Part of Wordless Wednesday Link Up At Have Sippy Will Travel
If you have read any travel blog, article or forum over the past couple of days you had to have read or heard about the Daily Mail article where a mom, much like all of us, made a decision to ‘drug’ her children on long-haul flights so that they could sleep and she could get some peace and quiet.
The uproar has been loud; the opinions have been varied; but the end result is the same. Parents are judging other parents for choices made which, theoretically, have no impact at all in their own lives.
I don’t agree with medicinally altering our kids while we fly. There are too many ‘what ifs’ – what if there is an emergency? What if it has the adverse effect on our kids? What if they don’t wake up? Sure, I may go overboard in my ‘what ifs’ but the reality is that any of those things could potentially happen, and I could never live with myself if something happened to my kids because I wanted a 3 hour reprieve to watch a film.
Our last overseas flight was 5 weeks ago, to Spain. We left late from JFK, and our kids were energetic and tired all at once. We ran them around that terminal, letting them go where they wanted and snack as they wanted and hoped beyond hope that they would continue their good traveling streak and sleep as soon as took off or, better yet, as soon as we boarded.
We got them comfortable, we surrounded them with blankets and pillows and lovies and tried as hard as we could to maintain our normal bedtime routine, as normal as we could in a small airline seat far away from their comfy beds. We read them books, we gave them water, we turned off the lights, we crossed our fingers and you know what? We got lucky.
They slept the whole flight, no drug assistance needed. How much of it was our help? How much of it was their doing? How much of it is luck? Who knows. But I do know that things could have gone drastically differently if we had tried to ‘help’ them along.
There is no question that there will be some children who will need help. There is no doubt that there will be parents who aren’t up for the challenge of providing natural help, rather than medicinal help. And I will do my very best not to judge them, because I haven’t been in their shoes, and I hope I never am.
Several family travel bloggers have written about their thoughts on this, and given advice on what you can do to encourage a peaceful flight. So much of it is what we do, and what I tell others to do.
- Bring new toys and books, sticker books, crayons, lots of paper
- Bring snacks, lots of snacks, and we have no issue in bribery! While we don’t normally give our kids m&ms we dole them out on planes with less abandon. Lollipops work great for take offs and landings, and even for wasting 10 minutes or so.
- Electronic rules? Out the window. Let the kids have the ipad/ipod/leapster/tablet. It makes everyone happy in the long run, and one long day of use will not impact their future.
- On night flights try to stick to routines; comfortable pajamas or clothes, books, stuffed loved ones from home, pillows and blankets. We put our kids next to the window (rows of 2 work best for this, mom gets one child and dad gets the other) and raise the armrest and let them get as comfortable as they can while keeping on their seat belts.
- Let them explore, walk the aisles, visit the galley of your cabin. As long as the fasten seat belt light is off and the drink/food carts are out of the aisle they won’t be bothering anyone and it can keep them busy.
And, finally, at the end of the day everyone will survive. Everyone will make it through the flight, even if your child doesn’t sleep. The trip may seem never-ending but I can promise that they all do eventually touch down!
What are your thoughts?
If you are anything like me the prospect of packing up a family for a trip can seem daunting but doable…until you add in the car seats. I can easily maneuver two kids, the bags, a stroller and all our superflous carry on items, but dragging those car seats through the airport just seems completely impossible to do. Then, if you do, once you get it on the plane, you have to install it with your child crawling all over the seat, opening and shutting the window shades and then you spend the next however many hours holding down their feet so they won’t kick the seat in front of them, not to mention there is no space to fold down the tray table so forget about getting a meal if you are on a long flight.
Wait, is that only my kids who do that? Lucky us
So, what do you do? There are several options in case you don’t want to bring your car seat on board.
First, as a disclaimer, it should go without saying that the safest place for a child to be on a plane is in their own seat, and in an approved safety device. There are only two kinds of safety devices that are approved, the FAA approved car seats and the CARES safety harness.
The first option, if you have a child that is at least 1 and 22 lbs, is the CARES safety harness. This is one of our favorite travel items, it folds up small enough that you could throw it into your purse, and it is incredibly easy to use, as easy as slipping it over the seat back and underneath the tray table of that seat. It doesn’t interfere with the person behind you, but we are always very clear when we are installing it that they will still be able to use their tray table! It loops through the seatbelt and voila, a 5 point harness! While I have heard people say that their kids can slip out of the bottom because of the leather seats it has never happened to us. You could bring a drawer liner or non slip pad to keep them from slipping out of the seat if this was truly a concern.
The second option, which may make the truly safety conscious cringe, is to forgo any sort of extra safety device other than the seatbelt. If your children can safely sit in a seat and not take off the seatbelt they would probably be okay to sit without anything. It would make sleeping easier than the CARES (although our son has slept well with it several times), and it means you don’t have to carry anything on board at all. I know I have had friends say they believed that kids under a certain age had to be in some sort of car seat and that is incorrect, they don’t need to be in anything.
