Flying for the First Time in Years.

Updated on April 21, 2014
B.P. asks from Columbia Station, OH
22 answers

We will be flying across the country in a week and I am trying to get things ready to go (tickets are already done and so is rental car) and also get an idea of what to plan for. We will have a two hour layover in Chicago before we continue on our flight and I just want to check with you mom's if you ever had an issue with checked luggage not making on the next flight or something. We will be flying b southwest and bought the early check in and I will be printing our passes as early as possible the day befor. This way we are set and ready to go. Is there any advice you mom's have for boarding with them? Or even any advice for the flight at all. We will get to the airport around 630 and our flight leaves at 850. So we will have plenty of time to check our bags and find our gate before we have to board. It will be us and our daughter she has never flown and it's been many years since either of us have like 10+ yrs. I will be taking my tablet with me for books. And we will have my daughter's leap pad and a few small books for her and a small stuffed animal for her for the flight. The second leg will be around 3 hours. The first a little more then an hour. Any advice is welcome!

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So What Happened?

She will have her own seat as she is 5 and way too large for a lap seat and too old. We will also be gate checking her car seat as well.

Wild we will be flying from Cleveland to Chicago then to Phoenix.

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answers from Appleton on

I flew from Appleton Wisconsinto Houston with 2 changes in April 2012 my luggege was there to greet me no issues at all. But I am a just in case kinda personso I took a carry on with a change of clothes in my carry on. If you are concerned at all at least pack undies and socks in a carry on.
I have noticed most people have dark colored luggage (black dark blue or green) mine is red with bright pink tags. Makes them very easy to find on the carosel. Oh and everyone uses either yellow rope or duct tape to mark their luggage.

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answers from Anchorage on

My boys were born while we were stationed in the UK, so they have been flying since birth, long long flights. It really is not nearly as bad as you first think it will be. If she is sitting on your lap request a bulk head (although southwest is the one that does the weird boarding by number thing so that might not be an option with them). It seems you really have everything thought out well, and your flights are very short, so I would not worry at all.

As for bags, in all the times I have flown (lived overseas for 10 years and now in AK for the past 7, flying home at least every other year) I have only ever had my bags not arrive with me one time, and I knew that would be the case before I got on the second plane. There was a delay getting into Chicago due to windy conditions and I missed my connecting flight to London. Since I was traveling alone with a lap infant they booked me on the next flight out to London (everyone else had to go standby) but told me up front that due to the last minute change and the very short layover my bags would not make it and would be on the next flight out after that one. Once they arrived in London they delivered them to my home (about a 2 hour drive from London).

Added: as for the shoes that will depend on the airport. Last time I flew with my boys they both had to remove their shoes, sweatshirts, and belts.

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answers from New York on

Over two hours seems way too early to me. I guess we fly a fair amount so I don't worry so much but only thing I'd say is you probably don't need so much time. And overall don't worry. Bags usually make it just fine and you're really not going all the way cross country so it's not that long flying time. At 5 your daughter can watch a DVD or on an iPad and will be excited to look out the window. The stop over is a good time to eat. It'll go quickly.

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answers from Los Angeles on

A two hour layover is plenty of time for your bags to make it to the next flight. While there aren't any guarantees, it shouldn't be a problem.

My advice is to pack a change of clothes in your carry on bag for every member of the family. Since your daughter has never flown, you have no idea if she will get sick during the flight and the last thing you want is for her to throw up all over you and not have a change of clothes.

Bring lots of snacks, too, especially since Southwest doesn't really serve food. If she has something special that she has to sleep with, make sure you bring that on board with you too. Keep it in the carry on on the unlikely chance your checked luggage doesn't make it.

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answers from Houston on

I hate flying now. If it's under 5 hours and I have time, I'm driving straight through.

Advice to you, lots of snacks and games that ate only played or eaten on board. If you allow the snacks and games while waiting, the child will bore of them inflight.

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answers from Austin on

I've flown on Southwest all the time.

There is no assigned seating. You choose your seats as you board the plane. Getting the early bird check-in will help you get onboard with the earlier groups, so you have a better chance of getting a decent seat.

Where to sit? That is personal preference... I like a window seat, so I can see things out the window. If you want to be able to see things (depends on what time of day you are flying), don't sit by the wings.

Some people like the "bulkhead" seats since you get a bit more leg room, but if you are at the bulkhead, you have to put ALL your carryon stuff in the overhead bins... that will be real inconvenient for getting things for your daughter.

You can take snacks on the plane, but you can't take liquids (like sodas, filled water bottles, etc) through security. You can, however, usually take an EMPTY water bottle and fill it when you get through security.

There shouldn't be any trouble with your bags making the connecting flight, since it seems that you have 2 hours between flights. I've had shorter connections and things make it just fine.

