Flying with Babies and Small Children

By Kathy Chin Leong

For four years, I traveled solo on business throughout the country. I crammed a week's worth of luggage into one suit bag, breezed on and off planes, and jumped into my rental car without a hitch.
When babies came along, preparing to fly required a battle strategy with a litany of backup plans. Now my children are 14 and 12, and we have logged over 20,000 miles as a family. While I can't promise a stress-free flight, here are some tips that should help you prepare for your journey with your little ones.

BABY CONCERNS

  • Pick a flight that leaves around your child's naptime so he won't be squirming so much.
  • Consider flying on a date that is not in the middle of the tourist season so your plane, hopefully, will not be packed.
  • Tell the airline personnel you have an infant and see if they can book you in the front bulkhead seats. British Airways, for example, has a baby seat attached to the wall that flips out. If you have toddlers, make sure the first bulkhead row has armrests that flip up, so they can stretch on your lap to sleep.
  • If your child is under 2, he/she can fly free if he sits on a parent's lap. You can still bring your car seat on board and use it if there is a spare seat next to you.
  • Find out if your airplane has baby changing tables in the lavatory. If not, be sure you have your diaper bag with the changing pad on hand. Ask the attendants if there is a discrete area in the cabin for diapering.
  • Find out about the carry-on requirements for your airline. American Airlines will allow parents to bring aboard a diaper bag, safety seat, and umbrella stroller on the plane in addition to their personal carry-ons.
  • If you plan to fly with your baby, ask your doctor when it is advisable to fly. American Airlines recommends a baby be at least a week old, and it will not fly a baby less than two days old.
  • Bring all your baby food, liquids, and bottles. Do not assume the airline will have baby food or paraphernalia on hand.
  • Ask the airline if the plane you will be boarding has facilities for warming up bottles. If not, have them stick the bottle into a pot of hot water in the back.
  • Keep kids and babies hydrated during the trip. Bring bottled water with you.
  • Nurse or bottle feed baby during takeoff.
  • Bring along a medicine kit in your carry-on bag.


INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL

  • If you plan to fly internationally, find out about the immunization requirements. Ask your doctor if your child is ready for overseas immunizations.
  •  For extra long flights, consider a two-legged flight. You can spend a night in an airport hotel, get up the next day and continue the journey.

TODDLERS/PRESCHOOLERS

  • Bring out new or special toys that are given during strategic fussy times.
  • Test the temperature of the food before your child eats because it may be too hot.
  •  Bring a sick bag and nausea meds in case your child can't handle the airplane motion. Sometimes sipping Coke or sucking on a sour candy also works to counteract the effects.
  • Sign your kids up for frequent flyer programs once they start flying.
  • If you purchase a seat for your child, ask the airline about child discounts.
  • Call the airline ahead of time to see if they have special meals for children. British Airways has a Skyflyers children's program, and parents can request a kids meal at least 24 hours in advance.
  • Bring your child's birth certificate, photo, and passport to the ticket counter for identification. Call the airline to find out if you need any other form of ID.
  • Get on the airplane first with all your baggage and kid paraphernalia. Plan to get off last.

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