If you are going the lap child route (which is free for kids under 2 in the US and you pay typically 10% plus taxes of an international fare) be sure to request the bassinet if your baby is small enough to fit in it and your plane has one, which is usually only on overseas routes. On non-US carriers they often have an additional belt that you loop through yours and then it acts as a seatbelt for your lap child, so you can always enquire to see if your carrier has one.
Some other options to help you get your car seat safely to the plane include:
There are some things that are not allowed to be used on a plane, one of which is a backless booster seat, like this. You can bring one on and stow it overhead but your child will not be allowed to use it in flight. If you choose to wear your baby on board, in something like an ergo or sling, you will not be allowed to wear them during take off and landing.
And don’t forget, if you do choose to take your car seat on board be sure to check that it is an FAA approved seat, or you could be denied boarding with the seat! Also non-US carriers may have different rules – we have been stopped many a time on British Air by flight attendants who wanted to deny us the right to bring a car seat on board saying it wouldn’t fit – so be prepared for the possibility that you may not be allowed to take on on overseas.
It also is important to check with your individual carrier (particularly for non-US carriers) to see if their rules vary. I know Alitalia, for example, doesn’t allow anyone under the age of 2 to have their own seat, even if you want to purchase one.
You know your child best so decide what they would feel the most comfortable in and go from there!
What do you do when you fly?
Our spunky, feisty little girl is turning 2 today, and I think how lucky she is to have traveled so much in such a short time, and with so many trips ahead of us as well. We are laying the groundwork to show her how important it is to see the world, to be a good traveler, to be aware of other cultures and the way people live throughout the world.
Of course she just likes to run around castles and explore beaches and play on playgrounds. Who can blame her?
This is part of Photo Friday at Delicious Baby
Yesterday I wrote about making any vacation possible by looking past the typical family vacation spots and seeing the potential in almost any destination, which made me think some more about some of our earlier pre-children trips, and reliving some of my favorite travel memories, and one that I always come back to is my trip to Peru.
When I was younger I had a short bucket list of places I really, really wanted to visit, and have been so lucky to have visited all of them over the years, which means I can make myself a new bucket list of harder to reach places. Some of them included the Cayman Islands, Ireland, New Zealand, Easter Island and Peru, specifically Machu Picchu. So when my parents surprised me with a trip there for my 30th birthday I was beyond excited – and the trip lived up to and beyond my expectations!
We spent time in Lima, and in Cusco, but the highlight? The highlight was waking up at the only hotel right at Machu Picchu, The Sanctuary Lodge, and walking out to see this:
Over two days I experienced seeing something so magical that I don’t even know if words could do it justice, and I was able to share it with my parents, two of my favorite people in the world. Next time (and there will be a next time!) I want to bring our whole family – time to start a new family bucket list!
I feel very lucky that many of my friends ask for our advice on traveling with kids, especially when so many of them are so well-traveled themselves. We get a lot of the same questions over and over again, and one of them is whether certain locations are kid friendly. One of things I always say is what place isn’t kid friendly?
Sure, let’s put aside the fact that certain hotels and restaurants are likely to be, let’s be honest, less kid tolerant than others, and there are certainly places I wouldn’t want to take our little ones, both because I want to relax and enjoy my time there and because I know that everyone, kids included, have bad days (translation = loud!). But I would wager a bet and say it would be easy to find something for kids to do in almost vacation destination.
So, a big tip I always give people is they aren’t doomed to be Disney bound for the next decade or so – expand your ideas of a good locale and see how you can make any destination work for your family. I often revisit places in my mind that we have traveled to either pre-kids or without kids and try to think of what we did, and what we saw. Were there families there? Did the kids look happy? What were they doing?
One of our favorite child free vacations was a weekend we spent at Blackberry Farm in Tennessee. It was, in a nutshell, spectacular. The entire experience, from when we pulled in to every meal we ate was seamless, and we said from the first hour there until we left two days later that we would be back, and we would love to bring our kids. They have activities for kids, and I could easily see how accommodating they would be for families.
Rather than seeking out a vacation that is purely for the enjoyment of children, go ahead and write out that bucket list of vacation spots you would like to visit and look at them, one by one, and think about how you could turn it into a location that your kids will enjoy.
Egypt? Imagine them running around the pyramids. New Zealand? Full of sheep farms and glow worm caves! Thailand? Beaches, beaches, beaches. Estonia? Let your kids run around Town Hall Square and take a ride on Toomas the Train.
With a little imagination and some preparation it is possible to enjoy places that don’t have the typical ‘children’ appeal that you would think of, and give your kids an opportunity to see some off the beaten ‘family’ path places!
This is part of Travel Tips Tuesday here. Check it out and see what other great tips are being shared!