I would suggest during your layover, find an outlet and re-charge any batteries you need for portable electronics. Most of the gate areas have a number of outlets handy for this purpose. Some of the seats have USB charging ports in the arm.

Have fun!

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answers from Minneapolis on

Bring a backpack for your daughter to carry her own things, and bring one for yourself. If you want a purse, I always put it inside the backpack, to make carrying easier. Bring a sweater/sweatshirt or light jacket because the plane always gets cold as some point during the flight. Bring dry snacks from home, and an empty waterbottle. Books and small toys are good.

I've flown many times and only once did my bag not make it to my destination until a day later. If you have any necessities, like medications, put those in your backpack as well, and carry them with you.

Then relax. Flying isn't terrible if you arrive early (I refuse to get to an airport more than 1 hour early, so sometimes I cut it a bit short but I've never missed a flight) and just expect to wait in lines. Make it an adventure for your daughter.

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answers from Minneapolis on

Add an etch-a-sketch for her. Bring plenty of extra snacks, kids seem to get hungry when bored. Pretzels and protein bars are easy. During your layover, let her get plenty of walking in. Have a good trip, 5 year olds are not hard to travel with.

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answers from Washington DC on

well, you'll find it much changed and not nearly as much fun as it used to be. but you're very well-organized, and your daughter is old enough to enjoy the exciting aspects.
southwest is what i usually fly (their rates and routes are the best for where i usually go) but geez louise, comfort is not even on their radar. fortunately your flights are short. layovers are annoying, but when you're jammed onto a southwest flight they're actually a relief.
i've only ever had one occasion where my luggage arrived after i did but it's not uncommon. however, it's nothing you can prepare for. no point in fretting about it beforehand. mark it clearly and trust they'll do their jobs.
printing your boarding pass early for southwest is clutch. with a young 'un you want a choice of seats so you want to be in the A boarding group. i'm so determined to get a window seat that i pay $25 extra to get in the A group.
a leap pad, a good book and a soft friend are exactly what she'll need. i'd throw in a few snacks, and a blanket.
have a great trip!
:) khairete

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answers from Dallas on

We fly Southwest and American a lot. I guess because we do fly so often, we would not consider getting to the airport that early. We typically arrive about an hour before our flight.

We do have passes with American and SW so we go through the shorter lines at TSA. The only hold up I see at TSA regularly are the folks who are not seasoned travelers and they are not prepared to remove the laptop, remove shoes, belt, etc and move on through the line. ALL liquids, etc in Ziploc bag placed in the bin as well. Just don't be fumbling with a bunch of stuff in this line and you'll be fine. Know before you go so you will be prepared.

We don't pay the extra to board early on SW. Hubby has the pass for that so we all board together. Up until last year, he had the companion pass and I flew for free where ever he went as long as we flew together. I print boarding passes 24 hours before the flight is to take off.

Your first leg of the flight is not long at all and your child may or may not even take interest in the things she has brought with her. I do agree that she take her own backpack. The flight itself will be an adventure for her since she has never flown. She'll probably use some of her things on the 2nd leg of the flight due to the length.

The SW crews are usually very nice and easy to work with if you need anything. Just don't hold up lines with carry on bags and or fumbling around with your stuff. Hubby flies to/from Houston at least once a month for years and there was 1 time his bag did not make the flight and they delivered it to our home that night when it did arrive. We like SW and they are efficiently run.

Good luck and have a great trip.

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answers from Dallas on

The earliest you can print out your boarding pass is 24 hours ahead. If you're afraid of luggage not making it, pack a MUST HAVE carry on. They only have drinks and small snacks, so pack munchies for everyone. I think you can take yogurt tubes, cheese sticks - freeze the yogurt tubes and they'll keep the cheese sticks cold.

There are no assigned seats. Take a look at the plane map online - there is a row near the front - around aisle 7 or so - that is a wing seat and is a tiny bit wider than the rest for some reason. Other than that, the seats are what they are. If you're boarding with kids, you'll board after the A section is done, but before the B section boards, so you will have no trouble finding a row for yourselves. If you get an A boarding pass, then just load up according to your number. If she has a favorite small blanket or whatever, that's always nice. Headphones will be good cause the plane is loud. Gum, or lollipops, or something for her to suck/chew during takeoff and landing will make her more comfortable.

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answers from Los Angeles on

many airlines will give you priority boarding with kids but I think its a mistake. I want my kid up and about for as long as I can. Usually one of us will board immediately and one will wait until the very last second with the littles. Take your time there is always congestion in the aisles. Communicate with crew and they will make sure to flag you down to get on board on time. Bring along a hard candy or gum to help with the ears and the altitude change for BOTH take off and landing. When the captain tells the attendants to be in their seats for landing get your candy/gum in your mouth. Or you can hit up your ped for ear numbing drops. We did the drops when our girls were little but now we just use hard candy or gum. Speak with the attendants and take your l.o. potty at the last minute before boarding. Hopefully you will have a smooth ride but imagine taking your little one potty in turbulence. Pack plenty of snacks to keep busy as well. Enjoy your flight!

