Tag Archives: airports

I would like to check one bag and one child please.

We’re getting ready to remove ourselves to our holiday residence at my in-law’s house. On the way, I’ll be stopping briefly in Chicago. I’m very excited! There’s a lot to do before we leave. My daughter and I head out on Friday, my husband the 18th, and the cat, sadly, has to stay home this year. Poor cat.

I didn’t bother decorating since we’re leaving so soon, but I did put up some christmas lights. A certain kid loves them, asks me to turn them on a lot. I usually ask her to do something for me and then I’ll turn them on. That’s where we are these days, EVERYTHING is a negotiation.

I’m worried about the airports and the cars, the new beds and the restaurants. She’s a different kid since we last went anywhere else, she understands more, but her patience is maybe a bit less and she’s far less containable. I’ve been so very lucky with her on airplanes that I’m starting to fear that the other shoe is about to drop. Will this be the trip where TSA has to pry my 2 year old from a plastic tub? Will the passengers on this flight be staring at me with the “oh god, make it stop” faces? Will this be the trip where my ipad battery dies the moment we get into the car?

All these very real fears of parents all over haunt me.

As much as non-parents like to believe that a) travel is just for them and b) all children can be brought down from the throes of meltdown, I have some bad news for them. Kids go places. Especially on the holidays. They have every right to be on the plane as any other ticket holder. (The logic that some adults have that adults are worth more than kids baffles me.) Kids have complex and shaky emotional scaffolds, they haven’t learn to repress, delude, and compensate through years of turmoil and boredom like adults have. If one prefers to see it in a positive light, they are more honest. Loudly honest. So, not all bad behavior by kids on planes can be stopped with any simple procedure. If the parent isn’t even trying, that’s one thing, but we like to hear our kids scream even LESS than strangers do. Trust me.

Anyway, I’m hoping I can negotiate my way from here to there with my 2 year old. I have an arsenal of stickers, apps, videos, and snacks with which to bargain. And if all else fails, I suppose I could tell her Santa’s watching…

Check-in Counter Quandry

I know we have all seen a version of this happen, maybe even participated in it. I am curious as to your thoughts about the following scenario, which I will use as an example.

On our flight home last month, we arrived to check in at the airport precisely 55 minutes before our scheduled departure. We still had to wait in line at the ticketing counter to get our boarding passes, check our luggage, and make sure that our traveling-with-pet status was indicated. The line wasn’t terribly long, but there was only one agent working for most of the time we were in it.

The woman just behind us was nervously surveying the line’s progress and finally asked us what time our flight departed. We told her 4:20pm. She said something like “oh, 20 minutes after mine” and “sorry” and proceeded to cut the entire line and go up to the agent. At this point, her flight left in about 20 minutes, ours in 40. The airline’s policy is that they require 30 minutes in this case.

She was told by the agent, who seemed to accept the line-cutting, that there was no way she could make her flight, especially since she also had a pet and bags to check. The woman was very upset and the agent looked some things up, took about 5 minutes, insisted on her initial assessment and asked the woman to go back to her spot in line (where she had left her luggage) and she would rebook her for a later flight when she came up. All in all, this probably only took 5-8 minutes, but there were probably 10 people waiting before her and at least in our case, getting dangerously close to being late for our own flights.

So, my question for you is this: Was it acceptable for the woman to cut the line because she her flight was about to board?

I don’t know the reason she was late, I don’t know if that matters or not. I don’t know if the 5+ minutes she took away from the people in line resulted in any missed flights, it’s doubtful. We had to rush a bit, but we were cutting it close on our own. We could have been her, I suppose. We were getting into the check-in line with no time to spare, the only difference was that we were just on the other side of the time-limit.

I know that had I been in her shoes, I might have seriously been tempted to do the same thing and I would have felt guilty about it. But as the person in front of her, I slightly resented her cutting and felt like it wasn’t fair because we got there at the same time and she was making me late and I had a pet too. And a toddler. (She told the gate agent it wasn’t fair to make her wait because her dog couldn’t be in the airport that long). I’m curious about what you think. Let me know in the comments if you like.

