VIAGGI – FAMILY TRAVEL
This is the first in a series of lessons I learned traveling with my now 5-year-old son since he was a baby. The lessons are designed to help parents learn from my experiences and mistakes to have a smoother travel experience every time they muster the courage to take baby (or little men and little ladies) on a magnificent journey.
Lesson No. 1 – Find a Family Friendly Airline
Traveling with a baby requires a heart, stomach, and mind of steel. My son was only six months old before he traveled by plane with my husband and me. And it was no simple plane ride. We were heading to Ischia, Italy, which requires two flights (one lengthy flight from New York or Newark to a European capital, one short connecting flight to Naples, Italy, and one 1.5- to 2-hour boat ride to Ischia, Italy). When we set off, we didn’t know what lie ahead, but we had vetted the airline to make sure it was family friendly.
To start our journey, we said tearful good-byes to my parents because we’d be gone for a few months, which is akin to a lifetime with an infant. Then, we rolled through security and boarded the plane with virtually no problem. The little guy was being an angel. Once aboard, we settled in. Lufthansa has carriers that hang on the wall of the first row of the economy class. All the families with infants are seated there, and the plane’s staff checked in with us from the start. We’ve traveled on other airlines, including Jet Blue, Alitalia, and Air France, and none of them were as accommodating to the kids. I kicked back and planned to nap along with my son.
But alas I would never get to dream aboard that flight. Before I could drift off to Dreamland, my son cried in hunger. I had him latch onto my breast and used a blankie to be discreet. He was happily drinking when the child next to us began screaming…loudly…and with oomph. Even though his mother seemed unbothered, I felt for her when the cries became prolonged. I knew what all the other passengers were thinking. I mean if looks could kill, well you know what would have happened. This scenario had been my biggest concern pre-trip, so I was sympathetic.
The airline attendants flocked to the mom, and gave her a hand. Finally, she soothed her son. But mine was already too distracted to breast feed (read more about that in a future post) or go right back to sleep. Still, he was being sweet and not giving anyone a problem. He did eventually go to sleep. Indeed, he mostly slept on that long flight. Of course, he has always been a powerful pooper, so we did have to make a few trips to change diapers in the airplane’s bathroom.
As for as airplane bathrooms go, this was one of the best. The bad news was that I actually had to carry the baby and go down steps to get to the bathrooms. The good news is that they were roomy compared to what we’d later face on other airlines, and there was plenty of room on the baby changing table that was provided.
Questions Parents Should Ask the Airlines
If you’re looking for a family friendly airline, particularly for a baby 2 and under, then you should ask the following questions of the airline beforehand:
- Where do babies sit on the plane generally? (Lufthansa, for instance, provides those baby carriers that hook to the wall, and make it easy for baby to get comfortable, stretch out, and sleep.)
- What is the general approach if a baby is crying or having a hard time in flight?
- How much do they charge for baby? (In general, babies under 2 years old are free.)
- What about baby’s stuff? (You are usually allowed to bring a stroller and car seat for free and not as part of your allotted luggage.)
- What about baby’s food, formula, milk? (My son is a milkaholic, and we can still bring some milk for him on the plane – not necessarily from the gate – but the airport’s security, depending on the country, has some rules about it. In the United States, the security agents have to pass the milk through a test on a machine before we can bring it on board. There are also limits to how much milk, formula, etc. you can bring but it’s a decent amount and should get you through the flight and beyond.)
- Is there anything else the airline would like parents to know before buying a ticket?
One bonus with Lufthansa was that they gave my son and the other children in flight an age appropriate gift. My son received a plush birdie busting out of an egg. It was soft and cuddly and small enough for his tiny hands. He still has it, actually. Yep, Lufthansa is one of the good ones for baby.