On safari with the children - how some parents cope

A mother slowly maneuvers a cart full of luggage through Boston's Logan International Airport while keeping an eye on her three young daughters. ``It's a lot of work'' to travel with children,'' she says with a sigh, indicating she really has no time to say much else.

But many parents of babies and toddlers are finding ways to minimize the inconvenience of traveling with small children.

Another family interviewed at Logan, the Bothelos, have enjoyed many trips with their three children. High fares and extra luggage add to the responsibility of traveling with 9-year-old Brie, 7-year-old Brent, and 5-year-old Bethany.

Mrs. Bothelo, like other parents, hasn't found much assistance from the airlines with these responsibilities. ``They let you board first. That's about it,'' she says. Even so, bringing the kids is worth it, says Mr. Bothelo. ``It wouldn't be much fun if we didn't bring them with us.''

Kathy Doherty brings books to keep her son Mark, 1, occupied. ``Sometimes he's good. Sometimes he's not,'' she says.

Travel rules set by parents may include staying securely fastened in seats and remaining on the plane after landing until other passengers have left, to avoid getting separated.

Babies can be easier to travel with than toddlers. Seven-month-old Bowie isn't much of a problem at all, according to his mother, Donna. She says that bringing extra food and baby supplies is no more trouble than usual and that toys keep him company when he's not sleeping.

Bowie is still young enough to ride free, sitting on his mother's lap. This is convenient while children are small, but can be a nuisance as they get older. Says Donna, ``I don't mind it now, but I will soon.''

Do the children themselves enjoy flying? For Brie Bothelo, the answer is a flat ``no.'' ``It's boring - all you do is sit,'' she says.

The primary concern of the parents interviewed at Logan is safety. Though much can be done to ensure in-flight security through good behavior and proper care, recent reports of plane crashes and near-misses have raised concerns about the overall safety of air travel.

Mark Doherty's father says that concerns over safety have crossed his mind as he's thought about his wife's frequent trips to New Jersey with their son. But, says his wife, ``The media hype it up. I'm not going to let it bother me.'' A number of parents noted that flying remains safer than other forms of travel.

Predictably, about the worst hassle of traveling with children seems to come at the baggage claim - keeping the kids under control while waiting for all those suitcases to arrive. But it's all kind of diverting for little Brent Bothelo, who's about to climb onto the luggage belt - having mistaken it for a merry-go-round.

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