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FAQ: Air Traveler's Handbook 3/4 [Monthly posting]
Section - [3-8] Tips for Families Flying with Children

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If you're flying with children, here are some tips for making air
travel a more enjoyable experience -- for you, for your child, and for
your fellow passengers.

When planning your trip:

   +  Tell your children what to expect. Explain security procedures,
      customs and immigration, take-off and landing, baggage claim and
      claim checks, and so on. Be sure to tell them how they should
      behave in each situation and make sure they realize that
      misbehaving during the trip can have much more serious
      consequences than misbehaving at home. 

   +  Establish firm ground rules for their behavior:

         Don't talk to strangers, don't ask strangers for help, and
         don't go anywhere with a stranger.          

         If they get lost, they should know what to do. For example,
         they should stay in one location -- you will find them,
         not vice versa.

         Don't go anywhere alone. Stay where your parents can see you.
         If you go anywhere, tell your parents where before you go.
         Don't wander off.

         Have them memorize your first and last name, the name of the hotel
         where you are staying, their home address (the town and state
         if they can't remember the street) and your home telephone number.

         Cross roads only with an adult and don't play in the street.

   +  Include your children in the planning stages, and let them have
      some input into the decisions. Don't try to do too much each
      day, or they'll get cranky.

   +  Keep in mind that young children may refuse to eat any of the
      local cuisine, so plan accordingly. Tell them in advance about
      the food and culture of the destination, especially if traveling
      to a foreign country. If you've been to the country before, tell
      them stories about your last trip.

   +  If only one parent will be traveling with the children and
      you'll be crossing borders, bring a notarized letter of
      permission or power of attorney from other parent. Otherwise you
      may get stopped at the border under suspicion of kidnapping.

   +  Write your child's name on the inside of all their clothes with
      indelible cloth marker, or sew in a name label. This will help
      if they get lost and forget their last name. For the flight,
      safety pin a card with complete information to their shirt.

When making reservations:

   +  Ask for window seats for your children. Children love to watch
      the world move outside the window.  

   +  Ask for contiguous seats so that you can sit together, and make
      sure you're in the aisle seat, so you can control your children.

   +  Mention that you're flying with children, so your seats won't be
      in the emergency exit row. Children under age 15 aren't allowed
      to sit in this row, so if your seats are there, you'll have to
      be moved when you arrive for the flight, and may not get
      contiguous seats. 

   +  If meals are served on the flight, ask for the special
      children's meal.

   +  Ask if they have any special services for children. Some
      airlines provide pins and model airplanes for older children,
      and sets of puzzles, games and toys for younger children. Some
      airlines will provide "baby kits" with diapers and other amenities.
      British Airways now has baby seats, just like the ones in automobiles.

      All airports have changing rooms, usually in the women's restroom
      (and many are now including changing facilities in men's
      bathrooms as well). 
      Some airlines may send special discount travel coupons to your home
      (e.g., $50 off a children's companion ticket), if you join the
      kids klub. Joining usually doesn't cost anything, and gets your kids 
      a free magazine every so often.

   +  If traveling with an infant, reserve the bulkhead seats and ask
      for a baby bed (bassinet).

   +  If your child is traveling under a "lap child" fare, ask for a
      lap restraint. This is a strap that passes through your seat
      belt and is used to secure the child, so that if the plane
      crashes your kid doesn't go flying through the air.

   +  If your child will be traveling alone, tell the airline the name
      of the adult who will drop them off in addition to the adult who
      will be meeting them at the destination. Include names,
      addresses, and phone numbers of each party, and also include
      your name and phone number. The party picking up your child must
      carry adequate identification. Provide the party meeting your
      child with a complete copy of the itinerary. Tell the airline
      and all parties about any special needs of your child, such as
      special meals, medication, needing assistance changing planes,
      etc. The child should carry identification, a small plastic
      baggy of change for telephone calls, and some cash. Your child
      should have no more than one small bag of carry-on baggage, and
      it should include their name and address information written on
      the inside. You will need to arrive at the airport at least an
      hour before departure to sign a special form, and you will have
      to stay at the airport until the flight has departed. Introduce
      the child to the gate agent, and remind the gate agent that your
      child is traveling alone. The gate agent will give all your
      child's travel documents to the flight attendant for
      safekeeping, and they will give them to the gate agent at the
      destination, who will give them, in turn, to the party meeting
      your child. Reiterate the standard warnings about talking to
      strangers, and remind them to not leave the airport alone or
      with a stranger. 


