Monday, October 23, 2006

Flying Tips

As the holidays approach us one aspect of it to consider is visiting friends and relatives who live far away to make flying the most practical option. Obviously with all the security concerns and the holiday congestion, traveling can be a real nightmare for anyone. Now add those headaches to the logistics that parents with babies have to face. Okay the easiest thing to do is to just stay home and invite the relatives over instead, but fortunately there are ways around these hurdles if parents find themselves traveling.

One question that comes to mind is when is the best time to travel? Some doctors have told us to try to book red-eye flights during the middle of the week since there would be less people flying so late and there would be less risk of picking up a bug. Then there's the fact that with it being so late people will most likely be sleeping, the plane will be dark so the baby can rest better. It's a good idea but from personal experience I find that midnight flights can be just as crowded and who can predict when a flight will or won't be crowded? There are too many factors involved like location, time of year, and price that it's hard to book a flight in advance weighing those factors. So go ahead and book whichever flight is most convenient and affordable. By the way, parents of newborns may want to pick a flight that would complement their child's schedule but that is hard to predict since the flying experience can interrupt the newborn's inner schedule. As to how soon can a child travel, I've read that it's fine for newborns to fly as soon as a week after they're born but I'm not comfortable with that notion. Their immune systems aren't as strong as older babies and it can be disruptive for the baby not to mention stressful for the new parents. Try to wait until the baby is at least four months old before flying.

Then there's the question of whether or not to bring the baby's car seat on the flight. Or in other words, should an extra seat be bought for that car seat? Under FAA rules, tickets don't have to be purchased for children under two years old provided that the child is placed on the parent's lap during the flight. Parents who opt for this can check the car seat and spend the entire flight with a potentially fussy baby on their laps which makes for an uncomfortable flight for both. At least the on-flight car seat gives parents another option.

Also safety experts will agree that the same rules of physics that apply in a car will apply in a plane. Besides once the flight is over, parents will most likely need a car seat for ground transportation if they haven't checked in a seat. If renting an automobile, car seats can be rented but for myself I would feel more comfortable using the car seat I regularly use for my own child since I know its quirks. Just make sure that the car seat is FAA approved. Usually they have labels on them that would state this fact.

If possible try to book the coveted bulkhead seats though as most air travelers know this can be quite hard. The best reason for vying for these seats is the extra space they provide. The only problem is that necessities like diaper bags must be stowed overhead. If the bulkhead seats are taken try to get the very back of the plane since it's out of the way and the loud engine noise may sooth babies to sleep. Be aware that if using a car seat that it must be installed in the window seat so that the aisle areas are kept clear. And don't think about asking for the exit rows, airlines want to place people there who can actually perform the emergency operation and not be burdened with an infant.

Before the flight, bring anything and everything that can be thought of in that diaper bag due to the strict carry-on bag limit. That means extra diapers, formulas, toys, pacifiers, extra clothes, wipes and whatever else is needed. Make sure to check with the airline concerning what liquids and medications needed for babies are allowed on the flight before heading out. Dress comfortably and bring a change of clothing since babies' accidents will most likely wind up being spilled on hapless parents.

When it comes to airport arrival it goes without saying the earlier the better. Think of all the time preparation it takes for a normal flight, add in a baby and an additional half hour at least. If you're driving to the airport and there's a companion it's a good idea to leave that person with the luggage, supplies and even the baby at the curb so that check-in can be done while the car is being parked. It's also a good idea to rent a Smarte Carte since it can facilitate getting from one end of the airport to the other much easier with the baby and luggage. Some airlines require boarding passes for babies so make sure while checking in to inform the airline agents that a baby will be flying as well so that a pass can be issued. One thing to be aware of while going through security is that babies have to go through the metal detectors with their parents even if they're sleeping peacefully in their car seats. They have to be taken out so that the seat can be inspected along with everything else being taken on the flight.

While boarding, one thing to make things easier is to use gate checking for strollers since this allows them to be used up to the last minute. Usually it will be waiting right outside the plane after the flight. Some airlines offer pre-boarding for parents traveling with babies and it's the way to go. Once seated, get as comfortable as possible and have that pacifier or bottle ready because they help when it comes to earaches. As most air travelers know cabin pressure changes most noticeably during takeoff and initial descent which results in the popping sensation felt in the ears. This can be uncomfortable for babies and the sucking they make with pacifiers in their mouths help ease the pressure. One last thing is not to fret if the baby's crying upsets other passengers, a parent's primary concern is toward their child, and most people understand. Just try to be as prepared as possible, don't worry about minor inconveniences and enjoy the flight. - - J.L. Soto

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