BOSTON – As we head into peak summer travel season, families across the U.S. are gearing up for their annual vacation. For many, that means entering the bold new world of flying with kids. Whether you’re a well seasoned traveler or a newbie, traveling with the kids in tow is a whole other ballpark. To help new parents (or even parents looking for new ideas) manage the ups and downs of traveling with their tots, the experts at Cheapflights.com, the leader in finding and publishing online travel deals, have assembled a full line-up of proven tips for every stage of the trip.
Cheapflights’ Air travel tips for new parents offers useful insights on everything from managing the airport and the plane with car seats, diaper bags and strollers to when and why a bassinet might make sense to what are best snacks to pack. Bonus: the guide includes a list of airlines’ policies for traveling with babies and toddlers on major North American carriers, ensuring you know what to expect before you board.
And, since there’s nothing like kids to help all your advanced planning and research get lost in the shuffle, the team also included a handy graphic of the ten commandments of family travel to serve as your in-journey guide.
Here’s a tiny sampling of tips from the key sections of this guide that just might save your sanity (and that of your fellow passenger):
- Pick the best time to travel with an infant – Keeping your child on a routine that’s similar to their regular daily schedule lessens the odds of crankiness and fussiness. Avoiding early morning or late night flights may work for some parents, while others may find that is the best time to fly. Avoiding peak travel times will potentially give you more space on board and fewer people to avoid should your child have a meltdown. Non-peak times include late mornings and Saturdays. Depending on the length of the flight and where you are headed, it might be advantageous to schedule nap time during your flight time. As Christine Stevens, a Certified Sleep Consultant at Sleepy Tots Consulting, suggests, “do whatever you can to get your child to sleep. Sleep rules go out the window and it’s more like a ‘do what you have to do’ scenario.”
- Packing tips for traveling with infants and toddlers – Lap infants don’t typically get a carry-on or checked baggage allowance, so you’ll have to combine your baby’s stuff with your own. Airlines typically let passengers flying with infants and children check strollers and car seats for no additional cost (a few airlines may even let you bring these items on board as carry-ons too). Infants and children with their own seats typically get the same baggage allowance as adults. No matter what the baggage situation is, be sure to pack as light as possible. It may also pay to shell out a little extra to check bags rather than wrestle with keeping track of both carry-ons and kids at the same time. If you’re traveling solo, packing light and checking bags to free up your hands is ideal.
Tips for travel day
What to remember before you board:
- Check out the departure airport’s website ahead of time to see what amenities are offered – from nursing pods to family bathrooms to restaurants and children’s activities.
- At the gate, let your children walk around and let the baby crawl. This is the time for kids to use up some of that extra energy before they have to sit for a while.
Inflight tips and tricks
- Accidents/spills: Drinks spill, food falls over – especially during unexpected turbulence. Keep calm and carry on. If you have forgotten wipes, ask a flight attendant for napkins or a wet cloth. “Our son once got air sick, and we forgot an extra pair of pants. I had an extra shirt so we fashioned a pair of pants for him out of a shirt,” said Jessica Moran, an expatriate who has moved eight times with her two children and travels frequently with them as well.
- Bad behavior: If you think your child might act up or get fussy, speak up. “Pre-apologize to everyone around you for your potentially fussy/tired children,” said Moran, who notes other passengers are normally quite understanding and helpful.
What to remember once you land in your destination
- If you gate checked your stroller, you can pick it up right as you get off the aircraft.
- If you’re making a connection, speak to the ground staff about amenities that can help, from the use of luggage carts to transport carry-on items to shuttle service between terminals. Some airlines have staff that will help passengers get from gate to gate.
- Check out the arrival airport’s website ahead of time to see what amenities are offered – from nursing pods to family bathrooms to the location of hotel shuttles and car rental desks.
From what to pack (hint: wrap up presents for kids to open midflight) to solutions to dealing with a cranky or fidgety tot to navigating security, Cheapflights has gathered up key pieces of advice from the hardiest of road warriors – parents of small children. Other tips include how to choose the best airplane seat; planning ahead for a bassinet; knowing which travel documents and vaccinations are required; considering travel insurance; tips for travelling solo with kids and advice for parents of children with special needs. More tips for the travel day include getting to the airport; navigating security; and tips for before and during your flight and once you land.