If you’re like many American families, you’re gearing up to go “over the river and through the woods” in order to spend the holidays with loved ones. But instead of taking a horse and sleigh, your modern-day family will be strapping into an airplane and perhaps a rental car after that. As any parent can tell you, that’s not exactly a recipe for peace on your corner of the earth and goodwill to your infant, toddler, or small child!
Yes, fighting the holiday crowds, navigating security checkpoints, hauling luggage, and getting everyone to and from the correct gates in one piece is enough to give any parent the “Bah, Humbugs”…but do not lose sight of your child’s well-being in the midst of your holiday travel hassle.
Especially if, like most families, you don’t travel often—or if this is your youngster’s first time flying—you may not be aware of potential safety concerns until after an accident has already happened. Fortunately, knowing what to expect, inspect, and ask for before the big travel day can keep your little ones secure once you board the plane—and can help ensure that an unforeseen incident doesn’t add to your travel stress.
If your family will be flying to this year’s holiday gathering, read on for 10 safety considerations to keep in mind:
Get the best seats. On an airplane, not all seat assignments are created equal, especially if you’re traveling with an infant or small child. When making your reservation, you may want to inquire about bulkhead seating for your family. Bulkhead seating is found behind partitions in airplanes. These partitions often separate business class from economy, or contain galleys or lavatories—meaning that you’ll be sitting behind a wall, not a row of seats. (Be aware, though, that some bulkhead seating is located beside emergency exits, and that children are prohibited from sitting in these rows.)
The added space of bulkhead seating will make it easier and safer for you to get out of your seat with your child. It will also be easier for you to manage food, beverages, toys, or other activities once you reach a safe flying altitude. And finally, you won’t have to worry about being cramped by reclined seat backs…or about your child kicking them!
One last piece of advice: While it may sound obvious, double-check that you and your family are all seated on the same row. You may have to pay extra for this ‘privilege,’ as some airlines are now reserving aisle and window seats for passengers who are willing to pay an extra fee.
Be first in line. Especially if you aren’t a frequent flier, you may not be familiar with early boarding, an option that many airlines offer to families traveling with younger children.
When you get to the gate, ask the attendant if early boarding is offered, and if the answer is yes, take advantage of it. When you’re trying to wrangle an excited, curious, nervous, upset, and/or sleepy child, as well as your carry-ons, having a few extra minutes to get settled into an empty plane can be a godsend. Most importantly, this time will allow you to check and double-check that your child is securely fastened into his or her seat.
Make sure that your car seat works as a carry-on. Don’t assume that just because your car seat contains a baby, you’ll be able to carry it onto a plane with no problems. If your car seat doesn’t have the designation “This restraint is certified for use in motor vehicles and aircraft”—which many models don’t—your airline may prevent you from using it.
For the best fit in aircrafts, use approved car seats that are less than 16 inches wide. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to make certain that the car seat is properly installed using the airplane seat belt.
Reserve lap-sitting for visits to Santa… If your child is under two years of age, you might find it very tempting to simply hold him or her on your lap for the duration of your flight if the airline allows this option—after all, you’ll save the cost of an entire plane ticket by doing so! However, it’s much safer and easier for everyone (including your child!) to have their own seat. Read More