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Traveling with Kids - Surviving the Flight: A True Story!




Image of a little girl playing in a suitcase.

Don't forget to pack the essentials!

I consider myself a seasoned traveler. I don't board planes as much as I used to, but I'm not someone who walks into an airport and instantly becomes overwhelmed, either. However, this summer I experienced something I had never done before. I boarded a flight to Hawaii with my four-year-old daughter. Unprepared and utterly ignorant to this process, I checked in at the counter, dropped off our luggage and made my way to the TSA* checkpoints – this is where the fun begins.

    Once you have passed through security, the next challenge is keeping your child or children entertained. At this point, we stopped and bought some water and snacks, visited the restroom a few times, wandered the terminal, and danced as much energy out before boarding our six-hour flight to Maui.

    Those six hours transformed me from the cool, calm, and collected traveler to one who was agitated, frustrated and continually apologizing to those around us. Looking back, I think my first error occurred the moment I selected our seats. I had chosen the bank of four seats in the middle of the plane so we could sit together, not anticipating my daughter's desire to walk around. Because of my middle seat selection, the only entertainment option was the screen in the seatback which did not satisfy my curious child. She was more interested in what was going on around her than the movie streaming in front of her.

    Our seats presented another problem – bathroom visits. Every hour, on the hour, I would hear “mama potty”. I cringed each time those words came out of her mouth. This request meant our entire row would need to rotate around so I could haul her down the aisle and into the confines of the airplane’s restroom.

      Happy Family on Airplane.

      Our happy family, taken before the 'water bottle catastrophe.'

      The icing on the cake was an event that would later be known as the 'water bottle catastrophe.' Now unless you are a physics major, the concept of pressurization may not cross your mind on a daily basis. As my daughter beckoned for something to drink, I crouched down, rummaged through my bag and grabbed her travel bottle. Not thinking, I placed the bottle on her tray table and proceeded to cram all of our belongings back into my bag. At that same moment, my daughter swiped up her bottle and clicked the lid cap open. A piercing scream wailed from the row behind me. I flipped around to find a cascading waterfall shooting out from the straw of my daughter's water bottle and into the lap of the passenger behind her. I wanted to bury my head and die.

        The icing on the cake was an event that would later be known as the 'water bottle catastrophe.' Now unless you are a physics major, the concept of pressurization may not cross your mind on a daily basis. As my daughter beckoned for something to drink, I crouched down, rummaged through my bag and grabbed her travel bottle. Not thinking, I placed the bottle on her tray table and proceeded to cram all of our belongings back into my bag. At that same moment, my daughter swiped up her bottle and clicked the lid cap open. A piercing scream wailed from the row behind me. I flipped around to find a cascading waterfall shooting out from the straw of my daughter's water bottle and into the lap of the passenger behind her. I wanted to bury my head and die.

          Happy Family on Airplane.

          Our happy family, taken before the 'water bottle catastrophe.'

          Mortified I snagged the bottle away and cracked the seal to release the remaining pressure. I grabbed every napkin I could find that wasn’t already soiled by the snacks of a four-year-old and handed them to the woman. Tears welled in my eyes; I apologized again and again. As she exited her row and headed to the bathroom, I overheard her mutters of disgust and frustration.

          When she made her way back to her seat, I met the woman’s gaze and offered to buy her a drink. My daughter apologized as well, and to my surprise, the soaked passenger started laughing. She refused my offer of a beverage and shared with us that she has five grandchildren who have covered her in things far worse than water.

          The remainder of the flight had some minor challenges but nothing as compared to the water bottle catastrophe. As our plane touched down, I gasped in relief. We made it. Our morale was unbroken by these events as we prepared to spend the next five days in paradise. Little did I know my flying challenges were far from over.

            Cute kids with mom.

            Flying with kids can instill a fear of flying into anyone, even the most seasoned of travelers!

            As our vacation came to an end a week later, we packed up our things and made our way back to the airport. I booked a red-eye flight home with the thought that my family could sleep on the plane. Another critical mistake that I will never make again. I'm not sure about other people’s children, but my daughter gets loopy when she's tired. With another long flight ahead of us, we dropped off our luggage and waited in a much longer, much hotter line through security. My daughter protested, screamed, cried, and begged for a pouch of applesauce as soon as she saw me remove them for security screening. As passengers in front of us cleared the line, the TSA agent saw this unfolding and quickly ushered us through the checkpoint. Once through, I tossed the applesauce to my child and begged her to calm down.

              Our gate happened to be the furthest one from the checkpoint, which meant every dining option was a long haul from our waiting area. Exhausted by the trek, I left my family with our luggage and ran back to the first vendor I came across and bought the last three hot dogs from his cart. When I got back to my tired family with food in hand, our morale increased. After our quick bite, my daughter and I stopped for the last bathroom break before the flight and a change of clothes.

              As we boarded the flight, I was excited that our three seats included a window. Then I remembered that shades needed to be closed during the trip so the glaring sun would not blind everyone once daylight broke. My daughter was not impressed. The temptation of having a window seat without being able to open the shade pushed her over the edge to a place I never want to experience again. She screamed and cried and kicked and hit. The flight attendants offered to grab some milk for us to try and calm her down.

