Since Poppa Behr works at the airport and we get free flight and travel more than your average Behr's it has been suggested more than once that I write a "how-to" on traveling with small children. Madeleine has traveled over 30,000 miles in her two years of life and Juliette just 3,000. Sorry Pet. Kyle also sees things from "the inside" so he's "wicked smahht". That's Bostonian for "knows what is happening." So here it is people, the Momma Behr's Guide to Travling with your Cubs.
Let's go somewhere!
You have some moneys, vacation is all you ever wanted, you have to get away. Or maybe there is a wedding or a birthday or a reunion. Whatever the case may be, you are booking plane tickets. If you are like most of us you are searching for the lowest price to get you from point A to point B.
1. Do not book through a travel site.
If something goes wrong with the flight, if it's canceled etc, the airline will not be able to issue yo a refund. When you book through an airline they can issue you a refund then and there and you can use that money to book another flight. With a travel site it's a whole big process and you won't get your money back for a long time. And no matter how hard you yell at the poor airline employee, that will not change. So your flight is canceled and you don't have the money to book another one. What we do is often search through a travel site, find the best deal, and then leave the travel site and book through the airline offering that deal. Win-win.
2. Go a day early
If you have to be at a wedding Saturday morning or if your cruise leaves Monday afternoon, don't get in day of. I repeat IF YOU ABSOLUTELY HAVE TO BE SOMEWHERE DO NOT TRAVEL DAY OF. Flights get delayed and even canceled all the time. Weather, mechanical issues, people just trying to mess with your minds for lolz, you may not make it. And then you are the person telling my husband with big crocodile tears that you just. have. to. get. there. today. Well, you won't. And it isn't his fault either. It really stinks but sometimes these things just happen. So why risk it?
It's almost here!
Your trip is almost here and you are so excited slash nervous out of your mind you can't even stand it. Breathe. Grab a glass of wine. Make a list.
1. What are you packing?
The big items
When we travel we are usually renting a car. So the first thing on the list is the car seats. We don't want babies chillin in the back all willy nilly and free. Car seats can be checked for free either at check in or can be gate checked before you get on your flight. There are advantages to both. If you drop them at check in you don't have to lug those heavy things around the airport and through security. That's what we always do. However some people are scared of them being lost so they bring them with them so they know they will be loaded right onto the plane and right off after the flight is over. I've never had a car seat lost (30,000 miles of kid travel) but it may happen. So it's up to you which way you go. They will also check strollers and travel cribs as well. We rarely ever take our travel crib with us and when we do bring a stroller we bring it through security and gate check it. Sometimes we just leave the stroller behind but it depends on the trip and if we will need it when we get there. Disney, yes. Grandmommy's, no.
We try to cram our things into as few suitcases as possible because we NEVER take them on the plane with us. So. not. worth. it. Kiddos can be hard to wrangle on and off a plane. I'm not sure how the logistics of carrying a little one and dragging a suitcase would work. Wait. It wouldn't. We pay the bag fees. Yes, it's annoying. No, complaining won't get you out of it. We try to get everything to fit into one big (but NOT oversized suitcase, cause oversized fees will cost more than a second bag) but usually we end up with two. Just factor bag fees into your travel budget. I bring as little on the plan with me as possible. Which brings me to...
The little items
We bring one big diaper bag and a back pack and that is it. In those bags we have the essentials. Wallet, cameras, cell phones and chargers, keys, diapers, wipes, a nursing cover, a couple toys, a book, a couple (non crumbly) snack, juice cups, a pacifier, baby food. That's it. No laptops, nothing that isn't 100 percent necessary. Those things take up room, add weight, and make security and essential baby taking care of activities more difficult. When traveling with kids you want to be as simple as possible. Your focus should be completely on your kiddos and carrying too much with you will hinder that. Put it in the suitcase and check it away til you get to your destination. You'll thank me later.
Baby foods, formula, and pumped milk ARE allowed through security but you have to take them out and tell the TSA agents what they are. They may have to inspect them, it's the law, they aren't being mean. They'll get in trouble if they don't.
Baby carriers are fantastic for travel. Madeleine hated her's but it's the only way I travel with Juliette. However, it IS the law that they be taken out of them when you go through security and during take off and landing. The law. Please don't give the TSA and airline agents a hard time about it. Many of them have kids and know how it is but there is nothing they can do about it. It is there job to uphold the safety laws for airline travel. It may stink to wake a sleeping baby tucked in her Ergo but there is no way around it.
