Traveling with junior. With a little creative planning, flying with the kids doesn't have to be a hassle
THE good news about flying with children is that it's possible. The bad news is that it's not always easy. Making your trip enjoyable requires planning and flexibility. These days, you have to be prepared to fend for yourself and expect little help from the airlines. Planes are late, connections are missed, flights are crowded, and flight attendants are overworked. Here are some travel tips that can help make your trip more pleasant:Skip to next paragraph
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The cost of your child's ticket will depend on what type of reservation you make. ``Super Saver'' adult fares are sometimes cheaper than children's fares. Your travel agent can give you current prices.
The airlines all allow children less than two years old to travel free - on your lap. It can be worth the expense to pay for a seat for your infant, however. The extra space may be used as a bed, as a place for you to stretch out, and as a place for your child's car seat.
There are advantages to taking along an infant or child's car seat. Your child will be safer in a seat designed to hold him securely. Children are used to sleeping in their car seats, and are often calmer in that familiar setting. And since you will need to arrange for a seat at your destination, anyway (all 50 states have child restraint laws), why not bring your own?
In order to use your car seat, you must pay for a seat for your child or infant. All seats manufactured after Jan. 1, 1981 (except vest or harness types) are approved by the FAA. But FAA approval does not guarantee airline approval. If you have questions about FAA approval, call (800) 322-7873. If you have a question about your airline's policy, call its their customer relations office.
Where you will want to sit on the plane is largely a matter of personal preference. There are no really quiet locations. Some airlines will not allow a car seat in an aisle seat, but will allow it in a middle or window seat. If you expect to get up often - and you will with a toddler - reserve the aisle seat for yourself and the middle seat for your child. Bulkhead seating offers more leg and play room, but the arms between the seats do not fold down.
If you are traveling with an infant and do not want to pay for an extra seat, you may request a bassinet on Delta, Continental, Pan American, TWA, and United flights. These measure 8 by 14 by 28 inches and will hold a small one-year-old. They fit either onto the bulkhead wall or on the floor in front of the row. Your infant must be held in your arms during takeoff and landing. Reserve the bassinet when you make seat reservations.
Delta, Pan Am, and United offer baby menus, which consist of Pablum, jars of baby food, oatmeal, etc. Children's menus are offered by all the airlines and are of the burger, fries, and dessert variety. Ask a reservations operator to read you a sample menu. We have found vegetarian menus to be appetizing and generally less sweet. Request all special meals several days before your flight.
Several weeks before you leave, begin buying or borrowing a few books as surprises for the flight.
Choose some books that are primarily picture books so your child can make up his or her own story.
Buy books in paperback rather than hardback form. They are lighter.
A few days before your flight, purchase snack items and drinks to take with you. I take my child's plastic spout-top thermos filled with water. I don't need a special cup, she can drink from it fairly neatly, it can be refilled on the plane, and it won't spill in my carry-on bag. Small juice cartons with straws are also handy.
Arrive at the airport an hour early to confirm your seats. Consider putting a name tag on an older child. Give your child instructions on finding help if he gets separated from you in the airport.
Give an active child plenty of time to get rid of energy - and take him to the restroom - before boarding the plane. Although parents can be among the first to board, you may want to wait until the last few minutes to allow your child even more freedom.