Getting on a plane with kids is always an adventure, sometimes even a fun one (see the aforementioned enjoyment). A certain measure of the experience is out of your control. For example, we've noticed that a very important X factor is the relative surliness of TSA staff and the flight crew. Nothing is more stressful on a flight than trying to get the kids settled while the flight attendant is insistent that the seat belt be buckled now. Not 30 seconds from now. But now.
Anyway, we have learned a few things that make it a lot more pleasant and are looking for more ideas to make flying with small children a bit easier.
- A lot of it is in your head. If you convince yourself that it's not going to be that bad, it's probably not going to be that bad.
- Show up early. TSA always tells you to be there at least an hour early, but keep in mind that everything takes a little bit longer with kiddos. Keep in mind that their fluids need to be dealt with (most of the time, TSA will need to do whatever it is they do to check out baby bottles, for example) as well as any carry-on stuff you bring for them. If you've got a baby, skip the shoes because, yes, they will need to be removed for security.
- Pack light. 'Nuff said. Bring a day's worth of diapers and buy more when you get there. Consider leaving any extras at grandma's house for next time.
- A lot of people have different feelings about strollers. (I saw a family with a Chariot double stroller at the security checkpoint the other day!) If you're by yourself with the kiddos, you've got to keep in mind what you're willing to deal with. A lot of people swear by the cheap-o umbrella strollers for airplanes. We go with our everyday stroller even though it's a bit bulkier, though not as much so as a Chariot. Our thinking is that umbrella strollers don't do anything to help you tote stuff which, let's face it, can be almost as useful as their ability to tote the kids. It's a bit more of a pain to break down and get onto the conveyor belt, but it's well-made and we feel safe having it stowed down below. Also, when going into a potentially unpleasant, out-of-the-ordinary situation, there's some measure of comfort in having what you usually have.
- We swear by movies on planes. We try not to watch too much TV at home, so it's part of what makes planes special.