Advice for airline travel with toddlers

Discussion in 'After Hours Lounge (Off Topic)' started by Jason Charlton, Mar 31, 2010.

  1. Jason Charlton

    Jason Charlton Ambassador

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    My wife and I are planning on taking our nearly two-year old twin boys on their first airplane trip this July.

    We'll be flying from Baltimore to San Francisco - yeah, a long flight.

    I'm hoping there are some experienced parents out there that have some practical advice they'd be willing to share.

    Here's a random collection of things we've taken into consideration - any thoughts on these would be greatly appreciated:

    1) Flights - we're leaning towards a nonstop flight to keep the trip duration as short as possible. My wife was thinking a layover somwhere may be good to give the boys time to play, but I dread the thought of extending the 6 hour trip to 9+ hours. Any thoughts?

    2) Seats - no way we're keeping the boys in our laps the entire trip. We'll spring for the extra seats (they'll turn two while we're out there, so we'd be required to buy seats for the return anyway). Sucks to have to buy 4 fares, but then again, we don't travel too often. Anyone know of any top-secret airline policies that offer discounts for young travelers?

    3) Harnesses - again, no way we're carrying carseats with us (as some folks recommend). There are FAA-certified harnesses available and while not cheap, can fold up and slip into a pocket. Sold!

    4) Luggage - we're probably going to ship most of our stuff ahead of time. Need to look into this more, but would rather we each have one small carry-on to go with the boys and strollers, than adding suitcases to the mix. Does anyone have experience with shipping luggage? Can it wait for us at the airport, or will it be delivered to where we're staying?

    I think that about covers the broad points. Anything I missed?

    Thanks all to any advice you have.

    Jason
     
  2. Steve_Tk

    Steve_Tk Cinematographer

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    Children's Benedril for them and Advil for your headaches. I know one complaint is trying to explain to them why their ears are bothering them before they start screaming bloody murder. I think some people have solved this by giving them somethign to suck on as the plane takes off.
     
  3. Adam Lenhardt

    Adam Lenhardt Executive Producer

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    If your kids are rambunctious, then I definitely second the Children's Benadryl recommendation. It'll make your life easier, and all of the passengers around you will appreciate it. Of course, some kids have the opposite reaction...
    Distractions are important. It's tough to be sitting still for six hours, especially in a new place with new sensations. If the layover isn't too bad -- around an hour or so -- it might be worth it to give them (and you) and chance to stretch and move around a bit. Two three to four hour flights can be a lot less formidable than one six hour flight, even though the total trip time is longer.
     
  4. Jason Charlton

    Jason Charlton Ambassador

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    Rambunctious? My boys are angels! Actually, they usually are pretty well-tempered, but this will be a whole different ballgame, so we'll see how it goes.

    We will definitely have enough snacks, toys, and pharmaceuticals to get us through the day. Someone else suggested having a couple of "new" toys ready and available to keep them occupied, too, so I'll probably pick up a few new matchbox cars or something.

    Thanks for the feedback.
     
  5. Paul D G

    Paul D G Screenwriter

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    We had it mixed with our kids. Our 1st would fall asleep during take off and sleep until landing (even on a cross atlantic trip). It was nice to see the eye rollers passing us during boarding smile and comment 'oh, I forgot there was a baby on this flight'). Our 2nd just would not sleep and was fussy and annoying the entire flight (yes, even that cross atlantic). He wouldn't scream and cry, but wouldn't settle no matter what. But I'm talking infants, you're not.

    Your main issue is keeping them occupied for the 5+ hours. Forget the layover. It's just another hour to keep them busy. Get there and be done.
    - Bring snacks. Lots. More than you think. Goldfish in ziplocks. Pretzel sticks. Anything.
    - At least one toy per hour is recommended.
    - Consider a portable DVD player. Popping in Snow White, etc could easily quiet them up for a good 90+ minutes. But you'll need headphones for each.
    - Little compact activities work wonders. You can get these aquadoodle things - they're pre-made pictures that reveals itself as it gets wet. We have a number of these things and both our kids LOVEd to do them. We used to carry them everywhere to keep them quiet for 30+m or so. You can also get small, oh what are they called... MagniDoodles? Bring a couple of those.
     
