Thursday, July 30, 2009

Getting on to the plane with children

You got the tickets and all the relevant paperwork is in order, now you have to get everyone to the airport. The first time people fly can be exciting or a little stressful. If your children are old enough to understand what's going on, telling them what to expect will make things run more smoothly. Warn them about pressure changes and the need to yawn to adjust the pressure in their ears. Most airlines allow children under the age of two to fly free as "lap children" but it is always safer for all children to have their own seats. Many airlines will make unsold seats available for this purpose. That way, babies and the really young can be strapped into seats not unlike those used for car travel. Accidents are very rare, but with their own seat belts and harnesses, the chances of injury through air turbulence are reduced to almost zero. Many airlines will allow you to bring your own FAA approved seats or use a small stroller. Liaise with customer services to see what arrangements are made before you board.

Remember all the new rules about carrying liquids and gels on to airplanes. Now start planning. One of the problems with longer flights is dehydration so having plenty to drink is a must. Are you going to pack extra food and snacks or rely on whatever the airline serves? Again, check the rules to see whether you are allowed to bring prepacked food from home or must buy it in the secure area (at higher price) before boarding. Then you need all the wipes, ointments, and changes of clothes in case of "accidents". Now think about the length of the flight. Although some airlines have those little screens built into the backs of seats, you might want to consider taking something they find entertaining - toys, books to color or read - anything to help reduce boredom is a good thing. Walking them up and down the aisles is exercise and breaks up the monotony. Letting them run around shouting is going to get you in trouble. Finally, if you stay calm the children will probably follow your example.

Traveling anywhere with children is a challenge. Being shut up inside a plane is a real test of patience. But, if you get all the planning right, the results of a happy holiday make the whole thing worth the money. The pleasure will be all the greater if you were flying with really cheap plane tickets. All the fun and those extra dollars in your pockets as spending money... So make sure you do get the best value in a package with cheap plane tickets and great hotel rates, perhaps with a rental car thrown in and good travel insurance. Sometimes, bundling everything up into one package makes for the biggest savings. Then, make the final decision. How are you going to get everyone to the airport? Long-stay parking rates can be high. It may be better value to take a bus from the city center if you have everything packed so it's easy to carry.