Thursday, December 20, 2012

Air Travel with Kids

Ever had to travel with a < 2 year old across the country? Well, I can tell you that it is NOTHING compared to travelling half-way across the globe with one! That is precisely what we did last month. It was Toby's first long flight to visit our family in India. I prepared myself, read all about travelling with kids, the do's and don'ts and still it was...let us adventure!

I guess part of the difficulty is the time zone changes. Right now Mumbai is 10 and a half hours ahead of us, so it's hard to keep track of time...wait is this breakfast or lunch they are serving? Our first 8-hour flight was to Amsterdam. We left so early from home that by the time we were boarding Mr. Honey and I were ready to sleep (even though it was just 6pm), whereas Toby was just beginning to have fun exploring the amazing new world inside the airplane! So many buttons to press, and the coolest one had to be the one to call the flight attendant... As you can imagine the rest of the flight was a constant struggle and just as we are about to reach Amsterdam, the little guy falls asleep...

The next 9-hour flight to Mumbai was slightly better. Since none of us had had any sleep we all crashed the minute the plane took off, despite the howling 2-year old twins that were sitting behind us. I literally felt sorry for the mom behind us. Later I found out they were coming from Arizona before they joined our flight in Detroit... can you imagine?

Now as an "experienced long-distance air travelling mom" I decided to make a list of some hopefully helpful tips for other, soon to become "experienced long-distance air travelling moms". Here goes:

1) Usually airlines allow under 2's to travel on your lap (we still had to pay 10% of the ticket + taxes, which was still better than full ticket)

2) Call the airline ahead of time and ask for a baby/child's meal. Even though Toby was asleep many times they brought the food, it was still nice to have something for him to eat when he got up.

3) If you are carrying an infant sometimes there is a bassinet that they attatch to the panel in the front of the first seats. But you also have to call the airline in advance and book it. Some airlines may offer this for a fee and there is a weight limit, which Toby was beyond, so we didn't get this.

4) Most airlines allow you to carry a stroller apart from your regular luggage. So you can keep the stroller with you after the check-in until you are ready to board. You leave your stoller just before entering the plane, fold it and they will take it down. We didn't carry a stroller this time as it would not be useful in India (too many vehicles + people in the streets without proper sidewalks). We did take a carrier which was a bliss!!!

5) The airline we flew with allowed us to check-in a suitcase of 10kg (22lbs) for the baby, which was great as we were on our weight limit.

6) You probably already know this, but just in case, all children, no matter what age need a passport to travel abroad and may need a visa, depending to which country you are travelling. In case a child is travelling back to US with only one of the parents some countries may even require a notorized letter from the non-travelling parent allowing the child to travel with only one of the parents.

7) Going through security is always a pain, with young ones you have to double your attention in order not to leave anything behind. Some airports have a "Family Line" which tends to be smaller than the regular one. Now, let's start with the good news, you do NOT have to remove your child's shoes (YAY!), but he/she needs to be outside the carrier/stroller. In some airports they allowed us to bring water for the baby, but don't count on Amsterdam they made us remove the water from his bottle and told us that we could refill it with tap water from the restroom after we passed security (YUCK!!!)

8) There are many ideas on the web of things to do with your kids during a long flight. The gadget that worked best for us was one of those draw and erase boards. We got it just for the trip so there was some novelty to it. I am not a fan of those mesmerizing apps with games for kids (especially younger ones...) so I am very proud to say we managed without it! Mr. H did lend him his ipad with a piano app which he played for some time and we had some storybooks in the ipad which we read, he loved "turning the pages"... But most of the time he wanted to wander about. So we walked up and down the aisles, explored the "kitchen" and restroom (which, btw he loved!)

Well, I guess this list got a lot bigger than I had intented it to be, so I'd better stop before anyone gives up the idea of travelling abroad completely... It does sound like a lot of work, but hey, is there anything in parenting that isn't? And Toby had such an amazing time in India that we would (will!) do it all over again!

I would like to hear what suggestions/tips you have for long distance travelling with kids, by air or otherwise.


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