  6. nolesrule

    nolesrule Producer

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    I know you're against the carseat idea, but if you are going to need a carseat at all at your destination, it really is a good idea. The children are used to sitting in them, they are comfortable in them, and might even fall asleep because of the familiarity. With a harness they are not used to, they might feel like they are being tied down, and that leads to a lot of "I want to get out" screaming.

    If your kids are already hooked on TV, whether it's Disney movies, Sesame Street, whatever, pick up a portable DVD player. It's a lifesaver for flights and long car trips.

    Matchbox cars might seem like a great idea, until someone not sitting in your row gets hit in the head by one. Keep it to soft toys or anything that won't hurt if thrown.


    We flew out to Denver in January with an almost 3-year-old and an almost 4-month-old. Besides 2 suitcases that were checked, we had with us the travel system (baby-bucket, base and stroller), toddler car seat, 1 bag for snacks, computer, DVD player and grown-up stuff (magazines, maps, reservation confirmations, etc.), 1 diaper bag, 1 bag of activities for the older kid, 1 wife's purse (anda bag for jackets (since we were going from Florida to Colorado in winter). Not the first time we've traveled by plane with at least one kid. We got compliments on our preparedness all the way from TSA Security to the flight attendants.

    One other piece of advice...

    When you get on the plane, talk to the person in front of your kids. Tell them that if they are having an issue with the your kid bumping their seat to please turn around and say something. You're going to have your hands full and might not notice it is happening, and the last thing you want to do is have someone sit there for 5 hours getting kicked in the back but would rather internalize than confront the problem. It also gives the impression that you will do your best to be a responsible parent, even if things do get a little rough.

    And if they can't reach the seat with their feet, say it anyway, because it'll still accomplish the intended affect of relaxing a bit of the "I'm near someone else's kid" tension.
     
  7. nolesrule

    nolesrule Producer

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    More thoughts.

    Juice boxes to help with the descent. The swallowing will ease some of the ear pain from the pressure change.

    If you can reserve seats near the back of the plane, do it. You're closer to the lavatories and flight attendants if you need anything. Typically you'll be one of the last off the plane just because it's easier, so there's no point in sitting close to the front of the plane anyway. If the flight attendants are nice, they'll allow the little ones to stretch their legs a bit in the galley area, which is back there too.
     
  8. Eric_L

    Eric_L Screenwriter

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    I agree with everything Nole says, except for seating. I would recommend asking to be placed behind a bulkhead. I was on a plane once where we boarded and then sat. and sat. and sat. for 90 minutes. Luckily we were behind a bulkhead and my 3 and 5 yr old had just enough room to stand and stretch their legs. I think they even played on the floor! (It was 10 years ago)

    I would ABSOLUTELY recommend a direct flight. That would be my TOP piece of advice. Why? With a layover you are doubling the chance for your flight to be delayed. I once had to stay in the Houston airport for 13 hours with a 6 mo. old and a 2 yr old. They said it was due to 'weather' but it was apparent that was just an excuse so they wouldn't have to refund all the tickets. The real answer was that traffic got mucked up and they couldn't dig out from under it. There were thousands of people stranded at the airport. Thousands of hot sweaty angry flyers. Luckily I found a nursey with a crib in it, chairs, and NO other flyers. It even had it's own bathroom! That was the trip where I determined that if the flight is not direct - I don't go.
    Re: Luggage>: I don't have much to offer you there. We usually pack light and then buy stuff there. The kids get new clothes,souvenirs , and the wife gets to shop. Never had trouble packing it for the return trip. Do bring a change of clothes on the plane for the kids. Coloring books are good. Kids really like to use the fold-down tray. Have a snack 'picnic' for them. Make an intermission during the movie for it. Don't forget headphones and a splitter so they can hear the movie - planes are loud (and nobody else wants to hear it) I used my laptop for the movies, then they played games on it.. If you do this I hope you have spare batteries... more than one.
     
