Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Tips for holiday flyers who rarely take to the skies

I came across a great find for those who do not travel that often but will join the millions of others who cram airports on their way to visit family and friends during the holidays. From 1st hand experience with my 2 young children, the tips below are great suggestions to adhere to in order to make your travel time a little less hectic.

The 6th tip below refers to traveling with a car seat and stroller. Even though you may feel like a pack mule trekking across the Himalaya's it is highly recommended you bring your own gear. To make this easier I have listed below some of the items available to both protect and make carrying your gear easier. In comparison to the prices of some of your baby gear items, the costs for these travel accessories are minimal and worth it.

Taking the Kids
by Eileen Ogintz - November 12, 2007

Get ready!

Jammed airports, delayed flights (on-time performance is the worst in a dozen years), missed connections, lost and mishandled bags (14,000 a day!), and families who rarely fly struggling to shepherd cranky kids through the crowds and long security lines.

Welcome to holiday air travel 2007. A third of holiday travelers fly just once or twice a year and aren't familiar with the ever-changing rules or the little tricks that can make air travel more bearable.

This column is devoted to all of you infrequent family flyers out there getting ready to travel on some of the busiest weeks of the year—AAA says nearly five million of us will fly over the Thanksgiving holiday, and another nine million at Christmas.

I've spent more holidays than I can count on airplanes and at airports talking to other holiday travelers. Here's hoping that these 10 kid-tested holiday rules for air travel will help you get where you're going with a smile—or at least without anyone in your gang having a public meltdown.

1. Book nonstop flights early in the day whenever possible, especially when flying with kids or sending kids as unaccompanied minors. Delays get worse as the day progresses. Consider smaller alternative airports, especially when flying in and out of New York City airports, where delays have been particularly bad. Check in online from home to save more time. Or, if you're driving to the airport, reserve a parking space through the Park 'N Fly Network.

2. Got your quart-sized Ziploc? I always stash a couple of extras in my carry-on bag. While each passenger is limited to three-ounce bottles of liquid and gels in one quart-sized zip-top bag, you can bring larger amounts of medication, baby formula and food, breast milk, and juice. Make sure you have enough in case your flight is delayed or you miss a connection. You won't be able to buy formula or baby food at the airport. Just make sure to tell the security officers you have them. Check TSA.gov for the latest security rules.

3. Send ahead any must-haves—gifts, outfits for family holiday pictures, skis, surfboards, etc. You can send via FedEx ground, UPS, or one of the many services like Luggage Forward, Luggage Concierge, or Luggage Free. It won't be nearly as expensive as having to get new gear if yours gets lost.

4. Invest in small rolling bags for each member of the gang—even your three-year-old can roll hers. Always carry-on medicine, a change of clothes for the baby, T-shirts for everyone else in case of spills, and sweatshirts (planes can be chilly).

5. Give yourself extra time to find a parking space at the airport and to get through security. Gone are the days when you will be bumped to the head of the line if you're checked in for your flight 20 minutes early. Also, take the kids to the bathroom before getting into the security line.

6. Buy a seat for your infant or toddler so that you can use your safety seat on board. The FAA "strongly urges" their use. Babies are far safer restrained in their safety seats in turbulent skies and they're a lot more comfortable in their familiar seats, which means you'll have a more comfortable flight, too. See if your airline offers infant fares. Wheel your child up to the plane in his stroller and "gate check" it. The stroller will be waiting for you at the gate when you arrive.

Richard Goore

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