              The back and forth fights to keep her calm continued throughout our entire flight home. Her little body was soon exhausted, but the desire to be a part of the experience was so strong that it resulted in her becoming a child I no longer recognized. I felt like a failure.

              How did this happen? How could I be so unprepared? My guilt continued long after we landed in Seattle. After recapping this experience with fellow parents, I came to realize I was not alone in this experience. We had all survived our trips, and we had long debates about what we would do the next time we traveled with our kids. In the end, we came up with the following list of recommendations.

              • Gate check your stroller: This handy tool keeps your child secure while walking through the airport and can be used to hold carry-on items as you make your way to the gate. Once there, the gate agent can check your stroller, and then it’s waiting for you in the jet way upon arrival.
              • Keep your snacks, devices, and empty water bottle at the top of your carry-on bag: it's easy to take out while going through security and within reach on the plane.
              • Pack snacks in a bento box: The bento box keeps food organized, making it easy to access and the compartments seal up, so food isn't a mess.
              • Pack wipes: Preferably nothing with a heavy fragrance but these handy tools can be used to clean the seatbelt, seat rest and tray table.
              • Hand sanitizer: Pack it. Use it. You will thank me later.
              • Individual carry-on bags for kids: Each carry-on contains toys, snacks, wipes, and a blanket. Kiddos feel like big kids, and it helps prevent fighting between siblings.
              • Pack an extra blanket: Useful for keeping warm, using as a pillow, part of a game of hide and seek or merely as comfort to calm a child.
              • Devices: Make sure to check with your airline before boarding. Some airlines require the download of an app to access Wi-Fi or in-flight entertainment. If in doubt, download movies to the device ahead of time, so you don't have to worry. Also, make sure the device is fully charged and in airplane mode.
              • Seat selection: If the plane has three seats on each side, put the kiddo in the window seat. If the airplane has a different configuration, select the two aisle seats and a window. Kids can move between parents and it's much easier for bathroom trips.
              • Water bottles: Contents pressurize in flight, crack the seal of the bottle before handing it off to your child.

              Traveling with kids is an adventure, and while we all run into bumps along the way, in the end, I will never forget this vacation and the memories we made together.

              *When traveling with children, security screening procedures may differ from your usual experience. For the most up-to-date details on what to expect and what is allowed through security, we suggest visiting the Transportation Security Administration website: https://www.tsa.gov/travel/special-procedures/traveling-children - Opens a dialog

                Image of a little girl playing in a suitcase.

                Don't forget to pack the essentials!

                I consider myself a seasoned traveler. I don't board planes as much as I used to, but I'm not someone who walks into an airport and instantly becomes overwhelmed, either. However, this summer I experienced something I had never done before. I boarded a flight to Hawaii with my four-year-old daughter. Unprepared and utterly ignorant to this process, I checked in at the counter, dropped off our luggage and made my way to the TSA* checkpoints – this is where the fun begins.

                  Once you have passed through security, the next challenge is keeping your child or children entertained. At this point, we stopped and bought some water and snacks, visited the restroom a few times, wandered the terminal, and danced as much energy out before boarding our six-hour flight to Maui.

                  Those six hours transformed me from the cool, calm, and collected traveler to one who was agitated, frustrated and continually apologizing to those around us. Looking back, I think my first error occurred the moment I selected our seats. I had chosen the bank of four seats in the middle of the plane so we could sit together, not anticipating my daughter's desire to walk around. Because of my middle seat selection, the only entertainment option was the screen in the seatback which did not satisfy my curious child. She was more interested in what was going on around her than the movie streaming in front of her.

                  Our seats presented another problem – bathroom visits. Every hour, on the hour, I would hear “mama potty”. I cringed each time those words came out of her mouth. This request meant our entire row would need to rotate around so I could haul her down the aisle and into the confines of the airplane’s restroom.

                    Happy Family on Airplane.

                    Our happy family, taken before the 'water bottle catastrophe.'

                    The icing on the cake was an event that would later be known as the 'water bottle catastrophe.' Now unless you are a physics major, the concept of pressurization may not cross your mind on a daily basis. As my daughter beckoned for something to drink, I crouched down, rummaged through my bag and grabbed her travel bottle. Not thinking, I placed the bottle on her tray table and proceeded to cram all of our belongings back into my bag. At that same moment, my daughter swiped up her bottle and clicked the lid cap open. A piercing scream wailed from the row behind me. I flipped around to find a cascading waterfall shooting out from the straw of my daughter's water bottle and into the lap of the passenger behind her. I wanted to bury my head and die.

                      The icing on the cake was an event that would later be known as the 'water bottle catastrophe.' Now unless you are a physics major, the concept of pressurization may not cross your mind on a daily basis. As my daughter beckoned for something to drink, I crouched down, rummaged through my bag and grabbed her travel bottle. Not thinking, I placed the bottle on her tray table and proceeded to cram all of our belongings back into my bag. At that same moment, my daughter swiped up her bottle and clicked the lid cap open. A piercing scream wailed from the row behind me. I flipped around to find a cascading waterfall shooting out from the straw of my daughter's water bottle and into the lap of the passenger behind her. I wanted to bury my head and die.

