Wednesday, March 25, 2009

5 Tips for Flying with Preschoolers

Several weeks ago I had a madcap trip scheduled to see family during spring break. My excitement over seeing my brother who had returned from being stationed overseas was tempered with a little bit of terror over flying alone with a 20 month-old and a 3 1/2 year-old. Whether you are a new reader or an old friend, it only takes reading one post to realize that my sons are high-octane, nitro-charged, 100% BOYS! (they're very well behaved, but they're still boys...) I lost track of the times at school friends and teachers would say "You're flying with them alone?? Are you nuts???" Certifiably. but that's another story. :)

The traveling ended up being mostly pretty fun. The trip with family was a blast, and we made it home in one piece and both children present. :) To help other adventurous parents with their travel, since that season is almost upon us, here are several of the tools and tips I used.

1) Liquids 3-1-1. To make it easy, liquids 3 oz. or smaller, 1 qt. plastic ziplick, 1 bag per passenger placed in tray during security. There are, however, exceptions when traveling with children. From the TSA official site "Declare larger liquids. Medications, baby formula and food, and breast milk are allowed in reasonable quantities exceeding three ounces and are not required to be in the zip-top bag. Declare these items for inspection at the checkpoint." They will not ask you to taste the items, but they will be insepcted. They still won't let you take water through, so either plan on buying water for formula powder or buy the premixed stuff. ALso, if you have frozen breast milk or medication that needs to stay cooled, you are allowed those little refreezable packs. As a precaution, I always print out the offical rules from the TSA site in case I happen to come across a security agent who's not aware of the exceptions.

2) Going through security with children. First, they will not ask or do anything to separate you from your children! Still, keep your eyes on them... If the child is capable of walking they will ask if the child would walk through on his own. (Which they did the first time. On the way home, William wouldn't be parted from Mommy's arms). Be aware that all shoes, even sandals, must be removed. I dressed the boys in easy-to-tie shoes, and wore clogs for greater ease. I even had a compassionate TSA agent help me fold up the stroller, get the Ziplock out of the backpack, and round up the shoes! If you have more questions, check out TSA's site about traveling with children.

3) Luggage and car seats. Since most airlines have started charging for even the first suitcase (except my beloved Southwest), check with your airline's website for their policy. The several that I checked with, (Delta, United, American) do NOT charge for car seats and strollers (or you can use the stroller throughout the airport and gate check it to pick it up immediately after the flight). So you do not have to worry about paying extra to protect your child at your destination. :)

4) Medical Emergencies. The first flight of the day coming home, I looked down as we were boarding to notice my youngest son's right knee looking red. I thought it was odd, but continued with the boarding. By the time we were loaded on the plane, both knees were red with hives, as were both elbows. By the time I dug through the bag to look for medicine, they had spread to cover most of his legs and arms. Not having benadryl with me, I called for the flight attendant. They don't carry medicine on board, but she called for the airport EMTs. We did have to disembark from the plane, but it was nice to know there were people available to help. They checked out his lungs, which were thankfully clear. But now I know that airports carry medical personnel who respond very quickly, and the service is free. (unless you require an ambulance to transport you to a hospital). Airline agents were also very helpful in rebooking my flights to get me home only a few hours later. They did not charge to rebook. The moral of this story is, don't take chances, especially with your child's health. There are people available to help if you have serious concerns. I did not want to delay my trip, especially since I was taking care of two tired children, but the alternatives were to have my child's airways swell up at 20,000 feet.

5) Medical kit. Bring the essentials with you. Benadryl is now one of them... Infant Tylenol is small, and you can use with an older child, it just takes a little but more. An anti-itch cream. A few band-aids. Diaper rash cream. Your pediatrician's phone number. Orajel. You know your child and what you normally do to prepare for possible emergencies away from home, just double-check the contents and pop it into your bag. There are stores in airports, but they don't cater to children and infant needs. Just don't forget to take the nail scissors OUT of the bag...

Don't forget to come back next week when I post more tips for traveling with preschoolers!

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