  9. Jason Charlton

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    Thanks all for the helpful advice. I will certainly re-think the matchbox cars idea... Love the magnadoodle idea - nice and neat.

    We did book our flights - decided on the nonstop. We thought quite a bit about the bulkhead vs. rear of the airplane seating. It sure would be nice if the kids could play on the floor, but I'm not sure that would be allowed. We're also not sure if they would let us bring our carryons out and keep them on the floor during the flight. Would be a bit of a pain if we had to keep them in the overhead compartments.

    For the flight out, I think we'll give the back of the plane a try, but depending on how that goes, maybe request the bulkhead on the way back - especially if we can get some of our questions answered by the flight crew on the way out.
     
  10. Keith Plucker

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    I don't know if your budget would allow for this, but what about taking them on a short "test" flight before the big trip? If would give you an idea of how they are going to react and it might help keep them calmer on the long flight because the entire experience won't be new.

    -KeithP
     
  11. Jason Charlton

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    That's an interesting idea, Keith, but probably not feasible. It is a shame that their first flight has to be so long.

    What we have done, however, is taken them to the Baltimore Airport before. There is a really neat observation lounge in the terminal (so no need to go through security) that has huge floor to ceiling windows that look out over the concourses where they can watch the planes takeoff and land. There's a real aircraft wing hanging from the ceiling, a cockpit they can look at, landing gear and a jet engine nacelle, not to mention a pretend airplane they can sit in and play around, and other kid-friendly "climbables".

    We'll maybe try and take them again before the trip just to get them comfortable with the idea.

    Edit:
    By the way, if anyone is interested, here's a site with some pictures of the BWI Observation Lounge. It really is pretty sweet.
     
  12. Paul D G

    Paul D G Screenwriter

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    A Pocket Etch a Sketch, too. Someone gave us one once and I dismissed it but the kids love to play with it in the car. If you have to buy any of these toys don't let them see it until you're in the middle of your flight so it's new and exciting to them.

    Edit: AquaDoodle Mini Mats is what I couldn't remember. Like this: http://www.amazon.com/Aquadoodle-Mini-Mats-Spongebob-Squarepants/dp/B002AWLLDG/ But hit ebay for these, much cheaper.
     
  13. nolesrule

    nolesrule Producer

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    Yeah, the main problem with bulkhead seating is with the carry-on items, as there is no under-seat stowage. If that's not going to be an issue, that's ok. One problem is most planes for domestic flights have only the front bulkhead, and there are now FAA regulations that prohibit loitering in the front of the plane. Not so good when the kids need to get up and stretch, because you can't stay there.
     
  14. Robbie R

    Robbie R Stunt Coordinator

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    Childrens Gravol! It will keep any motion sickness in check and knock them out cold.
    Portable DVD Player is a must, Childrens Books too, reading seems to have a calming effect on my boys. Good Luck.
     
  15. chiltown

    chiltown Auditioning

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    Usually you can get a sense as to whether you need to pay for extra seats or simply take what is available for free. Minimally, if you book two seats next to each other, the middle seat is left open.
     
  16. Jason Charlton

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    Well, the trip is nearly upon us. We leave early Friday morning. Things have been steadily falling into place. The only recent hiccup was with regards to shipping our luggage ahead of time.


    BEWARE OF RANT BELOW


    After careful research over the past couple months, it turns out our most cost-effective option was a service of United Airlines (with whom we booked our flights) - Door-To-Door Baggage. They use FedEx air service at flat rates that are equivalent to about 25% of the regular cost.