                        Happy Family on Airplane.

                        Our happy family, taken before the 'water bottle catastrophe.'

                        Mortified I snagged the bottle away and cracked the seal to release the remaining pressure. I grabbed every napkin I could find that wasn’t already soiled by the snacks of a four-year-old and handed them to the woman. Tears welled in my eyes; I apologized again and again. As she exited her row and headed to the bathroom, I overheard her mutters of disgust and frustration.

                        When she made her way back to her seat, I met the woman’s gaze and offered to buy her a drink. My daughter apologized as well, and to my surprise, the soaked passenger started laughing. She refused my offer of a beverage and shared with us that she has five grandchildren who have covered her in things far worse than water.

                        The remainder of the flight had some minor challenges but nothing as compared to the water bottle catastrophe. As our plane touched down, I gasped in relief. We made it. Our morale was unbroken by these events as we prepared to spend the next five days in paradise. Little did I know my flying challenges were far from over.

                          Cute kids with mom.

                          Flying with kids can instill a fear of flying into anyone, even the most seasoned of travelers!

                          As our vacation came to an end a week later, we packed up our things and made our way back to the airport. I booked a red-eye flight home with the thought that my family could sleep on the plane. Another critical mistake that I will never make again. I'm not sure about other people’s children, but my daughter gets loopy when she's tired. With another long flight ahead of us, we dropped off our luggage and waited in a much longer, much hotter line through security. My daughter protested, screamed, cried, and begged for a pouch of applesauce as soon as she saw me remove them for security screening. As passengers in front of us cleared the line, the TSA agent saw this unfolding and quickly ushered us through the checkpoint. Once through, I tossed the applesauce to my child and begged her to calm down.

                            Our gate happened to be the furthest one from the checkpoint, which meant every dining option was a long haul from our waiting area. Exhausted by the trek, I left my family with our luggage and ran back to the first vendor I came across and bought the last three hot dogs from his cart. When I got back to my tired family with food in hand, our morale increased. After our quick bite, my daughter and I stopped for the last bathroom break before the flight and a change of clothes.

                            As we boarded the flight, I was excited that our three seats included a window. Then I remembered that shades needed to be closed during the trip so the glaring sun would not blind everyone once daylight broke. My daughter was not impressed. The temptation of having a window seat without being able to open the shade pushed her over the edge to a place I never want to experience again. She screamed and cried and kicked and hit. The flight attendants offered to grab some milk for us to try and calm her down.

                            The back and forth fights to keep her calm continued throughout our entire flight home. Her little body was soon exhausted, but the desire to be a part of the experience was so strong that it resulted in her becoming a child I no longer recognized. I felt like a failure.

                            How did this happen? How could I be so unprepared? My guilt continued long after we landed in Seattle. After recapping this experience with fellow parents, I came to realize I was not alone in this experience. We had all survived our trips, and we had long debates about what we would do the next time we traveled with our kids. In the end, we came up with the following list of recommendations.

                            • Gate check your stroller: This handy tool keeps your child secure while walking through the airport and can be used to hold carry-on items as you make your way to the gate. Once there, the gate agent can check your stroller, and then it’s waiting for you in the jet way upon arrival.
                            • Keep your snacks, devices, and empty water bottle at the top of your carry-on bag: it's easy to take out while going through security and within reach on the plane.
                            • Pack snacks in a bento box: The bento box keeps food organized, making it easy to access and the compartments seal up, so food isn't a mess.
                            • Pack wipes: Preferably nothing with a heavy fragrance but these handy tools can be used to clean the seatbelt, seat rest and tray table.
                            • Hand sanitizer: Pack it. Use it. You will thank me later.
                            • Individual carry-on bags for kids: Each carry-on contains toys, snacks, wipes, and a blanket. Kiddos feel like big kids, and it helps prevent fighting between siblings.
                            • Pack an extra blanket: Useful for keeping warm, using as a pillow, part of a game of hide and seek or merely as comfort to calm a child.
                            • Devices: Make sure to check with your airline before boarding. Some airlines require the download of an app to access Wi-Fi or in-flight entertainment. If in doubt, download movies to the device ahead of time, so you don't have to worry. Also, make sure the device is fully charged and in airplane mode.
                            • Seat selection: If the plane has three seats on each side, put the kiddo in the window seat. If the airplane has a different configuration, select the two aisle seats and a window. Kids can move between parents and it's much easier for bathroom trips.
                            • Water bottles: Contents pressurize in flight, crack the seal of the bottle before handing it off to your child.

                            Traveling with kids is an adventure, and while we all run into bumps along the way, in the end, I will never forget this vacation and the memories we made together.

                            *When traveling with children, security screening procedures may differ from your usual experience. For the most up-to-date details on what to expect and what is allowed through security, we suggest visiting the Transportation Security Administration website: https://www.tsa.gov/travel/special-procedures/traveling-children - Opens a dialog


                              About the Author: The above piece was written by Laura, a Costco Travel Expert with 13 years experience in the travel industry.


                               
                               
                               
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