Monday, May 19, 2008

Flying with Small Children Step by Step: Chapter 1, Airline Security

While packing, remember that all liquids and gels in carry-on luggage have to be in 3oz or smaller containers (not larger containers that are partly empty, mind you) and placed into a single quart-sized ziploc bag--only one to a customer. And you must be able to remove your individual baggie so that it is visible while your bags are scanned.

Translation: remove all lotions, diaper cream, hand sanitizer, chapstick, nasal saline spray for the congested baby, and infant ibuprofen from the places they would be most useful (like the changing pad in the diaper bag or your coat pocket where you could actually reach it in-flight while sitting in the middle seat with your 13-month old, between two strangers, one drinking redwine, and the other hot coffee).

While planning to feed children onboard the plane, remember that outside beverages or other liquids are not allowed, except for baby items. The screeners will allow babies and very small children to have sippy cups of beverages. This is helpful in case your 13 month old prefers whole milk or prune juice to Coke mid-flight. This is not helpful to a parent who prefers a baby-proof container of liquid, rather than the very small wide-mouthed plastic cups that the flight attendants so kindly provide. Consider packing an extra sippy cup for your own beverage, but remember that you will have to argue with your child about why the are not allowed to drink out of "their" cup.

Food and snacks will not be provided by the airlines, even during a 5:40-7:40 flight, which actually begins boarding at 5:15. Eat your first dinner before you board the plane, and plan on a second one when you land. Bringing food in your carry on might be OK, but not if it is a gel or liquid. Gels or liquids (which would include things like peanut butter or cheese) must be in a 3-oz or smaller container, placed in your quart-sized Ziploc baggie, one baggie to a customer. Teddy Grahams are neither gels nor liquids until they reach a child's mouth, but allowing a baby to eat them off of the floor after he has dumped the bag can lead to strange looks from the travellers around you. Practice indifference to disapproving looks prior to flying.

Before walking through scanners, remove all jackets, watches, wallets, etc, and place them in a bin. Remove any electronic devices (like the portable DVD player to entertain the children during the flight) from their bags. All carry-on bags must go through the scanner. Note that this is much hard than it sounds while corralling 3-year olds and juggling a baby. You may attempt to leave them secured to strollers or carseats while you do this, but that reprieve is only temporary (see below).

Everyone must remove their shoes, and place them into a bin to be scanned. This includes 3-year olds who are rather upset to be parted with their new sparkly gelly sandals, and squirming infants who like to remove their socks and throw them. Also, your husband's tall cowboy boots must be placed standing upright in their bin, not laying down or sharing a bin with anything else.

Remove all babies and small children from their containment devices. Containment devices (i.e. carseats, slings, and strollers) must be collapsed and placed on scanner. Children may walk through the scanner or be carried. Sending a baby through the x-ray machine is not allowed, no matter how much you argue that he’s already had dozens of x-rays in his life and this one’s not likely to kill him either.

10 feet later, re-dress and re-pack all of your belongings. Explain to your 3-year old why they must get out of their stroller, remove their shoes and jackets and not touch the walls of a scanner while tall strangers stare at them, and why they have to then put their shoes back on right after they took them off.

Do this quickly, as after following all of the previous instructions, you have monopolized every plastic bin that TSA provides, and your belongings stretch from one end of the conveyor belt to the other. There are other travelers behind you waiting impatiently for their turn. Beware, as these people have just discarded their Starbucks, and have not yet had an in-flight adult beverage to improve their mood. Nor will they see your small child sitting on the floor insisting that she can put her own shoes on.

Don't forget the baby, who you placed in a plastic bin on the conveyor belt to keep him out of trouble.


HiddenChicken said...

I totally feel your pain. While we traveled to India, we had to pull off and put on Ragsy's shoes more times than I can count. Unfortunately, he likes his shoes so much he frequently tries to sleep in them.

Don't even get me started on the liquid. I was livid at having to spend so freaking much money in the airport before every single flight just for a cup of milk. Unfortunately, very few places within the airport other than coffee bars in the US (and very, very few places in India) even sell it, so I'd often find myself walking from one terminal to the other, searching for milk, as juice had a few unfortunate effects when drunk in too large a quantity. Ragsy also refused solids even though he was starving, so it was the only way to get any nutrition into him. Infuriating.

Amanda said...

Note to add: Check as much luggage as possible when flying with small children. Also limit carry on luggage especially when having to switch planes typically in huge airports where you must make a run for it to not miss your flight. Strollers are wonderful after all night trips where the kids fall asleep and can barely stand while waiting in line at customs to enter the country. Forget bringing toys on the plane. The child will play with them all of 10 minutes (if you are lucky) and then expect you to produce something more. Become a preferred or business class flyer if possible. Shorter lines and more space. Not very likely to happen for most people unless company pays.

I didn't know that they wouldn't send infants through the metal detector. I think my little guy went through one when he was a little over 1 year old. Travelling with kids is always an interesting experience best told a few days after it's over and you've had a chance to destress. :)

Gregg said...

I travel a lot and have totally become used to the current regulations. Bringing a very young child would be harder, though! Each of my girls made trips as babies, and it was fine, but I know that I was lucky. They sat on my lap, and even slept without too much coaxing.

Now they are 6 and 12, and fly just fine.

HiddenChicken said...

Amanda makes a great point about the toys. We brought all kinds of books and crayons and litte, fiddly toys with us for our trip to India. But what occupied Ragsy for hours on end? An empty water bottle and a straw. Go figure.

I can't imagine what people thought of the strange American who refused to let go of all of her trash.

Kristi said...

Hiddenchicken...I can only imagine the pain of such extended travelling. Our flights were 2-hours each way, nonstop. That's it. And I'm still catching up on sleep.

Amanda--the kids can go through the metal detector. I was attempting to joke about the X-ray machine...Trystan was asleep in his carseat when we arrived at the airport, so we hefted him in his seat until we got to security. The seat was x-rayed. He was merely carried through the metal detector.

As for toys, on the way there I had nothing as my husband had things in his bag 13 rows in front of me. Barf bags make great container toys for a 13-month old. Trystan was endlessly entertained putting his sippy cup and pacifier in and out of that thing. Also, in-flight magazines. There's nothing like shredding paper to amuse a baby. On the way back we had a small bag with a few matchbox cars, a fabric book, and a single rattle. Both kids played with those for a while (having a sibling to steal from helps, as does the "container" aspect of the toy, at least for in bag--car out of bag--throw car--retrieve car--car in bag..)

Trystan did sleep on both flights--for about the last 10 minutes of each :)