Lady V. is an awesome traveler. When we lived in Ontario she flew oodles as we visited family in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. Now that we live on the East Coast we do not have to spend our summer traveling “home”, yay! Earlier this year we took a family trip to Calgary and I just attempted my first solo flight with both kids, Lady V., who is 4 and Mr. Man who is 10 months old. While traveling with kids means a less leisurely flight, I have found a system that works for me and most importantly works for the kids!
Survival Tip #4: Pack Efficiently
Gear: I hate dragging too much stuff through the airport, even when traveling with kids. Now that Lady V. can handle her own little back pack she carries her own things. Her pack contained a change of clothes, headphones, a book or two, epi-pen, allergy meds & safe snacks (more on traveling with allergies later). For our longer Calgary flight we filled an ipod shuffle with her music and read-a-long books as well and brought crayons, colouring books and a card game. On out most recent short flight she just basked in the glory of endless seat back tv. I love a small pack like this MEC Kid’s Dome Daypack so it can fit under the seat ahead of me and I can avoid the overhead-bin-shuffle.
Diaper Bag: This trip I chose to use a backpack, so I had a free hand to carry the car seat. Inside I packed the usual baby goodies – diapers, wipes, face cloths, cream, change of clothes, teethers, rice crackers and a few toys. Although I breastfeed, I brought a bottle on the plane. I found it nearly impossible to breastfeed him on a previous flight as it was cramped and he is far too curious, but you may not have such a wiggly babe. I also packed a zipper bag with a few disinfectant wipes to wipe down the seats, window and trays. I first did this for Lady V., to clean any unsafe food residue, but will always do it now that I have seen how much black was on the wipes after I used them…ewwwww. A Stroller Survival Kit might come in handy as well, there’s no telling what you might run into on your travels. My things also go in the diaper bag – wallet, cash, hand cream and lip balm. I used to pack a book…not so much anymore!
Ditch the Stroller: Seriously, live on the edge and ditch the stroller! I have flown with a stroller, and I recently flew with my beloved BOB to Calgary in April. If you do fly with a stroller, consider buying a cheapy travel one so you will not cry if it is eaten by the airplane. Also, gate check! Gate-checking your stroller increases your chances of seeing it on the other end! Many companies offer a stroller bag as an accessory for their specific stroller so check when you purchase yours. Prince Lionheart sells these awesome Stroller Gate Check Bags that may fit the stroller you use. This trip I did not travel with a stroller as I was flying alone and prefer to travel light. I had my friend in Ottawa purchase a jogging stroller at a yard sale for $15. It will just stay here so I can use it when we visit, yay! At the airport, I placed Mr. Man in a front carry in my carrier and placed the back pack/diaper bag on my back which left me a free hand to carry the car seat. I did not miss the stroller at all.
Car Seat: This is a new aspect of traveling I have become even more familiar with since becoming a Child Restraint Systems Technician. Lady V. is now in her own seat on the plane so we always place her in a car seat. This keeps her safe in case of any major turbulance and also ensures my seat makes it to our destination. Not only does it arrive, but I know it hasn’t been shaken and bashed in a cargo hold! For this trip I purchased a Cosco Scenera 5-Point Convertible Car Seat. It is light and narrow and was easy for me to carry through the airport with one arm and install on the plane. It will be our travel seat since we do fly at least once a year.
I am a firm believer that when you know better you do better. We didn’t always place Lady V. in a car seat, and I didn’t purchase a seat for Mr. Man this time. However, I am concerned when there is turbulence and you never know when a landing could be more rough than expected. This will be the last time he flies without a seat. I am just not comfortable with it anymore and I want him to be safe and secure. Read this explanation from Transport Canada. If I had heard it worded as such, I would definitely have always purchased a seat for an infant!
“First of all, although a child who has not reached their second birthday may be held in an adult’s arms, Transport Canada highly recommends the use of an approved child restraint for all phases of flight. The use of a child restraint system provides the greatest degree of protection for the infant or child and its use during flight will help in case of unanticipated turbulence. By using the child restraint on the aircraft, it will also ensure that you will have it available for use in the car at your destination.”
Another option for children is something called a CARES harness or Child Aviation Restraint System. Lady V. is using one in the photo below. It augments the regular lap belt, providing a more secure harness for children over one year old who are 22-44lbs. For more information on flying with kids and car seat use in general, check out Car-Seat.org. It is an excellent source of information on all things car seats. Be sure to click on the “Canadian and International” link in the forums. In order to fly with your seat it has to have the Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (CMVSS) Mark 213 or 213.1. Look for a big round white sticker with a red maple leaf in the centre. Also contact the airline to confirm you can use that seat, just in case.
Flying with Allergies: While it still makes me nervous, I now manage to fly without being a complete and utter pile of nerves, so I consider that progress! Lady V. has a peanut allergy so she cannot come into contact with any peanut product. If someone on a previous flight ate a cookie containing nuts on the seat back tray (most nuts are cross-contaminated with peanuts), then Lady V. used the tray for her snack, there would be the possibility of a reaction. It is much more complicated than “just don’t eat on the flight”. I always use disinfectant wipes to clean our area when we board including the seat, seatback tray, the window, window shade and arm rests. I look like a crazy woman, but I am OK with that! I also fly with two Epi-pens and an entire bottle of Aerius. We always bring our own food on the flight and I choose to fly WestJet whenever possible. There are nut-exclusion zones on “other airlines” but it really depends on the flight attendants and we have had good and not-so-good experiences. WestJet serves Enjoy Life products which are free of the top 8 allergens so they get huge points from me! They also served kids cookies clearly marked peanut free. Always make the flight attendants aware that you are flying with a life threatening allergy. On our flight to Calgary a lady across from us opened the biggest bag of peanuts I have ever seen come out of a purse! Thankfully she put them away when asked nicely by the crew. On our trip, the Westjet flight attendant made a well-worded announcement to the entire plane asking folks to hold onto any nutty snacks until they disembarked. The wording was clear and serious, but at the same time light enough that I didn’t feel we were being pointed out to everyone, I liked that.
While I am always happy to arrive at our destination and get off the plane, these tips seem to keep me and my two lovelies happiest en route! Happy flying!