you, you can drive your stroller right up to the airplane door, they will put in under the plane for you and bring it back out after arrival.But don't bring a ton of bags on board they will board kids in the beginning and you don't get alot of time to get the baby out of the stroller that will have to be collaped,and get your stuff without people ramming behind you. My advice pack as light as you can because you will be juggleing all your stuff and the babe,try a bookbag if you can it will stay on your shoulders through all this. my last trip our 4 month old got sick on the plane, I always pack, snacks,wipes, diapers,hand sanatizer, spare clothes,and shirt for me incase I get puked on etc.a couple favorite toys(froggie) deorderised diaper bags(platic bag to put them and any dirty duds in till you get off).a blanket if you need to change the babe in your seat, that bathroom is tight. Drinks for the babe, I had to pre mix the formula at philly airport because they wouldn't let me bring my bottled water on board. But they will let you bring juice cups and bottles for the babe, I bought this formula dispenser at walmart great for traveling it holds 4 premeasured feedings(lifesaver!) Anyways I checked the car seat, most airlines too provide 5 point harness adapters to the seat belt my little guys did the best on my lap(I never got one of them) for take off. Target sells lugage like bags for your chair seat it has wheels and zips like a suitcase they cost $40.I put it in it right out of the car,and well worth it or heavy duty black trash bag it or it will get filty checked,I can't handle carrying my britax through the airport. also make sure you tape over the cushsion part of the stroller handle or it to will get destroyed. (I learned this all the hardway)and always I am sure you do, wear sneakers it's a long walk, you can usually call ahead and ask the airline for assitance getting your stuff in and out. I had my handicapped grandmom, the 13 month old and was pregnant, they were really helpful they took us all the way to our car.if you are traveling in the us, they didn't ask me for anything but ssi number of the kids, i did bring my birthcertficate too just incase, I always bring that on board, never pack your money or id in the stuff you check cause they do sometimes lose lugage. Anyways I hope this helps sorry it's so long. Have a great trip.
L.P. answers from Philadelphia on July 25, 2007
I've made a yearly trip to California (6 hour flight!!) with my daughter since she was 6 moths old. Here's the deal about taking the car seat - unless you feel that your son will be able to sleep in his car seat for part of the way then take it, otherwise I would suggest that you don't. I took it once because I thought of the safety issues but it proved to be a bigger nuisance than anything. First of all, my daughter wouldn't stay in it nor would she nap in it (keep in mind that flight movement is a lot different from car movement - she would always fall asleep in the car but that didn't happen on the plane). Also, because you have to keep the car seat on the seat, you'll lose that space and have to hold your kid the whole time, which is what I ended up doing. So after that trip I still bought my daughter a seat but did not take the car seat on the plane. This was better because for naps she could stretch out on her seat and when she was awake she had some room to play.
I also would use an umbrella stroller to stroll your son through the airport. It's especially handy if you have to make a connecting flight. The flight attendants will put in one of the closets near the door so you'll have it the moment you exit the plane. You can check your car seat with your luggage.
I hope this information is helpful. Remember to get a bunch of small toys at the $1 store and take one out each 1/2 hour or so to keep your son occupied. That was always a treat for my girl.
Take care and have a safe trip!
L. answers from Philadelphia on July 27, 2007
Hi C.: I used to travel often with my son on business trips back to my corporate office (near my parents so they would babysit). My tips:
1. No need for passport but I used to take his birth certificate just in case. Never was asked for it, even when he had his own seat.
2. Recommend getting him his own seat. It's cheaper to hold him on your lap but it's safer to buckle him into a car seat - but the car seat must have a label on it from the manufacturer that it's FAA approved. I had a stroller with a car seat that popped in. They check the stroller at the gate and you leave it right outside the plane entrance - when you land they bring it back to that entrance.
3. Try to hold off giving him a bottle until takeoff because they should be sucking during that time to avoid ear popping due to the pressure in the cabin. Same with landing (if he's awake)
4. Check your luggage (it's a bear trying to wheel a suitcase and a stroller so you might want to check luggage at the curb) and just carry on your diaper bag/stroller.
5. Give him infant Tylenol - it can sometimes help them sleep on the plane.
6. Make sure when you check in that you have 2 seats next to eachother. I've had dumb airline agents book me and my son completely apart but if you fix it at the main check you should be fine.
7. You can board early when they call for first class passengers. Usually they'll call first class and 'people needing extra assistance' Don't forget that you need extra assistance and you can tell the airline people that. I've had to push through the people lining up for the other rows prior to their row being called and I just loudly yell 'Excuse me, we need extra assistance.' People part the way faster if you have a big stroller:) Hope that helps and hope your son sleeps the whole way!
W.M. answers from Philadelphia on July 26, 2007
If you son is happy in his car seat then by all means brings it(make sure it is airline approved). When I used to travel with mine when they were little I would bring about 4 activities that they enjoyed a few of their favorite snacks and some juice, water and milk. As the plan is ascending into the air give him a snack to help with his ears and play a little game or sing some songs together. As far as help have friend drive you if possible and do curbside check in, remember you can bring two carry ons because their are two of you. If you have one use a sling to carry your son and put his car seat in/on his stroller. Check in your baggage and wheel you stroller all the way to the gate. When you board the plane ask them to check your stroller at the gate that way you will have it when you first get off the plane. I would check with the airline you are flying just to make sure this is still allowed. If you can't bring the stroller to the gate or do not have a sling of some sort get ask someone to call on of the drivers for you the will load everything up and take you to your gate(just remember to tip). As far as passports if you are leaving the country everyone must have a passport even infants. this is a really good site that should answer most of your questions http://www.travelswithbaby.com/Trip%20Planner/Air_FAQ.htm
Hope this helps.
C.H. answers from Philadelphia on July 25, 2007
Hi! I just traveled with my 14 month old. I'll try to answer most of your questions based on my experience. She didn't have her own seat... she flew on my lap. I almost wished I had brought the carseat though because I think she would've slept better in it. You can transport the convertible carseat on your back. I saw a lot of people carrying them back pack style with straps. Not sure where to get the straps though. You can bring the stroller all the way up to the plane. Before boarding, you leave the stroller with them and they'll put it on the bottom of the plane for you. I stashed all my bags under the stroller so I didn't have to carry everything. I think the letter from the other parent is only if you're taking them out of the country... but I could be wrong. You don't need a passport if you're staying in the States. Other advice - a bit of Benadryl (sp?) 30 mins before the flight will help him stay calm and get a little sleepy. My doc approved this. Also, I got prescription ear drops for her that helped with the pressure. Bring lots of snacks and a sippy cup and encourage drinking during take off. Bring a few favorite toys to entertain, etc. HTH!