Flying the Unfriendly Skies (with kids)
I just returned from a week-long trip to Colorado with my entire family which was beyond lovely for a variety of reasons. First, let me say that if you ever have a reason to stay in Denver, stay at the Loews Hotel in the Cherry Creek area of Denver. Everything you could want is close by and the service is outstanding! You will likely not get the little added bonus of eyecandy I had (the U.S. Men’s Rugby team was staying there at the same time) but it is still a wonderful experience. Also, going from 100% humidity and 100+ degree heat to no humidity and a high of 75 degrees is something this confirmed Southerner could get used to!
One thing that wasn’t lovely was our flight experience. We flew from Nashville to Denver via Southwest largely because it was the cheapest direct flight we could find. This is the first time we’ve flown with our daughter since she was 4 months old. That is a whole other story and one I won’t go into now but sufficed to say, this was actually worse largely because we chose to bring a car seat on board with us.
Traveling with the car seat was actually my idea and I stand by it as a solid parental decision. I knew my 3-year-old wouldn’t want to sit still in a regular seat, and I didn’t want to deal with the ensuing power struggle on the plane. We were also going to be renting a car in Denver and I wasn’t feeling good about what our choices would be. So I said, “let’s just bring the car seat with us and she can sit on it on the plane.” Genius.
That was a lot easier to say than it was to enact.On the flight there, two different flight attendants told us two entirely different things about the seat. One said: #1 – it wasn’t going to fit because it was obviously too large, and #2 – it couldn’t protrude past the bottom of the seat (1. It did. 2. It didn’t). Then another said we weren’t allowed in the row of seats behind the Exit row after the other one told us to sit there!
On the way back to Nashville, we encountered the same thing only about different issues. This time we were told we had to put the car seat in the window seat by one attendant who then got into an argument about it with the other attendant in front of us. Both quoted their “manual” although neither knew for sure what was in it. For goodness sake!
My advice for future flyers is this. Before you fly, if you can buy, beg or borrow a car seat stroller do so. It will make getting through the airport easier. Also, find your airlines baby/toddler policies, read them and then PRINT THEM OUT and bring with you. It will help alleviate potential issues and make your travel much easier.
Because my motto is all about making it easier for parents in Huntsville, below is a list of airlines that fly out of Huntsville International Airport and a link to their child/toddler policies. How awesome is that? Make sure you tell me how great I am in the comments. It will make me feel better about myself and my recent travels 🙂
- American Airlines
- Airtran (soon to be Southwest Airlines)
Rocket City Mom is a website about raising children in and around Huntsville, Alabama. Started in late 2010 by a local mom and newcomer to Huntsville, Rocket City Mom has grown into a thriving community of local parents and now boasts a staff of four, thirteen regular contributors, and tens of thousands of Tennessee Valley readers making it the #1 Parenting Resource in North Alabama.
We just traveled on United with a 4 yr old and a 13 month old (infant in lap). We had no problems but nobody did anything extra helpful either. I definitely recommend getting a CARES harness to help keep the kids in their seats safely and that way you don’t have to lug the car seat around. For longer flights we pay for a seat for the infant (he’s already 25+ lbs and 33 inches tall) and take his car seat on the plane. We flew to England in May and used a Traveling Toddler strap to attach the car seat to a small suitcase and that worked out well.
Do go prepared and use those great links above. I’ve encountered several attendants who didn’t know about the CARES harness even though it is the only FAA approved harness out there.
Make sure to pack plenty of extra everything in your carry-on. We ended up staying the night in Denver on the way back from Oregon because of a delayed flight and had to make do with just what we had in our carry-on. Luckily I had enough diapers and extra clothes for the kids, but nothing for me.
Awesome tips Stephanie – thanks!
We’ve flown with our 27 month old almost 30 times, and usually don’t have any problems with our Britax Roundabout. Sometimes the flight attendant wants to see the sticker on the seat that says it’s FAA approved; usually they don’t ask. Also, on some smaller planes we’ve had to sit on one particular side of the plane because of where the extra oxygen masks are (when she didn’t have her own seat). We have always had to put the carseat in the window seat. I have also used a Cheeky Monkey Pac Bac to carry the car seat on my back, but I can’t imagine using it for anything heavier than a convertible car seat. The only good thing that I have found regarding air travel with a little one is that it some parts of the world, they allow/expect you to cut the line (check in, security, etc) with the child!