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answers from Washington DC on


The Early Bird Check-in for Southwest - will check you in 24 hours in advance. That's the earliest you can print your boarding passes.

You are flying out of Columbus and stopping in Chicago??!? Oh man...that's a messed up flight...

I've not had a problem with bags missing. I would make sure that I have a strap or something that makes my luggage stand out from the mom made my sister a yarn pom-pom - so there is no mistaking her luggage for someone else's!!

For your daughter? If you are stressed - she will be stressed.

Don't bring too much stuff. You will end up carrying it. So make sure she has a carry-on backpack that her stuff will fit in. The Gap used to have AWESOME small kid back-packs....something like this:

Prepare her for the flight by telling her what to expect....waiting at the gate and sitting in the plane. Getting off the plane - going to the bathroom and then grabbing a snack (or whatever you are going to do) and tell her she can sleep on the flight. Does she have a neck pillow? If so - then make sure that fits in her back pack.

Make sure you have battery back up for her leap pad.


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answers from Chicago on

Do yourself a favor and buy a simple carseat you can just check in a bag. In fact, they are making this amazing booster you can blow up. It's a medal winner in safety, adn it takes no space. I can't recall the name because I'm a bit drunk, but PM if you want the name. I'm taking two with me to ireland, for my 4 and 6 year olds.

In fact, my advice is two-fold: take less than you think you need and take suckers or gum for take off and landing, The hardest part of traveling is all the stuff. So take less of it. Otherwise, have fun!

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answers from Atlanta on

Less is more. Make sure that everything you bring for your daughter fits in a backpack that she can carry.

Flying on Southwest - Wild Woman is right - the earliest you can check in is 24 hours prior. The Early Bird check-in will allow you to hopefully get in the "A" boarding group - which will be the first group that boards the plane - so you can get seats together. I would choose bulkhead seats as you get the most leg room.

Wear comfortable clothes. Shoes you can easily take off and put back on to get through security. Check out the TSA website.

Children under 12 will not have to remove shoes or belts.

If you are taking your daughter's favorite stuffed animal? it MUST go through the XRAY machine. So let her know in advance.

Pack snacks for her to eat. NO LIQUIDS. You can buy those once you go through security. You can bring an empty water bottle or sport bottle and fill it up AFTER you get through security in the water fountains around the airport.

I've never had a problem with lost luggage either. Like Wild said, make something to have your bag stand out, we have the neon Samonsite straps you can buy at Target like this:

Also helps with our boys luggage. We don't fly often because traveling by air for a family of six is not cheap.

And like others have said, RELAX!!! Enjoy!

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answers from Pittsburgh on

Check out the Cleveland and Chicago airports for amenities. Many airports have child play areas. So you can get to the airport and through security, then go to the play area for your child to run around and burn off energy before going to the gate.

What we do is get there really early. 1 parent+kids go to the play area (we fly out of Pittsburgh, and it has one). The other parent goes to buy food and drinks for the flights since you can't bring drinks through security. Nothing worse than a starving kid on the plane and no food because they ran out of for-purchase food before they got to your row of the plan. Then we either meet at the play area or the gate, depending on the time.

Always take 1 change of clothes for each person and medications in your carry one. That way, if your luggage doesn't make it on time, you at least have something to wear besides your travelling clothes.

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answers from Albany on

Omg, couple weeks ago I flew for the first time since 1999. I flew Southwest business class to St Louis, via Chicago Midway. I was nervous too.

Even with slight delays, the entire experience was awesome. There is no assigned seating, but with an "A" boarding pass you get on first, off first, and you don't have to wait in line. I checked my bag once I realized Southwest doesn't charge, in fact at Midway, they walk around with their little computer and check your bag wherever you happen to be sitting.

They also had wifi and TV on all 4 planes, 737s.

Furthermore, you get a coupon for a free alcoholic beverage with business class, I had several on each flight and wasn't charged for any.

I didn't have kids with me, but many people did. Southwest does a really nice job tending to the kids, and it'll be nice to sit in the front of the plane.

In fact, I had such a pleasant experience, I'd do it again right away, except, um, yeah, it's a little pricey.

Have fun, no worries!


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answers from Los Angeles on

Just weigh your bags--double check the bag weight limit. I think it's 50 lbs.
The liquids rule for carry on bags, too.

Your daughter won't have to do the shoes off security check.
Just allow plenty of time.

