Okay, so here are some of the things we’re learned (or finally realized) the hard way:
- Are you taking your stroller? Other folks have posted alot about the pros/cons of having your own stroller at WDW. Consider what goes in to getting it there. If your gate is a hike from the airport pkg or the front door (if you’re dropped off), it might be more efficient to push your little one(s) in the stroller to get there in any kind of reasonable time. Consider that, at least at Phila. Int’l (and I think’s it’s a federal thing) no one without a ticket can go past the security checkpoint. That means you’re on you own with your carry-ons, your kid(s) and possibly your car seats (see below). The stroller might come in handy. But they’ll make you break it down and run it through the metal detector, so you don’t want to stow a bunch of stuff in it until you’re past that point. Oh, and in addition to juggling your kid(s), your stroller, your car seat(s) and your luggage, you’ve got to take your shoes off, then hop on over to find an open chair and put them back on, all the while hoping your little one(s) don’t decide it’s time for a sprint.
Assuming you survive the trip to the gate, you’ll be gate-checking your stroller. Ours made it onto the plane safely and made it back out to the gate in Orlando in one piece, but it took a heck of a long time for it to get there (all the while we’re standing on the jetway and the 20 mo. olds are running up and down it), the baggage claim area is getting more crowded, and the lines at the rental car agency are getting longer. I’ve read stories of strollers getting pretty badly damaged, but didn’t have that problem myself. Also, I can’t speak to how much more secure and intact a stroller that you check regularly at check-in would be.
Of course, if you drive, you’re got to factor the stroller into your packing space, unless you can strap it to the roof.
- Are you taking your own car seats? Even if you buy your kids a seat, I don’t think you have to bring your own, but if you don’t you’ll have to rent one down there anyway (see my cost consideration post). If you bring your own, you can check it, but it’ll count against your luggage total. Of course, your child will have a full luggage allowance if you buy them a seat, so it may work out.
We decided that the buckle on the airplane seat belts would be, literally, child’s play for our 20 month old twins and we wanted them to “remain seated with their seatbelts fastened at all times”, so we opted to bring our car seats onto the plane. You can check the mfr’s instructions on whether the seat is FAA-compliant, and the airline website may provide information on what size seats will fit into their seats as well. Keep in mind that, although many car seats technically fit into the airplane seats, they do take up additional space and can make an already cramped economy class row even more cramped. If you don’t have the whole row tied up and there’s a “stranger” in your row, you won’t be “winning friends and influencing people” with your car seat.
You’ll be allowed to pre-board so you can get the seats set up, but on a flight to Orlando, with most people having small children, ALOT of people will be pre-boarding. There are some regulations as to where your child can be seated (I don’t think they’re allowed in an aisle). I think we had ours in the center seat. Traveling with my wife and two grandparents, and having booked six seats across, we were able to flank each twin with an adult on either side.
Your Row choices are limited: We booked online through Expedia or Orbitz (can’t remember which), which allowed you to view available seating and select your own seats. We felt fortunate to get 6 seats across. Unfortunately, there was no indication online that the row we selected was off-limits to children in car seats (something about the exit rows and rows adjacent thereto). We learned that when we got on, at which time we also learned that Nurse Ratched left nursing to work for USAirways. Fortunately a gentleman in the next row was happy to swap rows (as this put him closer to the rest of his party), so we could at least keep three seats together on each side of the plane, albeit in different rows from each other.
Getting carseats into a rental can be a bear: If you bring your car seats with you, make sure you’re really good at getting them in and out of cars. And if you use a Latch system exclusively at home, familiarize yourself with how to install the seat using the car’s seatbelts. You may not like the placing of the Latch hatches on the rental and want to have your child in a different position. If you have more than one car seat, you might not be able to place both in the Latch areas due to luggage considerations and the seating of other adults.
Here again, renting from an on-site agency eliminated the need to lug the car seats onto the rental car bus (along with the rest of your luggage) and having to install them out in an open-air lot, in a car that’s been closed up for awhile, in the Florida mid-day heat.
I learned this the hard way. The best deal we could find on a van was from Hertz, which is offsite. The bus ride seemed to take forever and there was a very long line once I got to the agency’s lot. Due to all of our luggage and party size, I went alone and left my wife and the grandparents with the twins at the terminal. We stayed in touch via cell phone, but if we hadn’t had that many hands, it would’ve gotten bad.
Also, at the time we were driving an Acura MDX SUV at home, so I wasn’t that familiar with the seating in minivans (which we needed due to 4 adults and two kids). I’d planned on placing the two carseats in the third row to make it easier for the grandparents to get in and sit in the second row. However, the third row in the van we rented didn’t have two Latch positions in the 3rd row, and I thought it best to keep the girls in the same row. So, that meant two adults needed to crawl into the third row each time we went to/from the parks or DTD.
If we’d rented from an on-site agency we all could’ve basically walked to the car, and been able to install the seats while in a relatively cooler, covered, parking garage.
So, these are the “little” things that made flying with the twins alot more trying than we thought. However, it’s important to note that all of these issues arose between arrival at the airport in Phila and driving out of Orlando Int’l. Once we were on our way from the airport to WDW, everything was smooth.
Travelling with four adults and two kids, driving down from Philadelphia in a minivan had its own major inconveniences so we opted to fly. Since we’ll have just two adults and two kids on our trip in September, we’re going to be driving (more from a cost perspective, but these convenience things just weigh further in favor of driving).
I’ll post my “after action report” on that adventure when we return!