Yes, it is possible to travel to distant places with your kids. And yes, it is challenging and can be daunting.
When I got pregnant, I told my husband that we needed to travel as much as possible before the baby arrived; I was thinking it would be so impossible to travel with a little nutter. But when baby Nicholas arrived, we just kept on going. Then baby Arianna came and we said, “this is it, traveling with 2 babies is just too much”. Then again, old habits die hard.
That said we’ve managed to enjoy all our travels with our kids and learn a lot along the way. So let me share with you some important things you need to consider when flying with babies/ toddlers.
Documentation: While there is no standard age limit to fly; commonly airlines allow a 2 day old baby to board as long as they have clearance from a doctor while other airlines follow a 7 day rule. If you travel internationally, you need to get passports for the kids. The time it takes to a get your passport depends on how you submit your application and every country have different processing. Also, check your passport expiration date. Most countries require that a traveler’s passport be valid for at least six months beyond the dates of the trip. The easy way is to call a travel counselor and they can surely help you.
If you are traveling with your child without your spouse, make sure to double check with your travel counselor or airline agent if you need a signed notarized affidavit from one parent.
Ticketing: You don’t need to buy a seat for your child under 2-year-old, but you must inform the airline that you are traveling with an infant on your lap. Taxes & fees may apply to infants held in the adult’s lap for international travel because they add weight to the plane; they usually pay up to 50% of the fare. You can call the airline if you have any questions; most airlines are happy to assist you with anything you need. If you are traveling with a child under 2; ask for a bulkhead seat for extra space and if you have a small baby, you can ask for a sky cot/ baby bassinet. Usually, these are free of charge if available.
Airlines do overbook and compensation rules differ by airline and country. So, I advise reserving a seat in advance even it’s an undesirable seat. Some countries have stricter laws in compensating passengers on overbook flights.
Baggage: Always double check baggage allowance; airlines differ and at times even differ on flight segments. Learn more about the carry-on and checked bag policies and don’t hesitate to call for any questions. If you’re checking in bags, be sure you are familiar with cutoff times for bag drop-off. Follow check-in recommendations and consider that you’ll need a little more time when traveling with kids. As best as possible inform yourself of security checkpoint procedures at the airport(s) as well as the various options for obtaining boarding passes and more (international vs domestic). Also, if you’re planning to shop abroad, know the personal allowance for customs and possible sales tax refund system if any in the visiting countries.
Packing: Pack smart and travel light. It’s an art and it’s a skill you can acquire over time. Seasoned travelers can give you a long list of its benefits, but I am giving you two.1. Ease. 2. You can shop and bring new things home.
And if you decide to bring a stroller and car seat, make sure to double check with the airline the type of equipment you can check at the gate or carry on board.
Bring favorite toys and books and of course tablet/iPad (bring headphone specifically for your kids). Please don’t bring those noisy toys; other passengers need a little bit of peace. Don’t forget pacifier, comfort blanket or a stuffed animal. Pack enough diapers and extra clothes and it’s always a good idea to bring the kids favorite snacks on board. My kids love to munch in flight; it’s kinda like their pacifier.
Day of Flying
This is the day. Unfortunately, most parents got too worried and got too intense. First thing first, arrive at the airport with extra time to spare. Believe me; it takes a lot of time with little people – from check-in to boarding.
- International travel usually requires a minimum of 2hrs before flight time. But it can be 3-4hrs in advance depending on the airline, origin, and destination. Please, double check airline and the rules.
Home to Airport: If possible, take a cab from your house. The cab drops you to the terminal. Fast. Easy. Less hassle.
Check-In Counter: Have all the important docs ready and don’t forget to tag your luggage and stroller. Your name, email address and mobile number are more than enough information.
Customs / Security: And now, getting through the security, everyone knows that this is one or maybe the most frustrating part of travel. These are some of the important things to consider:
- Get all the IDs ready for the TSA agent.
- Parents, please dress up comfortably. This is not the time for heels and dress couture. And dress your children appropriately too; makes them a happy flyer (dressing up for air travel is an art, I’ll be writing more about this next).
- Please take note that infants and children need to be out of the stroller or carrier before going through the metal detector. Strollers and baby carriers can go through the X-ray machine with your bags but make sure to fold it properly. Good news, no need to take shoes off for children 12 and under during screening.
- Laptop out in the bin, take off shoes, belt, and all other loose items (my hubby put his wallet, watch/ring and other items inside his jacket pocket). I don’t normally take off most of my jewelry… never got any problem. All liquid must be in 1 quart-sized, clear, plastic, zip-top bag; 1 bag per passenger placed in screening bin. The bag limits the total liquid volume each traveler can bring.
- You need to declare larger liquids. Medications, baby formula/ food and breast milk are allowed in reasonable quantities exceeding three ounces, and they don’t have to be in the zip-top bag. Declare these items for inspection at the checkpoint. TSA officers may need to open them for additional screening.
It’s a hit or a miss. A different experience in every flight but a good preparation is the key.
- Board the plane as early as you can to get spot for your carry-on luggage on the overhead compartment. I know… I used to board almost always last before but not anymore. Most domestic flights have charged checked baggage fees so passengers are carrying on more bags, making the overhead bin a hot commodity.
- Make friends. Fortunately, this comes naturally for my family but might not be to some. But your smile or your kids smile will come a long way.
- Walk around the plane when the pilot permits it. A short walk down the aisle and back helps the kid get distracted and get tired.
- When the kids settled down; you need to get to rest.
Hope this helps. Please don’t hesitate to leave your comments, questions and additional information I have missed. Thank you.