Traveling with Little People

By: Heather Somaini

 

I’m about to go on a rant.  Traveling with babies, toddlers, and kids is amazing and wonderful and super terrible all at the same time.  We’ve had some very fun trips completely ruined by flight attendants and other passengers.  Come to think of it actually – it’s always been flight attendants.  Other passengers generally try to ignore you.  Unless of course, they love kids, which is much more common than I realized.  People love babies.  They really love twin babies.  And most of the time they’re confused by our family structure so they have questions.  But generally people are pretty decent about kids.  I mean, don’t get me wrong – strangers will kill themselves to help a pregnant woman but completely ignore a mom with three kids and a stroller that won’t fold up, but in general they’re at least not too terrible.

Flight attendants, on the other hand, are at either end of the spectrum – they either love or hate you.  We’ve had flight attendants spend almost an entire flight with us wanting to hold the babies and chat endlessly.  And then we’ve had the other kind…the ones that take one look at you coming on the plane and turn into Medusa.

We took our first flight with the babies when they were about two months old on a Southwest flight to Nashville, TN.  Since Southwest doesn’t provide assigned seats, we rushed on to the plane with the babies in carriers attached to us and grabbed a window and an aisle seat with an empty one in between us.  As the plane began to fill and they told us repeatedly that it was going to be a full flight, we eyed a handsome businessman and offered him the aisle seat.  He quickly took it and Tere moved into the middle.  All was well until about an hour before the plane landed when a flight attendant demanded to know if we had been sitting in those seats the entire flight and then yelled at us that we couldn’t do that!  We sat there confused while she angrily explained that there is only one extra oxygen mask per set of seats so we couldn’t have more than one lap baby per row.  How were we supposed to know that?!?!  Somehow on our return flight, we snagged the only empty seat on the plane to be between us.  But other than those two flights, we haven’t flown together since.  Usually we sit a row in front of the other so we can pass baby necessities back and forth.

Another favorite complaint of flight attendants is portable DVD players.  The same could be said for iPads, iPods, tablets, laptops…but basically, they are a godsend.  They’re amazing and keep little kids occupied for tons of time especially when we ask them to sit still on a plane when they want to explore this new wonder.  My problem is that I didn’t want to put headphones on the babies, it just seems wrong, and we have twins so they BOTH want to watch the same thing.  I always figure that planes are loud anyway and if a fellow passenger could, in fact, actually hear something coming from our iPad that was better than a screaming child kicking at their seat.  But funny enough, flight attendants are sticklers for rules.  I’ve sat reading a magazine next to one of our playing machines that I can barely hear and they’ll still tell me to turn it down.  I’ve asked all the passengers around us if it’s ok, and the flight attendant STILL wants us to turn the sound down, turn it off altogether, or use headphones.  I once pointed out that putting headphones on a 2-year-old didn’t seem like a good idea.  I was told people do it all the time.  I’m guessing by now, you can imagine what my response was…it didn’t go over well.

Security – another pet peeve of mine.  Those TSA folks couldn’t care less that your wife is standing in her stockinged feet holding two babies on the other side of a metal detector while your bags, shoes, and stroller are piling up a the end of the conveyor belt as they hold you captive because the underwire in your bra set the metal detector off.  Nope.  You’re going to get a pat down and by the way, we have to call over to another terminal to find a female agent.  Oy!

At the end of the day, it’s just about getting from Point A to Point B and then enjoying the time you have when you get there but I have decided that bringing lots of food, toys, games, movies on your iPad, DVDs, Baby Tylenol, and a pleasant disposition is really the only way to go.

What’s your most outrageous travel story?

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Comments

  1. Naz says

    ok, I’m DEFINITELY going to be asking you ladies for travel tips … since we have THREE toddlers to travel with.

    So far, all of our trips have been car trips.

    If you add up all the time before/after a flight (drive to airport; go through security; wait for the plane, … then wait for luggage; wait for shuttle; get a rental van w/ 3 car seats, etc.) … we decided it was easier to just drive our own car w/ DVDs, snacks, … One of us drives while the other sits in the 2nd row to entertain the kids.

    But we’re soon going to start non-driving trips and frankly …. I’m scared silly about the learning curve! :(

    I can’t drive to Kauai to visit our cousins! And Lydia is NOT reliable in a kayak (story for another day!)!!

  2. Madgew says

    Heather, you crack me up. My son and DIL had twins and then 2 years later another baby. They have traveled a lot. They do the best they can and fortunately they have great traveling kids but supplies are a necessity and charging all players before you leave and while you are at the airport works best. Also, bringing new toys keeps them busy for awhile. Now at 6 1/2 and 4 they have Ipad’s and I touches for planes, trains and automobiles. And in the end let them be who they are and others like me will offer to help or will be willing to sit by you. However, I will say as I age unless you are in business or first class I won’t see or be able to help anymore. Aging allows for expenditures I never made when I was younger. Loved your story. And you can rant anytime with me.