My most recent experiences confirm that travel nowadays is a grind. My husband flies ALL the time. Don't know how he does it...

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answers from Abilene on

Be sure and let the steward/stewardess know it's the kid's first flight. They allowed my son to meet the captains, see all the gauges and he was given a wing pin from the captain. It made my son very happy and he loved the cockpit area. The captain spoke to him both coming in and leaving.

Don't worry about your luggage. They do a great job there too. My friend who flies often with 4 kids packs a bag with new drawing pencils, small pad, new coloring book, etc. you could print out coloring pages if your daughter enjoys those.

Security does ask them to tell them their names so I prepared my kids for that to speak clearly and loud enough to hear (my son is shy). You might go over that in advance. I told my son they just want to make sure someone doesn't get left behind or are on the wrong plane.

We always wear slip on easy shoes (kids wear flip flops and I wear sandals) so it's easier. They don't make kids younger than 10 take their shoes off.

Have a ball and safe travels!

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answers from Springfield on

Your layover at Chicago Midway, right? If memory serves, (and it might not) Southwest does not fly through Chicago O'Hare. If your layover is at Midway, that is a fairly small airport. It shouldn't take you long at all to find your connecting gate. If your layover were at O'Hare, I would say 2 hours isn't really that long and you'll want to find your gate right away (just to be safe) and not wander too far. But Midway is very small, in comparison.

Once you land, find your gate, get your bearings and then you can explore a bit.

I haven't flown for about 6 years, and I know things have changed since then. But I used to fly quite often. I can only think of 2 times when my bags didn't arrive. The first time I was staying with my parents, and they delivered my bags to my parents' house. The second time I was leaving the next morning on a business trip, and they delivered my bags to the hotel where I was staying. That second time I was fairly certain my bags would not be at the airport, as my first flight was delayed and I was running to catch my connecting flight. In fact, they called my name over the speakers telling me to report to the gate. I made the flight, but my bags didn't.

By and large, try to relax. If anything does go wrong, the airlines will help you figure it out. They are used to dealing with delayed flights, connecting flights, lost bags, etc. It's a good idea to have a change of clothes and some toiletries in your carry on, just to be safe. I usually like to at least have my tooth brush, some deodorant and a change of underwear :-)

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answers from Los Angeles on

I fly long flights (8 hours) with my three boys sometimes. Definitely have her carry her own backpack. My little boys do it, and it makes travelling so much easier. I also load movies and games on iPads or phones. This keeps them happy and occupied for ages. While I take a few sweets on board, I prefer to purchase food/drink in flight to save carrying extra stuff around. As i don't purchase tickets with meals, I simply choose snacks on board and pay with credit card. Make sure your credit card is easy to get to.

Honestly, after travelling with three little boys, it would be a doddle to travel with one little girl!

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answers from Washington DC on

Pack anything you will absolutely need in your carry on. Like medicines and a change of clothes and your keys and ID.

Be in the gate 30 mins ahead of time and DO NOT LEAVE. People miss flights that way. I just watched a marathon of Airline (a reality show based on SW) and they overbook flights on purpose so as not to lose money. Be aware of your flight times and boarding.

I just flew with our 5 yr old and we had no problems with anything. We took some books and two very quiet toys, but she was more fascinated with the safety manuals. Go figure. We also rolled up a blanket for her and stuffed it under the handles of my carry on where it didn't take up a lot of room, but was nice to have.

Prep for the TSA. Small liquids in quart bags for everyone, and have them out where they can be seen. Kids under 13 don't need to remove shoes, but you do. Etc. That is probably your long pole. You also need to know if getting to your gate might involve a shuttle bus, which can add a delay. I agree with the other posters that more time is better than less. You never know. I once had to run through Heathrow with my not yet 3 yr old in the stroller because we got a trainee at the baggage counter and she took Had it not been for the family security line (not so common in the US), we would not have made our flight. I actually sent my DH ahead of us because he's a runner. Or the kid needs to pee. Or one of the bags is too heavy, etc. I would MUCH rather be leisurely than in a hurry. One or more of the airports may also have a kid play area, so look for that. My DD really enjoyed the kiddie area in Philly.

Also, find out how meals are handled and if you need to buy in advance, buy to take on the plane or buy on the plane. We either had to bring food or buy what they sold. Only drinks were free.

P.S. In referenced to Julia G's comment - the Bubble Bum is very handy. But it is NOT rated for airlines. We took one for my DD (who is otherwise in a harnessed seat at home) and it was handy for taxis and our rental car, but she did not use it on the plane and she prefers the regular car seat. If they will be traveling a lot by car and have the room, they may want their child's regular seat. The Bubble Bum is for a child 4-11 who weighs at least 40lbs. If they are taking a standard car seat, I suggest the investment in a bag to go over it, to keep it clean on the flight.

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