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