Before I post, I need to say that my heart aches for all those who were lost at Sandy Hook. I thought about doing a grief post, but there are many better qualified people to address that difficult topic. Instead, for those of us fortunate enough to spend the holidays with loved ones, I thought I could help navigate travels.
Traveling with small children is a new level of travel. Here are a few tips I recommend/learned from friends and patients.
Explain the situation to your child. Always tell your kids what is going on and what to expect. It is mind-boggling how much they understand or may remember for the next time.
Take your stroller and carseat to the gate. If traveling with a baby or infant, take your stroller. If your carrier carseat can attach into your stroller, you may want to take the duo. This is helpful for a few reasons. First, you have your stroller to stow extra items as you walk through the airport. Second, you have a safe place for your child. Third, if you get to the gate and there are extra seats on the plane, the gate attendant may let you take your carseat on the plane, even if your child does not have a ticket (lap infant). This is always a huge bonus. In any case, you can gate check your stroller and/or carseat ride during boarding.
Whenever possible, take your carseat on the plane. This is the safest way for your child to travel, though realistically, most parents are carrying their infants.
Order of going through security. This is a great tip I got from one of my best friends. When going through security, have your kid in the stroller while you unload everything else. Only after you have put everything else on the conveyor belt, including your shoes, should you take your child and carry him through the metal detector. If you have another adult with you, he or she will have to put the stroller and carseat onto the belt. If you are traveling alone, usually a TSA agent will help you put everything through while you are holding your child.
What about the body scanners? Don’t worry. If you are carrying a child, you walk through the metal detectors, not the scanners.
Breastmilk. If you are taking bottles or bags of expressed breastmilk onto the plane, alert the TSA agents so they know what to expect on their X-ray vision screen. Depending on how much milk you have, they may test it. Don’t worry—they don’t do anything that would contaminate the milk. The most important item to note is that your gel packs or ice packs must be frozen. If they are in a gel or liquid state, they are not allowed.
There is no limit on how much breastmilk you can take on the plane, as long as it fits within your carry-on restrictions. This is important for mothers traveling without their babies. In some cases, you may be pumping several times a day and have a ton of milk to bring back to your baby. The TSA seems to understand this and allows you to carry large amounts of precious pumped milk.
Frozen breastmilk. If you are carrying frozen breastmilk in a thermos with ice packs, again, they may test it. As with liquid breastmilk, there is no limit on how much you can take as long as it reasonably fits within carry-on restrictions.
I would recommend closely packing your frozen bags so they are really packed in, touching one another or an ice/gel pack (remember, your ice or gel pack must be in a frozen state!). Personally, I was pleasantly surprised to see how well the freezer packs worked. I traveled cross country multiple times with large amounts of frozen breastmilk. Though in some cases it looked like it was starting to thaw by the time I reached my destination, it never caused my daughter any problems when I eventually used it!
Milk and pureed foods. Even regular old whole milk in a sippy cup or straw thermos is allowed if it is for children. Same goes for the pureed foods. They may test it, which sometimes means opening a food container. I always ask them to open the one I plan to use on the plane. As with the breastmilk the TSA is pretty good with this and does not contaminate the food.
Food or snacks for the plane. Though I generally like to do table foods, for travel, I like the squeezy packets. You don’t need a table or utensils. Just squeeze and enjoy. It is a treat for kids, also, if they are not regularly eating them. I also recommend having age-appropriate snacks, even treats. Plane rides can be long…
Bring a special toy or two. I always like to have special toys for special occasions. Either purchase something new that you know your child will love or bring an old favorite that you save for special, tough occasions. If your child is older and watches shows or plays games on a tablet, planes are a great time to offer that privilege.