Summer holidays are one of the most fun and enjoyable moments of the year. Spending time with family or going on an adventure, domestically or abroad, is the best way to make wonderful memories and have a good time after a long winter and, let’s be honest, a boatload of work. But being on vacation and going on vacation are two very different things. While being in my favorite place in the world (and if you have followed this blog long enough, you know where that is) is great, getting there is not my favorite thing. Air traveling can be VERY frustrating even if it doesn’t involve jet lag and multiple suitcases. This year we have added another element to an already complex equation: Baby Lemonade.
There are many ways you can make yourself comfortable and make the holiday traveling less frustrating. A member of the Lemonade 25 family, the Pirate, flies for business and is a real road warrior. In his new role as a dad he is very well versed in being super organized, but traveling entails factors that are well beyond our control. So here are his tips to make the best of your airtravel with and without a baby.
Join and Airline Rewards Plan
Airlines love faithful customers and reward them with some great perks such as boarding before the general public. If you are traveling in first or business class (good for you) that doesn’t mean anything. But if you travel coach there is a huge difference because you’ll be able to get settled and place your carryon bags in the overhead bin before anybody else. If you think that traveling with a child will give you preferential treatment, think twice. Airlines nowadays don’t have a separate boarding for families with children, so having priority access is key because by the time the others will board the plane, you and your baby will be comfortably seated and ready to go, thus avoiding the bottleneck effect. If you don’t have enough miles to gain priority status, consider buying the early boarding option, currently offered by some airlines. You may think it’s a waste of money but with a small child it’ll be worth every penny.
Sign up for Global Entry / TSA PRE
Raise your hand if you (a) hate to stand in line at airport security (b) hate taking off your shoes (c) hate waiting in line at immigration when you land back in the US. By now every reader has raised their hands so I can share how you limit these problems (and sometimes avoid them). If you are a US citizen or permanent resident, you are eligible to apply for the Global Entry program. What does it mean? That the TSA pre screens you and labels you as a frequent flyer. The advantages of this label are twofold. First you may be selected for a simplified version of the security procedure at the security checkpoint: you won’t have to remove your shoes and will only get a body scan. Second when you return to the United States you won’t have to wait in the endless immigration line and will just stop by a dedicated kiosk, scan your passport and reenter the Country in 1 minute flat. Third you won’t have to fill in the customs declaration (because it appears on the screen at the re-entry kiosk) and will fly by customs in a dedicated line. Global entry is a real time and life saver when it comes to traveling with a baby. But ALL the family must be enrolled! So we enrolled Baby Lemonade as soon as she received her passport. And when we came back from Italy last week we re-entered the Country in less than 3 minutes.
Beat Rush Hour
Getting to the airport on time is half the struggle. Scheduling a car service pick up may be the best option if you are going to the airport at a time in which taxis are scarce. Uber may help too, but why risk it? If you are traveling with a child make sure to tell the car service that you’ll need a car seat. On the other hand we decided to use our own car seat and strollers and we brought our travel system along. It was by far the best choice as Baby Lemonade is used to her car seat and would have probably been uncomfortable in another one. Traveling is not a good time for experimentation so order a reliable car service, schedule an early pick up and get the family ready to arrive to the airport in style!
Baby Proof the plane
Planes are not the most baby friendly places: bacteria harbor everywhere, and of course there is the part about dry recycled air, departure and landing causing ear discomfort and many more enjoyable things. Let’s start with the bacteria part: you can’t completely remove the problem but you can minimize it. Antibacterial wipes are great for this purpose (I love Cleanwell towelettes because they get the job done fast!). Wipe down the surfaces that will come in contact with your baby. For fabrics and other porous materials there is little you can do but we brought plenty of receiving blankets so Baby Lemonade would sleep swaddled in something familiar. What’s the point of boarding the plane before everybody else if you can’t use that time to so something helpful? Did you really think you would get to sit pretty and read a magazine? For altitude related ear discomfort there is a lot you can do. While children have a tough time adjusting you can help them by feeding them milk or giving them a pacifier to suck on at departure and landing. Yes blogs and forums tend to tell you it’s not really a problem, but Baby Lemonade ate at departure and landing and apparently didn’t have any ear discomfort. Finally dry air in the plane may seem a beauty concern but there is a lot more to it for a child with delicate skin. Aside from a thick moisturizer on Baby Lemonade’s face (and a thick layer on my face too) we placed gel saline solution in her nostrils so that her nose wouldn’t dry out and cause her a headache. Generally air travel with a baby is all about being prepared and make the baby as comfortable as possible.
Be respectful of others
Traveling can be very meaningful and children surely learn a lot, but it ‘s also very difficult to strike a balance between discipline and fun time. I have encountered many situations in which mothers wouldn’t feed their kids outside of their schedule and left them crying because they failed to recognize that they had ear discomfort or were just plain scared. At the other hand of the spectrum you have kids who run wild while on a plane and kick your seat/ make too much noise /act disrespectfully. In many cases I have been the one to tell the parents that I had had enough and watched the parents do absolutely nothing about it. Now that I am a parent, I realize it is a thin line. While you don’t want to discipline your child and cause an emotional breakdown, you also have to make sure that they don’t willfully bother or disrespect others. Your child’s behavior should not get in the way o other people traveling peacefully on the same plane/train/boat. If they have a temper tantrum or cry/scream/act up you may want to take them to the galley area and allow them to calm down a bit before returning to your seats. This way everybody will have a great experience and your children will understand that other people have feelings too and they need to respect them.