Galley Gossip: A question about traveling with car seats and strollers

Dear Heather,

Okay, so how bad is to have a one-year old on a plane without an actual ‘seat’? Please tell me it’s not the worst thing in the world????I wanted to bring a car seat on board, but they won’t let us because we’re not buying her a ticket. Also, should we check the stroller on the plane? We have a bugaboo, and I hate for it to get ruined, but it breaks down very easily. We could get a bag for it? Do you know if they make specific bags for strollers? Any advice please????????????


Dear Marlo,

It’s not the worst thing in the world to have a one-year old on the airplane without an actual seat! Now take a deep breath and relax, Marlo, because you are a good mother, whether you buy that seat or not, and you’re going to need all that nervous energy in flight entertaining your daughter. Trust me, I know. Whenever I travel with my little one, regardless of how well behaved he is, I always end up feeling completely drained by the end of the trip.

As a flight attendant, it is my duty to tell you that it is safer for your daughter to travel strapped into a car seat that has been secured to an airplane seat. But let’s get real for a minute, because that, I know, is not always possible for some to do, particularly in this day and age when people are just struggling to survive. With that said, I must tell you that I have traveled with my son, along with my guilt, minus the car seat, on the airplane one or two times. My advice to you is to keep your seat belt fastened during the flight while you hold your daughter in your lap, because turbulence happens, even when the seat belt sign is not on.

You stated that you want to bring your car seat on-board, but the airline won’t let you because you are not buying the extra seat. I do not know which airline you are traveling on, but if you were traveling on the carrier I work for, I’d tell you to take the car seat with you anyway, just in case there is an open seat available. If there’s not an extra seat, the airline, at least my airline, would then gate check your car seat. Key word is gate check. Gate check means you are checking the item at the gate. Once at your destination, the car seat (or stroller) will meet you at the aircraft door, not at baggage claim.

If you do bring a car seat on-board the aircraft, please please please make sure it is approved by the FAA and do read the installation instructions before it is time to install the thing. I can not tell you how many times people come aboard and do not know how their car seat operates and get angry at me when I can not tell them how THEIR car seat works. There are hundreds of different makes and models produced each and every year, so unless you come across a flight attendant who has a child that uses the exact same model as you, chances are that flight attendant is not going to be able to help.

When traveling with a lap child, try to get an aisle seat. With so little leg room, it is impossible to get anything out of the diaper bag when the seat in front of you is reclined and there’s a baby sitting on your lap. If you are in an aisle seat, you’ll be able to swing the diaper bag into the aisle in order to grab whatever you need out of the bag – bottles, diapers, toys, etc. Just make sure to check and see that the drink cart is not rolling in your direction beforehand. And if there is a drink cart parked at your row, ask the flight attendants if they can spare a few plastic cups, “stacking cups”, in order to keep baby busy for a good five minutes. Hey, every minute counts when you’re on the airplane with a child.

As for the stroller, I also own a Bugaboo (as well as a BOB for jogging and a Maclaren that I keep in New York) and I can not say that the Bugaboo breaks down easily, not when you’re in a hurry and you’ve got your hands full, nor can I imagine lugging that thing with me anywhere, except to the mall, and perhaps to the beach for a nice leisurely walk. Keep in mind that if you do decide to check the Bugaboo, most likely you will have to pay a checked bag fee, and add that fee to the price you’re going to pay for the Bugaboo transport bag, and you’ll be paying close to $200. While I do love my Bugaboo, I don’t love it THAT much. And I would not want to be the passenger standing behind the Bugaboo family at security. When it comes to travel, think light, think easy, and think disposable. Whenever I travel with my son, I use a cheap umbrella stroller I bought at Target. What I like about the stroller, besides the fact that it was cheap, is that I can attach it to my rollaboard, if the kid feels like walking, or hang it in the closet, so that I don’t have to check it, and if I do have to check it and it does get ruined, big deal, I’m out $25.

Hope that helps!

Happy travels,