Flying with “Small Children,” aka an Albatross of Your Own Likeness

the plane back from the caribbean dehumidifying

Or How Uncomfortable Can You Stand to Be?

Baby Center re-posted their list of tips for flying with kids on my facebook newsfeed last night, just after I had arrived home from a whole day of air travel. You can see their “article” here:
“Flying with Small Children,” Baby Center, Oct 2011

This article, while containing many informative points on the technical requirements of traveling/booking a flight for yourself and an infant or toddler, seems to have been written only by people who don’t actually do this traveling. They have clearly done the research on the subject on many airlines’ and TSA’s website, but most of this information is known by the common air traveler, even if they haven’t taken kids before. I guess it’s nice of them to put this together in case you DIDN’T know, for instance, that you have to bring ID for your kid to the airport (duh) or that you have to like, um, tell the airline you are traveling with a lap child even if you’re not technically buying a seat for them…

The List of “Important Questions to Ask Before You Fly” on page 2 is HILARIOUS.

First of all, if you actually called your airline and asked even half of these, they would probably hang up on you for being a huge waste of time. If they were exceptionally nice, the call would end with them whimpering “can you please just go read our website?” The questions themselves are just priceless and show an astonishing lack of foreknowledge of how air travel works now. Let me give you some examples:

“Will you require proof of my child’s age and identity? If so, what proof is required, and when do I present it?”
No, you can just bring any infant through an airport without any paperwork, we trust you not to be trafficking babies implicitly because you look so disheveled you have to be a mom. If you have to ask an airline this, they are probably going to flag you for further inspection before boarding. Not to mention “when do I present this ID?” Um, anytime you are asked for it? You will probably be asked for it a lot? Have you been through security lately? Just assume you need to duct tape it to your kid’s head.

A better question would be simply “what proof of ID do I need to bring for the kid?” since sometimes a passport is necessary, and sometimes a birth certificate will do, and SOMETIMES you have to have both plus a letter from the child’s other parent, a copy of their visa, and their hospital bracelet, and a DNA sample.

“Are bassinets available on the flight? When should I reserve one?”
I’m sorry, you are flying coach on a commercial airline? What do you think this is? The 60s? Nothing is available anymore. At this point, if you want a bassinet on a plane, you should probably look into buying your own plane. (Okay, okay, yes a minor number of international flights may offer them, but they have to put in you the bulkhead row and if the flight is super full, as they all seem to be these days, this is going to be tricky and you’ll probably have to pay more).

“Do you allow preboarding for families with small children? If so, will there be a preboarding announcement or do we have to ask at the gate?”
Look, there is pretty much ALWAYS an announcement. Even if there isn’t, can’t you just go up and hand over your boarding passes when they start boarding the plane regardless? It’s not like they’ll turn you away if you have a small kid. Do you really need to ask this ahead of time? Plus, I question the logic of having people with small kids board first. Unless you are desperate for precious overhead bin space that seems to run out somewhere in the 60%-of-plane-boarded range, you really don’t want to be the first people on the flight. You want to enjoy that gate lounge for as long as they’ll let you. Can you let everyone else board and then come get me? That should be what you ask the gate agent. As little time spent contemplating how much you miss having enough space to put down your tray table, the better.

“Can we bring our stroller on board?”
Have you seen the aisles of a commercial aircraft? See above bit about running out of overhead bin space. Even if they SAY you are allowed, you better believe they’re going to make you gate check that shit.

“Do you have diaper-changing facilities on the aircraft?”
Oh, you must mean the tray table!

“Do you offer children’s meals? What’s included? How far in advance should I order one?”
Are you serious? They don’t even offer adult meals anymore! Unless you are flying long-distance international, expect that all they will have is a snack or sandwich available for purchase at outrageous expense. Bring your own damn food, there’s your answer.