2. Check in the day before.
It will save you hassle and allow you to keep the seats you reserved. That's about all I have on that.
The big day!
It's finally here and you are super pumped and super organized. What else is there to remember?
1. Get there early.
If you would normally get to the airport an hour before takeoff when you didn't have kids, add a half hour onto that. Basically, the rule is think of the time you will need and add a half hour to that number. Traffic, parking, taking the suitcases out of the car, taking the kids out of the car, taking the car seats out of the car, walking into the airport, waiting in line, dropping your stuff, getting through security, diaper changes, potty breaks for the older kids, potty breaks for the mommy and the daddy, food, coffee, nursing the baby. There can be a lot of things to do on the day you leave for a trip and it all takes longer with kiddos. Give yourself plenty of time because they do close the gates 10 minutes prior to departure and if you are not there, they will leave. They will not wait for you.
2. Be organized getting checking in and getting through security.
Make sure you have your IDs out, your tickets out, and your liquids in a little plastic baggy all ready to take out. It's such a headache when you don't for you and those around you.
3. Be nice!
The people at the airline are there to help. But if you are mean to them, they will do as little as they can for you and still keep their jobs. Chances are, they did not make you late, cause the delay on your flight, personally lose your bag, or over pack your suitcase causing an overweight fee. Yelling at them will not help. As I said, a lot of them have kids and will be more than willing to answer your questions, point you in the right direction, and put the gate check tag on your stroller. If you treat them like sub par humans they will ignore you, note in your reservation that you are a jerk, and then come home and tell your wife about the jerk with the kids. If you are nice they will go out of their way to be nice to you and their wife will get to hear stories instead of the nice people with the cute kids. Please. I want to hear the cute kid stories. Just treat people with respect. I repeat, once again, yelling will get you nowhere.
Off you go into the wild blue yonder!
1. Get on board
When they announce boarding will soon begin make sure your things and your children are ready to pick up and carry onto the plane. Everyone should have peed and your bags should be all zipped up. Make sure your gate checks are tagged and ready to go. It's often helpful to find the gate agent when you get to you gate and tell them that you are traveling with small children and ask if there is any information you should be aware of. The gate agent will help you out. People traveling with young children are usually boarded towards the beginning of the process. That gives you more time to settle your family so the plane can leave on time. Respect that people have connections and do your part to make sure this can happen. When they call your boarding zone, get a move on. Find your seats, sit down, and put the bags away. Explain to young children traveling in their own seat about the seat belt, make sure they know what is about to happen so nothing scares them. Give small children something to suck on for their ears and perhaps a soft toy to hold. Listen to any instructions the flight attendant gives and follow them. They are for your safety. Do this and take off should go as smoothly as possible.
2. Don't be "those people"
Most people, we've found, are very understanding of children on a plane. It may be annoying to hear a baby cry but most people seem to give supportive glances and reassuring comments. They've been there, they understand. This stops when you stop doing your job. If you stop trying to comfort the baby, people get pissed off. If you let your toddler kick the seat in front of them while you leaf through your magazine, people get pissed off. If the kids are screaming at each other and you don't try to shush them, people get pissed off. If they are pelted with cheerios.... you guessed it, people get pissed off. And rightly so. Your children have just as much of a right to be on that plane as anyone else but it's your responsibility to try your hardest to get them to behave. Of course it involves good parenting at home and good organization for your trip, but kids can fly without incident. I've had the perfect silent angel baby and the one with the spinning head and the sixes on her forehead. It happens to the best of us but it's all about how you handle it.
With that in mind, clean up after yourself! An airplane is not a trash can so don't leave your dirty diapers, your napkins, your barf bags, your snotty tissues, your wipes, your food, your juice boxes lying on the floor for someone else to pick up. Set a good example for your children. Clean up your own darn mess. The nice flight attendants come around about eight times with a trash bag so just toss it then. If their timing isn't convenient, hit the tiny button on the ceiling and they will come back. Teach your kids good manners. I know you may not be able to get every last crumb but if you try it's a good thing.
The flight is over!
1. Look around
Make sure you aren't forgetting baby's favorite pacifier or juice cup. Take the couple of seconds to look under the seat and you will save yourself the heart ache.
2. Get your things
Often times car seats, strollers, etc are not put on the belt but are sent to baggage claim. If they don't appear on the belt, remain calm and check in baggage. They are probably there.
Trust me... after traveling with kiddos, you've earned it!!!
If anyone has any other questions, please feel free to ask!