10 Ways to ease the stress of flying without another grown-up
Traveling with a baby can be challenging under the best circumstances. And traveling with two (or more!) by yourself is an all-out obstacle course. But the reality is that you’re bound to do it at some point. And there are some little things that go a long way to ensuring smoothing sailing (or flying)!
Photo courtesy: Matthew Smith
1/Carry only what you need to survive
My single self wouldn’t dream of checking a bag, preferring to breeze past baggage claim with my 20-inch roller. But with kids, I check everything that I can. In my experience, it’s better to keep your hands free to juggle only the essentials. You're less likely to lose anything! Yes, it means waiting in line and making a trip to baggage claim at the end of your flight, but at the pace that we move getting off a plane, the bags have most often arrived by the time we do! One thing I always carry is a copy of my children’s birth certificates. If there’s any mistake on the reservation, having the right documentation can mean the difference between making your flight or staying home.
2/Use curbside baggage check
Pull up and drop off everything that you can. It works great when you’re taking a cab. But even if you’re driving yourself, it can still be done. Check ahead to see if your airport allows check-in at the curb.
Photo courtesy: Steven Brooke
3/Don't be afraid to tip
Curbside folks expect a tip. (Why them and not the folks doing the same job inside? Don’t ask me.) The rule of thumb is a buck a bag, but that’s just the beginning. I tip anyone who helps me, usually from $5 to $20. The trick is to be discreet, because not all employees are allowed to accept. I’ve never tipped anyone at the ticket counter, but I’ll often ask if there’s anything I can do for them, like write a positive review to their supervisor.
4/Put car seat on wheels
You may be familiar with the idea of putting your infant car seat on wheels but not for the larger convertible seat. Thankfully, some smart engineer changed that recently by outfitting a folding luggage rack with hooks that allow you to clip your big kid car seat in, child and all. I use this one from Britax, but there are plenty on the market. I’ll admit to feeling very smug as a wheel past a dad who’s struggling to carry an awkwardly large carseat sans wheels. Does that make me a bad person?
5/Order a wheelchair assist
Not all airports offer them, but the larger ones do at no cost to you. And it's totally at your own discretion whether you need one or not; no physical justification is necessary. I find that it's better not to waste too much explanation on the gate agent; just make the request. When the person arrives, ask him or her to ditch the chair and pull one of your carseats. The best part? The assist bumps the line at security, so you and your babies just breeze on through! I usually tip the person between $5 and $10.
6/Outfit toddler with small backpack
Inevitably, your toddler will want to get out of the carseat to explore the gate area. A small backpack with a few select toys can go along way to keeping her entertained. We also have a fancy version that can double as a tiny roller bag, but I find that I end up carrying it more often than not. The plain old backpack tends to stay put longer.
7/Bag your carseats in jetway
All airlines will let you check your carseat and stroller along with your luggage for free. But what if they lose it? They all say that they have loaners, but really? In good repair? I'd much rather gate check my $400 carseat to have it waiting when I deplane. And these bright red covers not only protect the seats, they make them impossible to miss.
8/Wear baby in a sling
The sling essentially helps the baby to sit on your lap, and ultimately, fall asleep on your chest. I like the Second Skin for infants; I prefer Ergo for older babies. The flight attendant will make you unfasten it for take off and landing, but outside of that, you’ll have a happy, contented baby. It also makes for very discreet breastfeeding. And the best part is that it leaves your hands free to read a magazine or feed the toddler sitting next to you.
9/Pack snacks strategically
Bringing food is a given, but packing the right food can make a big difference in how you look and feel at the end of the flight. In my opinion, Pirate Booty or its generic corn puff equivalent is the ideal snack food on a plane for several reasons, not the least of which is that it's delicious, and, inevitably, mommy will need a snack too. Plus, it's color-free and less messy! Pringles potato chips are also a recent flight favorite. The cardboard sleeve is ideal for packing in a carry-on, and I love turning down the $5 short stack on the snack cart in favor of the family size that cost a fraction of the on-board price!
10/Have person picking you up get gate pass
Technically, gate passes are for anyone picking up an elderly person or a child traveling alone, and gate agents are hit-or-miss about making exceptions. If nothing else, you can always request another wheelchair assist. The flight attendants are happy to call one for you, as they are not allowed to leave the plane until every last passenger is gone. Again, don't forget to tip. The $20 that I mentioned earlier went to a guy who not only helped me off the plane but also loaded my things onto a cart at baggage claim, then hailed a cab, and strapped in my car seats! After that, go home and put your feet up! You've earned it.
Corinna Allen is a Emmy award-wining journalist, living in Las Vegas, Nevada. She spent her junior year of high school as an exchange student in Finland, and she’s been traveling ever since. These days, she travels with her husband and two young girls. You can read more of her adventures on her blog, www.corinna.tv.
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