Your travel life does not need to grind to a halt just because you’ve become a parent. But the reality is, much of your trip will be spent soothing and entertaining your baby. So much for dreamily staring out the window and taking in the passing scene.
But while travel will never be the same, it has its upside as well. You may discover the world is a friendlier place than you knew. There’s no easier way to meet people than with a baby in your lap.
But the bottom line is that rtaveling with children can be a delight and a challenge. As such, below are a few tips that may help you enjoy your trip.
If we had a second golden rule, this would be it. Infants can’t apologize for their actions, but you can apologize for them. The biggest complaint about infants on airplanes is not their crying or their delight in hoisting themselves up on the seat in front of them, but the seeming indifference of their parents toward the discomfort any of this may cause other passengers.
If your child is feeling out of sorts and expresses it by ripping the headset off the balding man in the seat in front of her, you have to apologize – and you have to mean it. You may not placate the man, but you are likely to gain a few sympathetic nods. And you may even discover that the man was tired of listening to country classics anyway and would rather play peekaboo with the cute little baby behind him.
Plan your seat ahead of time
When you make reservations, let the agent know that you’re traveling with an infant who will have a child safety restraint, as there are restrictions about where it may be placed. (Normally, the seat goes by the window so it doesn’t block another passenger’s access.) Try to get as far forward as possible, because the back of the plane is noisier, vibrates more, and is less convenient for deplaning than the front.
Handle baggage better
You become most aware of how much baggage a traveling infant requires when you arrive at the airport and unload everything on the curb. If you’re lucky, a check-in or a skycap will be right there. As much as you may have disdained these in your pre-baby days, be grateful for them now and tip accordingly.
If neither is available, then your stroller becomes invaluable. Throughout your trip, you’ll use it only occasionally for an infant and more often as a private baggage cart.
Every airline we’ve flown will let you check it at the gate. Get a tag for it from the gate staff, and drop it off just before you step through the door of the plane, where it will be returned to you at your destination, hopefully in time for you to make your next connection.
Watch your baby’s back.
Because families with small children are often not allowed to preboard, infants are now in the thick of the boarding fray – and more at risk for the injuries associated with it. There’s the danger that somebody will drop a carry-on on them while trying to move it into or out of an overhead bin or smack them with a wayward bag when boarding or getting off the plane.
One way to minimize the risk is to have one adult board as early as possible, carrying the safety seat and anything that will allow you to stake a claim for the bin directly over your seat. Then, after everyone else has boarded, the other adult and the infant can make a late entrance. This also minimizes the time that your baby has to be aboard.
Diaper with care
People seem so put off by seeing a diaper being changed that you in the cabin only if you are sitting three across in an aisle-window row and no one you might offend can see you. On short flights, if the baby isn’t uncomfortable, you wait until you get into the terminal; on longer flights, try to get in and out of the lavatories as fast as you can.
Look for child-friendly airlines and airports
You can have a good experience, or a bad one, on any airline. Mostly, it depends on how stressed the ground and cabin crew are. (This is a reason to fly off-peak.) In general, though, we’ve found that the same few airlines that have good reputations overall tend to be the most child-friendly.
Many airports provide some sort of play facilities for young children. A handful do it exceptionally well.