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If there is one thing that my family does well, it’s traveling. My husband and I were both in the military stationed in San Diego, California and our families were both back in Pennsylvania. What does this mean? It means we have spent a lot of time either driving or flying with a child! From planes to cars we’ve got a system worked out to keep traveling just a little less stressful for all of us.
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Flying with a child
Our son’s first flight was when he was when he was just a few months old. I was a nervous wreck flying from California to Pennsylvania with my mom with a tiny baby who I was sure was going to scream the whole time. He did surprisingly well nearly everytime he’s flown, all the way up until he was two (that’s the last time I flew with my child, we are taking another plane right soon though). Over those years I learned a few things about flying with a child. One of the biggest questions I had did I buy him his seat or do I brave the flights and hold him.
Should I buy a plane seat for my child?
Many airlines allow you to hold a child in your lap until they are two. This may sound fantastic, getting to save possibly a couple of hundred dollars, right? Well, I took that savings over buying my little nugget a seat and let me tell you, it’s a trap. For your sanity, buy the seat especially if you have a mobile child. My first flight with the darling boy wasn’t too bad because he was just a couple months old and I held him the whole time but let me tell you; it’s tiring. Ya, the kid could sleep the entire time in your arms but think of the sleeping opportunity you are missing out on! It’s not just the sleep, but it’s the safety of your little bundle of joy. Think about it. Are you putting your infant or toddler in the car without a proper car seat? Hell no! So why are we putting them in planes without them? As I said, I took the cheaper route a few times and held my child, but one especially bumpy plane ride changed that. My nugget was about a year old, and my husband and I were taking turns holding him when the fasten your seatbelts sign flipped back on. The captain came of the loudspeaker to inform us we were about to experience a bit of turbulence. A bit?! HA! I swear it was like hitting pothole after pothole on a back road in rural Pennsylvania (or a regular road if you are familiar with Tobyhanna area, but that’s a whole other issue). Trying to hold on to a squirming tot among all the bumps was an experience I do NOT want to do again.
Before the bumpy ride from hell, we had extra funds to buy our child his plane seat, and it was night and day from the baby wearing, baby carrying flights we took. I had one of those strollers where the car seat hooked on to the stroller, so he stayed in his car seat until security where I had to carry him, whatever, that’s fine. When we were cleared, he went right back into the seat happily looking around the airport. Before boarding the plane, we checked the stroller at the gate like we had in the past and boarded the plane, baby in his seat, sleeping! When flying with a child, it’s fantastic if they fall asleep and you don’t have to disturb them to board. We buckled him in his seat by the window and settled in for a 6-hour flight. This is too good to be true, right? Nope! During this plane ride and others where our child had his seat and space, he was happier and less fussy. We heard from flight attendants that they forgot he was on the plane because he was so well behaved. If it got bumpy, I didn’t have to worry about struggling to hold him close to keep him safe because he was strapped correctly in on his own. Deboarding the plane was also a breeze. We just unbuckled him, our stroller met us at the gate, and we were off!
Should I check my car seat with my bags on the plane?
While many airlines may check your car seat or stroller with your luggage for little to no charge (this obviously may have changed so be sure to double check with your airline), it could be a dangerous game to play, checking your needed car seat with your luggage. We did this once, and that’s all it took for us to realize it was a horrible idea. We checked our car seat with our luggage and went on our way from San Diego to Philadelphia. We thought the 6-hour flight was going off without a hitch and we would collect our bags and car seat and set off for a 3-hour drive to my parent’s place. We got our bags and waited, and waited, and waited at the bag carousel until we were the last ones standing. Guess what we were missing. If you guessed the car seat, you would be correct! We spoke with the ticket agent who did some digging and guess what! They could not locate our car seat, how awesome. We had 2 options. Wait for the next plane from San Diego to come in four hours later or fill out a form and hope it shows up and they would mail it to us. Well, luckily my mom who was picking us up had an extra seat. Our seat was located and sent to us four days later. It was damaged. Lesson learned. Now, this may not be your experience but just know it is a possibility.
Deciding on whether or not to buy your child their own plane seat is a choice only you can make. Many factors go into this choice such as your financial situation and flight length. What I would do is sit down and make a serious pros and cons list on whether or not it’s worth it for you and your family to spend the extra money for the plane ticket. I just highly suggest it.
Once you decide on what’s the best choice for your next plane ride with your child, check out our post on how to keep that little nugget entertained on the plane ride!