Enter Jordan and myself last week.
Now, keep in mind I find myself quite capable when flying alone with Jordan. I have considered, ahead of time, the details of exactly what I need to do and in what order and on top of that, I have a lingering prideful confidence from all my days of business travel. I know precisely the order I will go about things. Upon handing the TSA official our boarding passes, my California (woo woo) license and Jordan's passport (we were using his immunization card up until recently, it works just as well, so does a birth certificate, but somehow I feel more honest using a passport that has his photo because otherwise, you could use an immunization card not for your 3 year old baby and get by... just saying), I am already thinking of the next step. I am scoping out the lines, knowing they will shuttle me into the "family" line but eyeing the individuals surrounding me, speaking loudly to my baby about the line we are about to enter in hopes of passer byers eavesdropping and realizing they should opt out of my way!
Once we receive our boarding passes and identification, I quickly stuff it back into my wallet and compartment that holds my wallet, and proceed to remove the clear bag that holds all my baby items and liquids. I watch everyone taking off their shoes, thinking how novice of them, why are they removing it so quickly and submitting their feet to the disgusting probably never cleaned floor? I then grab two TSA provided x-ray boxes, all while talking to Jordan who is still in the stroller. I look at his shoes and think - how great it is that kids under 12 don't have to remove 'em!, and then I put the liquids bag in one box, pull out my laptop from my backpack in the other, and continue to move along with Jordan in the stroller, the two boxes, and my backpack still on me and my diaper bag still on one shoulder. As we inch towards the actual x-ray entry, I toss on my diaper bag (zipped of course), my backpack (also zipped), the box with my laptop, and then quickly take off my shoes to add to the box with my liquids bag, and then unbuckle Jordan, take him out, ask him to stand nicely and not run off (but say it conspicuously loud enough that nearby strangers take notice in case he does decide to make a run for it), and remove the top portion of my stroller, turn it upside down and onto the conveyer belt, and then collapse the bottom of my very steel (as more than 3 TSA officials will always comment on) Urbo stroller base, put it onto the belt, and then scoop up Jordan if he's still around (he has been everytime), and proceed to walk through the normal old school x-ray line, happy that I don't have to go through the intense new x-ray machines.
Once through the other side, it's a quick and painless retrieval of my items, reassembly of the stroller, and then off we go!
However, as much as I think I know - I am always learning more!
This past week, I learned I can bring water in my Nalgene for Jordan (and let's be honest, myself too) instead of emptying it out and bringing an empty bottle to fill on the plane. This is magnificent news as airport food and drinks are exorbitantly priced and it's quite a while before drinks are served on the plane. Upon realizing this, I wanted to put together a list for my friends and for myself, of the best things to keep in mind when flying with a child, so here goes... let me know if I should add anything else!
- Children under 2 fly FREE, but you must bring a form of identification: ones that work - a passport or a birth certificate (but like I said, an immunization card has worked for us for 15 months) and you must have a children's boarding pass so printing a boarding pass from home is not enough, you must get a lap seat pass from the ticket kiosk or the counter in front of your gate. I watched a mom furiously yell at the Southwest workers at the gate counter about how she has always flown with a child under 2 without identification (she didn't have a lap seat boarding pass) and since the flight was full, they would not budge) for one of her kids, and after 15 minutes of yelling and demanding them to "look at my child, does she look older than 2?" - it was questionable btw, she acquiesced and bought another ticket) and later on the plane, was advised she had to let her child sit alone up front because she had a seat (they later rearranged seats for her to sit with the daughter and the husband - who had already boarded and saved three seats while she was going through this chaos - to sit with her son).
- Carseats and strollers do NOT count as baggage: You can check both when you check your baggage but it's recommended to hold onto the stroller as you can use it leading up to the actual flight. You'll be asked to sign a waiver that says you won't sue if they damage or loose your stuff (it gets damaged all right, just be prepared), but if you hold onto your stroller until the gate, you'll have to ask the counter by your gate to "check in your stroller." They'll ask you to sign the same waiver you did for the carseat and then tag it with a neon yellow "claim at gate" and a baggage airport with code sticker. For flights that are very empty and babies who are very tiny (think 6 months and below), you can take a gamble and hold onto the carseat until the gate, and if the flight's still empty while boarding, you can bring in the carseat and put the baby in there on an empty seat you did not pay for. We did this a few times when Jordan was young and sleeping a lot, but it's a huge hassle to carry in and we stopped doing it when he got larger. Also, pack n plays DO count as luggage.
- The Baby Liquid Exception Rule: You can normally bring in medically necessary gels and liquids (including contact solution, wish I knew that all those times I purchased tiny bottles), and these do not need to be included in your ziploc (or clear bag in my case), but did you also know you can bring in juice, baby formula, pumped milk, and water (used to mix with powder formula or in my baby's case, his preference over juice)?! They will perform an additional screening of the items, make sure there aren't dangerous vapors or something along those lines.
- Be prepared: Bring snacks, games, new toys, wipes, and napkins. These will keep your toddler occupied and you sane.
- Use the Flight Attendants: I'd like to say I was smart enough to ask a flight attendant to look after my child while I used the tiny airplane bathroom. However, it took one trial and error before I realized I would need to ask for help. It might have been possible if I were a man or had a baby carrier, but I did not and I may or may not have peed on myself a little.
Happy traveling with child!
Remember, always make your child cry while the plane is being boarded - this way only child lovers will sit by you or older folks who miss hearing babies cry (what's that about? ... maybe time will tell). Try to book flights during naptimes - twice, Jordan fell asleep and was an ultimate angel. I'm glad babies are cute at this age, it sure helps when they're a nightmare on the plane!