Now Pre-Boarding: Traveling with Small Children
By Trey Darnell
Air travel is stressful, emotional, and exhausting -and that’s just when traveling alone. Add a child, diaper bag, stroller, car seat, and blanky and you begin to question humanity, Dora the Explorer, and why you ever left the house. We are on our journey to grow our family through adoption, so the answer is no, I do not have real parental experience with what I am about to write, but I have seen it countless times as a commercial airline pilot. Like George Washington, I will not tell a lie. I giggle, laugh, and sometimes shake my head in disbelief watching the massive amount of child-related stuff moving down an airplane aisle and through the airport.
Traveling through many airports during a week, I think I have seen it all and very little of it makes sense. Airports are no longer the enjoyable environments of the 1970s and 1980s. They now resemble overcrowded ant colonies. Don’t forget that obnoxiously loud siren on the oversized golf carts and people movers. Stressed, tired, and uncomfortable describes most passengers. Frankly, there are too many people and not enough space in the airport itself, let alone on an airplane. Add a couple Finding Nemo roller bags being tugged upside down and you have hassle for the parents rather than short-lived enjoyment for the children. Most of the time you see the parent carrying the child and the Nemo roller bag while trying to pull their own carry-on bag and attempt this fast-walk-occasional-jog to make their connection. Exhausting!
Stress brought on by traveling with children is manageable…with planning and preparation. Customers will often know the departure date, location, as well as destination and length of stay before shopping for airfare. Most Americans are looking to book the cheapest flight possible. From my experience, this is not the greatest way to book air travel, especially when traveling with a child. Cheaper fares usually have less desirable options like longer ground time, smaller planes, and multiple connections.
Airlines will create a flight schedule to allow customers the least amount of connections with the shortest amount of ground time. Customers searching for travel reservations can look at the total time spent from the departure point until arriving at the destination. This includes time spent waiting for a connection. This flight might only be a couple of dollars more than that extremely low airfare that has two connections with a 3-hour layover in each city. When traveling with children, you should always choose the shortest amount of time from departure to destination. This is worth $10-$25 more per ticket. Most of the time it is only a few dollars.
Example – This is a search for one-way air travel on Delta Airlines for June 1, 2013 from New York City to Dallas-Fort Worth. Less than two months until departure isn’t the ideal time for price shopping.
The first flight option departs New York’s LaGuardia at 8:10am and arrives at 11:15am in Dallas. Total travel time is four hours and five minutes. This would be the ideal flight choice for traveling with a child. The second option departs New York’s La Guardia at 7:59am and arrives in Dallas at 12:39pm. This flight segment makes a stop in ATL and the total travel time is one hour and 35 minutes longer than the first choice. The connection, additional time, and stress only saved $16.10. Sounds like a no-brainer.
Most major airlines consider a car seat and stroller as not part of the standard baggage allowance. This means you can check the stroller or car seat to your destination via curbside check-in or at a ticket counter for no additional fee. If you are travelling with less than two children and have short connection times, checking the stroller to your destination is a good idea. There is an additional option to gate check the stroller at no extra charge. This allows access of the stroller until you board the airplane. The downside to this option: you wait for the stroller after completion of the flight. This can take an additional 10-15 minutes after getting off the airplane. Waiting for the stroller is not ideal when your connection flight has started boarding in a different terminal.
Parents often like to bring a child’s car seat to use on-board the aircraft. The car seat needs to have FAA approval and a FAA placard on the car seat for use.
FAA APPROVED IN ACCORDANCE WITH 14 CFR 21.805 (d) APPROVED FOR AIRCRAFT USE ONLY
The FAA does not approve most of the car seats that parents try using on-board the plane and you can click the above placard to see if your car seat is approved. In the case that your car seat is not FAA approved, it will be gate checked. This usually results in a very upset parent. Once you deplane, you would be required to wait for the car seat. If it isn’t FAA approved, check it to your destination at no additional charge via the ticket counter or curbside check-in.
I think I could go on for days about tips for the beginner and frequent traveler on how to make their travel experience easier. If you have any questions, please share in the comments section below. My experience includes traveling alone as a child to being a pilot for a commercial airline. I have seen just about everything that happens during the emotional day(s) in the airports. If your children would like to stop by and see the cockpit just ask the Flight Attendant and they will let them poke their heads in and take a look around. Dads, you don’t necessarily need to have a child to get a peek inside the flight deck; just ask.
I encourage every parent to visit babiestravellite.com.
You can also visit our adoption page at mattandtreyadopt.com