The thought of flying to Hawaii with a 4 month old terrified us. The two big debates were: 1) do we go direct or with layovers, and 2) do we get Babykins her own seat or carry her on our laps?
Although friends with kids suggested we go direct to avoid the unpleasantness of trying to get a baby's ears to pop on multiple ascents and descents, we decided to take the flight that had 2 layovers. On the pro-side, the flight was much cheaper and we figured the layovers would give us all a chance to get up and stretch. On the list of cons, we were worried we would have a crying baby with every take off and landing, and we were facing 20 straight hours of travel.
Building in the layovers worked well for us. Babykins didn't have any trouble with her ears, and we were all happy to get off the plane every few hours. If you're going to go this route, though, a couple tips:
- Make sure you have adequate time between your flights. The minimum layover time most airlines will let you book is 1/2 hour. I've managed to make it between flights in that amount of time, but it's tricky for one grown up, and absolutely impossible with a baby. I would recommend a minimum of an hour. 1 1/2 hours is better - it will give you time to have a bit of a play.
- If you have access to your airline's lounges, check if they have special rooms for children. The two American Airline lounges we visited had children's rooms with TV, computers, and toys. Our 4 month old wasn't interested in any of those things, but it was a nice place for us to lay her out and not worry if she made a lot of noise.
If you do decide to buy your infant a seat, remember that they get all of the same privileges as any other passenger, including 2 carry on bags and a meal if one is provided (I realize the baby won't eat it, but you might enjoy the extra food).
Next week, we're going to fly to Australia with our now 7 month old baby. We're going direct and are holding her on our laps for the entire 10 hours. I'll let you know how that compares.
A few other tips for flying:
- On American Airlines, you can take on one diaper bag per baby and it does NOT count as one of your carry ons. Check if your airline has the same allowance.
- Some airlines have bassinets you can request. For example, on Hawaiian Air, if you are traveling with an infant, you can call 24 hours before your flight and reserve a bassinet, which will be set up and bolted to the floor of the plane for your baby to sleep in. They only have them on certain flights, though, and there's only one, so call early. Check with your airline to see if they have something similar.
- Pack some small plastic bags (like the kind you get from the grocery story) in your diaper bag. They come in handy for all sorts of things, from holding dirty diapers until you can find a trash can to storing clothes that the baby spits up on.
- If you need to change a diaper on the plane, it's much easier to just do it at your seat than to try to change the baby in the tiny bathroom. Just lay down a changing mat and go fast.
- Leave yourself plenty of extra time to get through security. It takes muuuuuch longer with a baby.
- Our jogging stroller didn't fit through the security scanner. If you have a large stroller, you will likely need to have it patted down by hand.
- If you have frequent flier status on your airline and want to upgrade your seats, keep in mind that you will likely only be able to upgrade yourself and one other person. If you got your baby a seat, this means you'll have to use miles to upgrade anyone else in your party.
- And remember - try to relax. Most people have traveled with children and are sympathetic to the challenges you face. And at the end of the trip, you'll be in Hawaii!!