Flying with Toddlers - Pt.2: Convenience Considerations


#1

Okay, so here are some of the things we’re learned (or finally realized) the hard way:

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  2. 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!


#2

Great tips! Thanks for taking the time to stype all that out. It’s sure to help someone. :heart:


#3

I have always been told that carseats do NOT count toward your luggage total. They can be in addition to your allowed number of bags. Strollers also do not count toward your carry on allowance. I highly recommend checking your carseat and not having to carry it through the airport. We’ve done it both ways and this seems to work out best. If your child is big enough, consider a backless booster seat. They’re lighter and smaller to deal with. They won’t work on the plane, but again they can be checked and will give you less to deal with once you get there!


#4

I have always been told that carseats do NOT count toward your luggage total. They can be in addition to your allowed number of bags. Strollers also do not count toward your carry on allowance.

Jane: I did a quick Google search (just to make sure I wasn’t mistaken on this) and here’s what I found:

Northwest: Northwest also accepts child carrier backpacks and strollers as checked luggage. Each item may be checked in lieu of one piece of luggage included in the free luggage allowance. When these items are checked as luggage, all excess, oversized and overweight charges will apply.

  1. Government-Approved Child Seat: Northwest accepts government-approved child seats in addition to normal carry-on or checked luggage provided approved space is available. When checking your child seat you can bring your car seat to the gate to be loaded there.

USAirways: Parents paying 10% of the adult fare for an infant to fly on a transatlantic flight have the following checked baggage allowance on the complete itinerary:
One (1) checked bag with the maximum total dimensions of 45” and maximum weight of 50 pounds
One (1) fully collapsible stroller or one (1) child restraint device or car seat

There’s no mention that I could find on the site about domestic flights or flights with unpaid lap-babies. That leads me to believe they consider car seats and strollers against the luggage total (which I think is what we were told last year). I may be wrong, but I’d probably call to check if the car seat/stroller would put someone over the allowed limit.

Southwest: One (1) infant stroller and one (1) infant or child safety seat may be checked in substitution of the three (3) piece free baggage allowance for each fare-paying passenger at no charge on a one-for-one basis.

United: They exempt car seats from carry-on for child w/paid seat, no mention about checked items.

Maybe as a practical matter some (or maybe all) airlines will let car seats and strollers slide by as checked items without counting them against the allowable limits. However, as the quotes above show, apparently several of the major carriers do have policies that would require them to be counted against your total.

As airlines continue to complain about losing money and start charging for more and more things that used to be free, searching for any added revenue they can muster, I wouldn’t be surprised to see these airlines start strictly enforcing their policies if they haven’t in the past.


#5

You should try to publish this


#6

Very well done & written up!

I personally never had to wait very long in the jet way for our stroller to come up.

Car seats - I would never recommend bringing them on a plane. It was the worst expierence ever the one time we did.


#7

Buzz, in thinking this through, I remembered the flight crew’s speculation about why the stroller took so long to come up (and it’s another cautionary tale for others to consider).

We thought we’d be “smart” and buy the travel bag from Maclaren for our stroller. (it’s a side-by-side double stroller, so it gets a little heavy to carry). The bag is basically a large canvas duffle with a handle and wheels at the bottom so you can stand it upright and pull it.

The crew suspected that perhaps the guys loading the bags mistook it for a set of golf clubs. Now, with (at the time) 20 month old twins, even the suggestion that I’d have the luxury of taking my clubs on vacation was just a cruel joke. :wink: However, if the baggage guys weren’t familiar with the name “Maclaren” (which is printed on the side of the bag) as a stroller company, I can see them mistaking it for clubs.

The flight crew did tell us that they try to load the strollers last so they’re the first things to come up.


#8

Ok, couple of points here.

First, invest the money and purchase a Sit-N-Stroll Stroller when traveling with a little person who 1) needs a stroller and 2) needs a car seat. http://www.strolex.com/

My son is only 22 months old, but have taken eight seperate airline-based vacations, including a month’s vacation in Europe. We bought this after doing research and can tell you it is a heck of a lot better than using a traditional stroller in the airports. The seat is FAA approved, fits down the aisle of airlines, serves as his seat on the plane, and, when we arrive at our destination, serves as his car seat.

I do, however, recommend having a seperate, “more comfortable” stroller with you that you check as luggage. The sit-n-stroll, although great for airports and short jaunts, doesn’t serve well being used as the ONLY stroller on long trips. Check out the link above and you will see what I mean.

Regarding your seats in an exit row, check with the specific airline. I’m pretty sure that seat restrictions are only for the window seats right next to the exit door.

Even if you use a brokerage house (expedia) to book airline seats, after your tickets are issued, contact the airline directly and request seat assignments. However, the airlines can change them on you without consulting you beforehand.:frowning:


#9

GREAT tips!!! :wink: However, I’ve travelled with strollers and car seats and they DO NOT count towards your checked luggage. At least not on the trips I took, anyway thank GOODNESS!!!

As for the exit row, YES I had a problem booking exit rows with little ones in tow. Basically on most airlines, they say that you need to be ABLE AND WILLING to help people get off the plane via that row in case of emergency. Obviously, little people can’t do that. :wink: