Traveling with children is a completely different experience from your footloose days of hopping on a flight without kids. It can be a fun family adventure or a total nightmare, with the odds of a positive experience vastly improved through planning ahead.
For those of us in the Willamette Valley, flying from Eugene Airport is a great choice. Parking, check-in and getting through security is easier and faster versus flying from a big city airport. There are now more non-stop flights to different destinations than ever before with great fares. The Eugene Airport offers non-stop flights to Burbank, Dallas, Denver, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Mesa, Oakland, Orange County, Palm Springs, Phoenix, Reno/Tahoe, Salt Lake City, San Francisco and Seattle. I suggest you choose one of these destinations for a family vacation. A family trip is not the time to buy the cheapest tickets with multiple connections.
Before you go, talk to your children about what to expect, how they will need to behave and safety issues (no running off and staying seated during the flight). Remind them to NOT kick the seats in front of them. Check ahead of time to see if the airports you are visiting have designated play areas that you can visit. Currently everyone age 2 and older is required to wear a mask in airports and on flights. Be sure to prepare your kids so they can tolerate a mask during travel. Pick out some matching vacation-themed masks and practice wearing them. Take a “field trip” to the airport to practice wearing masks and show them what to expect. They will follow your lead, so make all of it sound like fun.
Pro traveler tip
To pass the hours in airports, download the Pokémon Go app and chase down and capture unique anime creatures throughout your travels. This can turn a boring wait into a new adventure for the family.
Airlines are required to collect official full names, date of birth and sex of each passenger. TSA rules prohibit taking liquids over 3.4 oz. onboard aircraft; however, you can bring filled bottles or sippy cups for young children. Just show them to the security screeners and know that they may open and test them.
All liquids need to be in a quart-size resealable bag. Passengers of all ages flying anywhere outside of the U.S. are required to have a valid passport (passport books, not cards). Children under the age of 18 who are not traveling with both parents may need a notarized letter of permission for international travel. Some countries require that you apply for permission and pay a fee to enter their country — this is documented with a stamp in your passport called a Visa. A travel agent can assist with all of these details.
Baggage & seats
All airlines (except Southwest) charge $20 to $50 per checked-in bag each direction with a maximum weight of 40 to 50 pounds per bag. Many airlines now charge for carry-on bags that won’t fit under a seat, and these charges can add up quickly for a family. There may be a discount if you prepay your baggage fees.
Usually you can take a stroller and/or car seat to the plane and gate check them for free. Bring a big plastic bag with an address label to put your items in to keep them from getting dirty if you gate check them. If you’re paying for a seat for your child, you can bring approved car seats onboard the aircraft.
Recently some airlines have been charging for some or all pre-assigned seats. It is important to check airline websites for the latest rules, plan ahead and pack carefully to minimize costs.
Food & beverage
The days of free meals & snacks onboard domestic (within the USA) flights are over. Every mom knows that hungry kids are a recipe for disaster. I never get on a plane without a carry-on bag full of snacks. Packaged meat and cheese trays found in the lunchmeat section of the grocery store are great to take with you. All food needs to be in a zipper bag and taken out when going through security. Purchase bottled water (or bring empty water bottles to fill) after clearing security so you always have it available.
Flying with infants
On domestic flights, airlines allow an infant, prior to their second birthday, to sit on the lap of an adult for no charge. This must be noted on the reservation as a lap child and you may be required to show a birth certificate or passport to prove their age. For international travel there is usually a highly discounted rate for infant tickets.
A small bag with a couple of diapers and a small pack of baby wipes is much easier to take into a tiny airplane bathroom than a huge diaper bag. Pack at least one complete change of clothes for your baby in a plastic bag; that way if you have to change the baby’s clothes, the wet, dirty outfit can go in the bag. If your baby needs a pacifier, take several. Disposable bibs are also helpful on a flight. Note that the Eugene Airport now has two lactation suites available for nursing families.
Don’t forget to pack a good attitude: “Look kids, an escalator!” Kids will sense if you are agitated so try and make the best of any situation. If you make it fun, you will have great little travelers ready to see the world.
Top 10 essentials to bring onboard
Snacks (pretzels, crackers, cheese sticks, jerky, nuts, cereal)
Resealable bag with a few diapers and small pack of wipes
Tissues, wet-wipes and hand sanitizer
Small books, stickers, notebooks, crayons and pencils
Change of clothes in a resealable bag
New toys and prizes
Plenty of comfortable, fun masks for everyone
Handheld games, tablets, batteries, headsets, chargers and power packs
Smaller bags to organize items
A sense of adventure, patience and a positive attitude
Meet Vacation MOM Vacation MOM is brought to you in partnership with Eugene Airport.
Donnita is the owner of VIP Vacations, has been a travel agent for three decades and a vacation expert for over 20 years. She has taken her three children on numerous vacations. Her favorite family destinations include Hawaii, San Diego, Cruises and all-inclusive resorts.
Contact Donnita at 541-913-5272 or on facebook @VacationMOM