  3. casey says

    My twins and I made four roundtrips across the country in their first eight months. ( I buy three seats and travel with their car seats since it’s just me and the babies.)

    Once, we were booked in the row behind the exit row (big mistake, apparently) and had to wait for the entire plane to board before they rearranged people so we could sit in the very last row of the plane. When the flight attendant asked me if everything was okay, I said I was bummed that I had to be moved all of the way to the back when I had booked a seat near the front since I was carrying two babies and luggage all by myself. Apparently, that was the wrong answer, because he then lectured me about booking the wrong seats. When I told him I wasn’t interested in his lecture and turned to head back to the last row, he said that he thought I should take another flight and was going to arrange that for me. (The other flight attendants and the ground crew attendant apologized on his behalf since they said they should have solved the seating problem when I checked in at ticketing.) Unnecessary, unkind drama.

    Once, I tried to get through security without bringing a friend along to help me carry babies. TSA was overstaffed that day and could not help. A very kind stranger offered to carry my daughter through the detector while I carried my son. She set off the alarms and had to be taken away for a pat down. She was not allowed to return my baby. I followed them to the pat down area and waited while they patted down my 5 month old daughter before handing her over to me.

    Passengers have almost always been much kinder and more helpful than airport or airline personnel.

    So I was particularly touched when I was flying from Long Beach to Dulles for Christmas. It was storming like a monsoon and at LGB you have to walk to the plane on the tarmac and go up a ramp to the airplane. A concerned JetBlue gate agent made sure I was given an opportunity to pre-board. He sent me out towards the plane and promised he’d be back to help in a moment. A young man who was working on the tarmac approached me and asked if he could help. He carried both of the babies up to the plane and got us settled in our seats. He said he was a twin. He said he had a new appreciation for his mother and he was going to go home that night and give her a call.

    Every time I travel, I prepare for the worst and hope for the best and am very careful to maintain a calm and pleasant demeanor since my little chickens take their cues from my temperament.

    It’s never boring.

  4. Megan B says

    One of my friends, mom of twins, swears that dark sunglasses and a hat for the parents is the best tool–anonymity helps with the embarrassment of the chaos you are bound to cause.

  5. Heather Somaini says

    Madge – I totally forgot to write about the time we took the babies somewhere in First Class!! You’d have thought we had brought the plague into the plane. Passengers AND flight attendants gave us the dirtiest looks and were absolutely horrible. :( I guess little people are not allowed up there AT ALL – even if you pay for the seats!

  6. Madgew says

    Yes, Heather that is correct-little toddlers not allowed in first class or business. Reserved for us Grammies who have paid their dues and now are spending their kids inheritances and want quiet when we travel. :)

  7. Naz says

    Thanks Heather. I feel a little better knowing you have our back!

    I’m saving notes so far: lots of expensive electronic entertainment; chameloen gear; valium for mommies and good baby drugs – preferrably “dress rehersed” before T-day to make sure it calms them down vs. hype them up (I recalled something about this from an earlier article). Oh yeah, and some diplomacy skills! This one might be a problem – do I seem like I play nice with fussy, rude people?

    KEEP THE ADVICE COMING ….

  8. Chris Coyne says

    Heather thanks for posting this. You deserve to rant! I have to say Southwest!!! Really?? Cj has been on 28 flights and he is 16 months. You paid for your ticket just like everyone else on the GD plane. I do recommend red-eye flights if you really want to get the mean glares. Lets face it travel with kids is a nightmare but do what you can and the people sitting around you see you jumping through hoops trying to keep the kid from melting down and chances are at the end of the flight they will all be asking to help get your bags down for you or help you drag the huge car seat out while you carry your now sleeping baby down the isle to wait an hour for your over priced now broken stroller to be shlepped to the gate.

    Madge I hope you are on one of my next flights, I will find you! I would love to video tape some of the looks we have received while taking our seats in business or first class! Priceless!

    Casey you are a superwoman! You go! I have done one cross country with CJ and it was so hard. I am under the impression twins are 3X the work and the worry. You rock!!!!

  9. Madgew says

    Chris and Heather, I am really kind in even business or first class :). Most kids are really good on a plane. The parents that are ready with extra bottles and junk food are the best. Those kids might be off the walls but they are happy and then they crash after takeoff or just as we land. I really have never sat next to a kid I would rather have suffocated than rather than sit by them. I am the one giving them stuff out of my purse to keep them busy until they fall asleep.

  10. Brandy Black says

    I love this line- strangers will kill themselves to help a pregnant woman but completely ignore a mom with three kids and a stroller that won’t fold up– love that. So true.

    Those are some great stories Casey- makes me realize we’ve been pretty lucky while traveling.

  11. Tanya Dodd-Hise says

    I am now terrified of trying to travel with not even twins, but an eleven year old and a newborn. TERRIFIED! lol
    Thanks for the rant…very enlightening. Road trips it is kids!

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