   +  Bring your child's favorite toys, reading material, game books,
      paper & crayons, deck of cards, disposable camera, teddy bear or
      blanket, and other amusements to keep them quiet on the 
      plane. If you bring along electronic games, be sure to turn the
      sound off, and make sure they don't use it during takeoff and
      landing. If you bring a favorite stuffed animal or blanket, be
      sure it is easily replaceable, in case it gets lost during the trip.
      A supply of the "prizes" from cereal boxes can be useful as
      rewards for good behavior.

   +  Bring chewing gum and snacks to help them with air pressure
      changes during takeoff and landing. For younger children, bring
      a pacifier or a bottle of juice or milk. The flight attendants
      can warm your baby's bottle in the galley after they complete
      the safety dance. Hard candy or a lollipop may also work.

   +  Bring several spare diapers and baby blankets in your carry-on
      luggage, in addition to the usual emergency change of clothing.

   +  Make sure you bring enough food for the baby. Make an allowance
      for possible delays when planning what to bring.

   +  For a stoller which qualifies as a carryon, get one of the
      folding "umbrella" strollers. Airports are a lot easier to
      navigate with a stroller, rather than carrying a squirming baby.

   +  Bring at least one empty duffel bag in your luggage, in case you
      buy more stuff than will fit in your luggage.

   +  Don't forget to bring your child's medicines, including cough
      syrup and medication for other common child ailments. Don't
      count on being able to find a drug store at your destination.

   +  Bring a full color photograph of your child's face.

   +  Pack the child's luggage in a bag that is small enough for them
      to manage on their own.

Before the flight:

   +  If your children have never flown before, tell them how much fun
      it is, and try to build up some excitement (e.g., have a
      countdown calendar). 

Day of the flight:

   +  For carrying an infant, use a "front pack" or "Snugli" -- it's
      among the easiest. Be sure to get one with extra padding on the
      shoulder straps. At six months, you can switch to a baby back pack.

   +  Arrive early. Kids like to explore airports, and juggling kids
      AND bags will take time. Allow at least an hour in the airport
      for US domestic flights and two hours for international flights.

   +  Watch your children carefully, to make sure they don't wander
      off. Never leave your children alone. If you need to make a pit
      stop in the washroom, bring your children with you. Even the
      most responsible child should never be left alone to watch
      luggage or keep your place in line. If you do misplace your
      children, airport personnel can help you locate lost children. 
   +  Parents with children are allowed to board first, so take
      advantage of this "perk".

During the Flight:

   +  Give your baby a bottle or pacifier to suck on during takeoff
      and landing. This will make the baby swallow, allowing his or
      her ears to adjust quicker to the pressure changes. Air pressure
      in the cabin is the equivalent of air pressure at 8000 feet, 
      not ground pressure.

   +  If traveling with multiple children, don't be afraid to ask the
      flight attendants to watch some of them while you take one to
      the bathroom. 

   +  Most airplanes carry one or two decks of airline insignia playing
      cards. These get replenished only once a day, so you'll be
      successful in getting them only if you fly early in the day.
      The flight attendants may have other items, such as pins and model
      airplanes to satisfy younger passengers.

End of the flight:

   +  Wait until other passengers have gotten off the plane before you
      start gathering your belongings to deplane.

   +  Don't forget to count noses.

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Top Document: FAQ: Air Traveler's Handbook 3/4 [Monthly posting]
Previous Document: [3-7] Pregnant Passengers
Next Document: [3-9] Tips for Business Travelers

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