Let's be honest, flying with little ones can be challenging. Getting through the airport, boarding and keeping them occupied on the flight can have there difficulties. I certainly don't have a magic wand to make it all simple, but I do have some tips to make it easier. Here is what I have learned over the years.
Use Curbside Check-in
Rather than lugging all your baggage into the airport, use the curbside check-in - it's FREE! But they do appreciate (and expect) tips. But for a couple dollars a bag it is well worth the money. These are the counters that are on the outside of the airport on the departures level. You can check everything: your baggage, carseats and strollers there. It also helps if one person is being dropped off with the kids while the other one is going to park the car, this way neither party is loaded with what needs to be checked. Just pull up to the curbside check, check-in your luggage, and then go park the car.
Do You Check the Carseat or Bring it on or Leave it at Home?
First, this is the link to the Federal Aviation Administration page on Flying with Children. They suggest securing your child with a child safety restraint system (CRS). This could be a carseat but make sure the label reads, "This restraint is certified for use in motor vehicles and aircraft." Flight attendants are instructed to look for the label, and you may run into problems if it's missing. Your other option is the CARES Airplane Safety Harness for Children. We have one and it works well and is very compact. We use this when traveling to Walt Disney World or on the Disney Cruise Line out of Port Canaveral because once we are in Orlando we don't need carseats, we use Disney transportation - buses, monorails and boats and you can not use a carseat .
Now that we have covered safety, what are the other pros of taking it? You will never have to worry about the carseat being lost. It happens. It happened to me. There is nothing like being tired after a long trip, just wanting to go home and being stranded at the airport because you don't have a carseat for the little one! The other pro is that some kids just do better in a carseat. They are used to being in it in a car and sometime having something familiar in a new or different situation can help them feel comfortable.
Carrying carseats around the airport isn't fun. If you are going to carry them I recommend getting a bag. I made this one. As you can see, it's been used quite a bit. I wear it like a backpack and I've used it to check the carseat as well as carry it through the airport.
If you decided to bring it but check it, know that you are not charged by most airlines for checking it and it does not count as one of your pieces of luggage. This is the same with strollers, which brings me to my next topic.
Strollers - Bring them? Check them?
Depending on the age of your children you may want to bring your stroller through the airport and then gate check it before you get on the plane. To gate check, just let one of the gate agents know that this is what you would like to do and they will tag the stroller for you. You will typically bring it down the jetway with you and then leave it right before you get on the plane. You will pick it up on the jetway when you deplane. I like taking the stroller rather than checking it when flying into the Orlando International Airport because it's a fairly long walk from the gate to Disney's Magical Express and other ground transportation. Los Angeles International Airport is not as bad so I typically will check the stroller.
If you are thinking about renting a stroller while visiting Walt Disney World, I discuss this and recommend a few places to rent from in You're Never Too Young . . . Part 3
How to Keep Them Occupied on the Plane
See the video below for some of the ways I keep them busy!
And here are some more tips from the rest of the team!
Beth - Drinks with straws for take-off and landing to help ears pop. Also if traveling with an infant, the motion sickness bags in the seat pocket have great insulation to keep bottles warm (tip I got from an airline attendant).
Michelle - Sit in the last row. You're close to the bathroom and it's less distracting to passengers should your child have a meltdown and start crying.
Jen - We take Snackeez cups with us - drinking cup on the bottom and snack container on top. Airline cups are too flimsy for us...even at 7 and 8. I also load up on snacks that require a little bit of work for the kids - cheese and cracker packs, nutella dippers, etc. and never anything with peanuts. We don't have allergies but you never know if there will be a fellow passenger with a severe allergy. I always pack Clorox wipes, too. I used to work for an airline and can tell you that all surfaces are filthy!!! I also download new apps for my kids and I always try to find something that doesn't make a lot of noise. A new book or magazine is in each of my kid's backpacks, are things like clay, "find it" games, and Madlibs. If there is room, I bring cardboard trays I found at Target. The kids keep them on their laps instead of using the seat trays. I'm always worried my kids are banging their trays and disturbing the passenger in front of them.
Traveling with kids is not easy but I hope we gave you some good information and some great ideas that will make it a little easier for you! After all, you are suppose to be on vacation!