Cindy's guide to flying with infants and small children

Ok, so you've decided to take the kids to see grandma in Tulsa, Oklahoma. What do you need to know about flying? The following is some tips and tricks we've come up with while traveling with our little ones, and from talking to other fellow travelers. If you have other suggestions to add, please feel free to email me. Please, no rants about car seats! I've heard all sides of the debate, and I'm not taking sides. 

The great car seat debate: To buy a seat for baby or not. Babies under two can fly in their parent's lap.

Some things to consider:

How to decide:

How to carry the baby through the airport

There are a couple options here; you can combine them.

What you choose depends a lot on what you're doing at your destination. 

See what to bring as well.

Gate checking and checked bags

Here's what you need to know about what you can bring, how much it'll cost, and how far you have to carry it.

When to fly

Sometimes you won't have a choice, but if you do, here's some thoughts on which flights to chose. 

What to bring on the plane

When packing, especially if this is your first time trying, try this. Have one person carry the baby (you will end up doing this, you know) and walk around the block with all the stuff you want to take with you. Do the same thing with the baby in whatever carrying device you want to bring with you. How easy is it to get the diaper stuff out? To get to a toy? To get to your tickets? The phone? How much stuff do you have to pull out and place somewhere?

A general rule of thumb is don't have more separate things to carry than you have hands. This includes the baby. You will forget one of them. Hopefully not the baby.

Before you leave

Diaper changes and restrooms

Rental cars, taxis, and car seats

Useful things to know

Traveling solo

It is possible to fly by yourself with a baby. It's not easy, nor fun. However, people in general are extraordinarily helpful and understanding. Especially if you're a guy. 

For the experienced business traveler 

You are going to be frustrated. Very frustrated. Your carefully cultivated routine is going out the window. The baby explodes out of his diaper just as you're  about to go out the door. The car seat gets jammed as you try to wrestle it out of the car, and you watch the shuttle take-off without you. You forget about the juice box buried in the diaper bag. The kid falls asleep just before you have to get up and get on the plane. You forget the bib. Or baby doll, and there's a melt-down. Your toddler wants to stop and hop over every line on the floor. You get apple juice spilled down your shirt. Your child vomits up the entire contents of breakfast all over you on take-off - and it's a four hour flight. You miss your connection and have to keep a toddler entertained for eight hours in airport X. Your luggage gets lost and you end up wandering around some city in the middle of the night where you don't speak the language trying to find diapers. 

Just take a deep breath. And just think how much *more* fun it will be when your kids are sulking teenagers who don't want to go where you're going...

Allow extra time to get to the airport and checked in. This is on top of what you normally allow (if you're like me and try to minimize time in the airport.) If you're checking bags you must be there 45 minutes before the flight. Roughly:

*15 minutes for getting the car seats out of car and into bags/onto wheels

*10 minutes for checking in domestic - sometimes you can't check in on-line or there are problems with the kiosks and you have to talk to an agent

*30 minutes for checking in international. An hour if you don't have a green card/US passport.

*10 minutes for getting through security. It takes a little longer to get everything on the belt and off the belt at the end.

*10 minutes after going through security for potty breaks/diaper changes, and distracted children who want to walk.

Try to look at the airport through your child's eyes - they think it's a great place! There's airplanes to watch, chairs to climb over and under, those "does your luggage fit?" signs are great for toddlers to climb over, around, and under, lots of people to watch, hallways to run down... This is also a great time to teach your child how to play patty cake - what else are you going to be doing?