    The service sounds great - you can schedule a pickup at home (no extra charge) and they guarantee delivery by 4:30PM the next day, even to rural addresses (which our destination is).


    However...


    United has me pretty steamed over the wording they use on the website to describe the service. When I discovered the service about a month and a half ago, I came across this description in the "Details" which I was careful to review to make sure I completely understood the process:



    I, like any other sane person on this planet, read this to mean that once you are within 10 days of your departure, you can go online to schedule your pickup.


    Apparantly, I was wrong. When we tried to schedule pickup this weekend (which included selecting our itinerary from our account), we got to the last step and mysteriously the website simply said it couldn't process the request. That's it. Nothing else. Just try again later. So we did - on Monday thinking maybe the system couldn't make schedule changes on the weekend. Same result. We called United and the rep there basically said that you have to schedule pickup PRIOR to 10 days before departure.


    WHAT?!?!?!? Seriously?


    "This option becomes available 10 days prior to the associated flight departure date." ACTUALLY means that the option becomes available AS SOON AS YOU PURCHASE YOUR TICKETS and then GOES AWAY 10 days prior to the associated flight departure date!!!!!


    Ahhh, so now I see how United gets away with such a great service. IT'S IMPOSSIBLE FOR ANY SANE PERSON TO ACTUALLY USE SAID SERVICE!!!!


    END OF RANT


    We have since contacted United and expressed our dissatisfaction with the service, but have not heard back from them with any information.


    If we end up checking bags, we'll most likely have to do so before we take the car to long term parking as I don't see how it's physically possible for the two of us to get the boys, strollers, 4 carryon bags and two giant suitcases on and off the shuttlebus and through the terminal in one shot.


    Aside from that, we're really looking forward to the trip and the boys are pretty excited, too.


    If me manage to survive the journey, we'll be back home, safe and sound on July 15th.


    Thanks all for your suggestions and input!
     
  17. Russell G

    Russell G Fake Shemp
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    Don't.


    Based on having someones little angel kick the back of my seat for the entire duration of a flight from London England to Edmonton. If I was clearer on the international water laws and if they applied to planes, I would of strangled the little bastard over the Atlantic.
     
  18. nolesrule

    nolesrule Producer

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    Um, did you try talking to the parents (or use a flight attendant proxy) or did you just sit there fuming hoping it would stop?
     
  19. Russell G

    Russell G Fake Shemp
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    Of course I talked to the flight attendant and the parent! The flight attendant asked her to control her spawn and she apologized for it sitting in the toddler seat kicking my seat. None of this was enough to get the kid to actually stop though.


    The price you pay as a parent is that when your kids are too little to understand directions, you don't put them in situations that are going to cause them to be a bother to strangers and you choose activities in which said kids can be easily removed. I don't care if it's a flight, a restaurant or a movie. There's smoking by laws now so that people don't have to put up with the annoyance of random people puffing smoke around them, screaming annoying kids are no different to me.
     
  20. Carl Miller

    Carl Miller Screenwriter

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    I can sympathize Russell, but only to a certain degree. As a fairly frequent traveler for work, I've been bothered more than a few times by children....As a parent however, the plain and simple fact is that sometimes children have to go on planes and sometimes, things are going to happen.


    No excuse for your situation, as a child kicking a seat is a preventable thing, provided the parents make the appropriate effort. But, there are times on a plane when there is nothing a parent can do to prevent a child from bothering someone....Like many years ago when my son, at age 3, wouldn't stop crying on an airplane because his ears were hurting him. I was public enemy #1 on that flight and initially mortified by what was happening....But after hearing enough nasty comments, I stopped caring. I was, in fact, on my way to my grandfather's funeral, for which my attendance was just a tad more important to me than the convenience of the other passengers. In other words, I wasn't going to miss the funeral.


    Raising children is a funny thing...they have to actually be taken outside, in order to be taught how to behave in public, to get used to flying and so on and on.
     

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