“Are diapers, formula, baby food, or other amenities available on board?”
Bwahahahahahahaha….. I really want to be there when someone asks a flight attendant before takeoff this question after having been informed by someone at Customer Service that “sure, we stock all kinds of baby supplies on our flights.” No. The answer is no. Unless duty-free carries diapers now…

“Can my spouse or loved one get security clearance to accompany me to the departure gate if I need assistance?”
Does your spouse have a ticket? Then no. Would you like to buy them the cheapest ticket possible for that airport on that day? Then, have them accused of being a terrorist because they are flying one way on the cheapest possible flight and you and their progeny are going off on another plane? That sounds like fun for the whole family. If you think you need assistance from the check-in desk to your gate, you are NEVER going to survive this whole air-travel thing. Stay home.

“Do you offer assistance with maneuvering through the terminal when making connecting flights? How can I arrange for that?”
Okay! Finally a good question! A useful question! Short answer: you can probably pay for it. Or wait around for a golf cart person to come collect you and some other disabled person from your flight. But at that point, your toddler will have run to the nearest moving beltway, so what’s the point?

I have half a mind to write my own list of Air Travel with Small Children Tips, not that I’m an expert by any stretch. I have done it quite a bit since my daughter was born, but only between 3 countries, and I never take strollers or plane-seat car seats or anything, so I can’t help you there. To be honest, much of this information about car seats on flights confuses me as I have NEVER seen anyone use one. Even the tiny babies are held, the older kids get their own seat once they hit two years old. Almost everyone is trying to avoid paying anything extra for kids under 2. When September rolls around and my daughter can no longer fly free, I may never go anywhere again.

So I guess I better get these Tips written out soon before I forget. In the mean time, this blog has a pretty amazing post on the subject:
“Tips for Flying Alone with Kids” at Aintnomomjeans.com

Burlington, I barely knew ye

So I traveled home, and made it alive, no one cried. Win.

I checked my 50.5 lb suitcase at 9:55am and began my trip back on Wednesday.

I had to fly through Newark, where I sat at my next flight’s gate and thought about 2 things:

1. That I was a mere 20 minutes away from the city I think of as home and all these amazing things to eat, see, do, buy… Cruel Newark layover. I nearly left the airport and went to spend a few days in NYC, planning to return for my connection later and claiming toddler meltdown/temporary insanity (they’re the same thing, right?).

2. The gate next to me has a direct flight to Montreal. Leaving at the same time as my flight to Burlington, Vermont. This is a pretty mean thing to do to me, right now, Newark. You’ve always been a cruel city to me though, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.

I had booked my tickets in and out of Burlington because it’s so much cheaper and you can take a Greyhound bus from the airport to the bus station here which is only 2 subway stops from my place. Well, that bus is 2.5 hours. I was supposed to land at 3:30pm and take the 7pm bus. That’s 3.5 hours, I repeat 3.5 hours in the tiniest of airports not better described as airfields with a 19 month old. Shudder.

I had in my mind, a vision, a desperate hope that this all would go a bit easier because I knew that the buses from the airport to Montreal almost always run significantly late. Therefore, the 3pm bus that I was missing my a half hour could very well be late and I may be able to catch it instead of waiting for the 7pm bus. You can understand my frustration when the board at my gate in Newark posted that my flight was 45 minutes delayed.

Apparently, nothing can beat a Greyhound delay. I landed at 4:15pm and rushed to the bus-desk and the 3pm bus had not yet arrived. Whew. I spent 45 minute or so letting my daughter run around and get hours of plane confinement out before a few more hours of bus/subway confinement. The bus finally left at 5:15pm.

I had by this point burned through almost all my planned activities (stickers, books, toys). I fed my kid some snacks, tried to get her to watch things out of the window, and then, eventually, let her watch videos on my laptop for an hour.

I had a sinking feeling that by the time I got my suitcase and toddler through the bus station and onto the subway that a tantrum would be in short order, but due to a wonderful revelation from earlier that my kid loves riding ON my rolly suitcase like it’s her own personal luggage-pony, we sailed (except for stairs where we gasped) to the train. Two stops, no problem.

Home. We even had time for some food and a bath. It was a tiring day, but it could not have gone better.

Well, except for Newark being cruel. (Casts eyes irritably towards NJ…)