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,


Airfare watchdog’s survey of how much would you pay to fly without kids?

In her New York Times travel column “Motherlode,” Lisa Belkin recently wrote about flying with children. She titled it, “The Less-Than-Friendly-Skies.”

As a person who once traveled with babies and young kids (according to her bio, her children are now teenagers) Belkin has sympathy for people who travel with children and mentions those who have problems with children on planes as “crotchety.”

It’s not that she isn’t sympathetic to the plight of those who don’t have kids with them who are on an airplane with folks who have brought their kids along, but she tends to feel more for the parents who have the kids–and the kids. She recalls the days back when airlines gave kids pilot wings and flight attendants had the time and energy to treat kids like special passengers instead of more work.

Belkin cites a survey at where people vote according to their travel preference when it comes to money and kids. How much money would you pay extra for a flight that doesn’t allow kids on board?

At this point, only 38% would not pay more for a ticket. The higher the dollar amount, the lower the percentage would pay the extra cash. 20% would pay $10 more, but only 9% would pay more than $40. (For survey, click here.)

And who would those people be? Belkin thinks it’s parents with young kids who would like to take a flight where they could actually have time to read a magazine.

Free public theater tickets in Central Park to see “Hair.” The how to get them and why I’m feeling miffed

An article I read in the New York Times last Thursday night left me feeling miffed. It explains one reason why it can be difficult to snag tickets to see “Hair,” the current, free Shakespeare in the Park Public Theater production at Central Park’s Delacorte Theater.

It’s called CHEATING. Clever, but CHEATING.

According to the article, there are people who are hired to wait in lines by people who don’t want to wait in line themselves. The line at the Delacorte Theater is one example of where this hired-line waiting cleverness happens.

And, why am I MIFFED?!

As a person who STOOD IN LINE with my brother and my 6-year-old son on August 6, slathering on sunscreen and sweltering, waiting for the line to move into the shade, but DID NOT get tickets, I’m annoyed.

Here is the saga. The good news first: My brother lives in Manhattan, therefore, I have the enviable position of having a place to stay whenever I show up in the Big Apple for a visit.

The smart news: Knowing that anything can happen in Manhattan, we had back-up plans when we took our spot after walking past the gobs and gobs of people already waiting when we walked the distance from the subway stop to the end of the line. Some were reading in the lawn chairs they had the foresight to bring with them, and others were eating a picnic feast.

The not so smart news: We showed up at 11:00 hoping for the best. Getting tickets can mean arriving in line as early as 6:00 A.M. As if, I’d drag my son to Central Park at 6 A.M. for an 7-hour wait. Hardly.

The way the line works: Tickets, you see, are handed out at 1 A.M. Depending on your spot in line, you can be done soon after, or be still waiting at 2 if the tickets or vouchers for tickets hold out. Although we showed up awfully late, a woman who works for the theater assured us that we had a chance. I call her Friendly Explainer. Friendly Explainer pointed to a lamp post past us in line and said, “People that far back have gotten tickets.”

She also pointed to a spot way, way, way, way, way, in front of us and said that tickets are gone well before then as well.

While we waited, another man with the theater–Helpful Guy, told us the procedures for getting tickets once they begin to hand them out.

Another woman, let’s call her Line Watch Dog, stood at the end to make sure that we all minded our P’s and Q’s.

Here are the P’s and Q’s:

  1. Each person in line can get 2 tickets.
  2. There is no line jumping.
  3. You can not save a spot for someone else.
  4. You CAN NOT LEAVE the line for any reason. If you LEAVE THE LINE, you lose your spot. It doesn’t matter if you are sweltering and feeling faint, hungry and need to something to eat or you will be tempted to eat the grass, or if you have to pee so badly that you can hardly stand it.It does not matter if the people you happen to be waiting with will save your spot. DO NOT LEAVE THE LINE for any reason.

My son did leave the line to go play on the playground close by, but he was whining so much from the heat and boredom of waiting that Line Watch Dog may have been happy for him to leave the line.

I also gave him money for the ice-cream truck that came by. As if it would have been possible to stand him if I had said no. Line Watch Dog may have even given him money herself.

Since I had already agreed to let him take off his shirt, when Sponge Bob melted all down his chest, cleaning him up with a bit of bottled water wasn’t a problem.

By 1:45 p.m. we found out we did not get tickets or vouchers to possibly get tickets later in the day. If you are given a voucher you can come back at 6:30 to see if you can get unclaimed tickets. I was thrilled to not get a voucher because, being the obsessed person that I am to get anything free, I would have been right back in line at 5:30 p.m. waiting in line. A stupid way to spend one of the only two days one has in New York City. It’s a big city with lots to do.

Why are there unclaimed tickets? Here is what Friendly Woman explained:

The Delacorte has 1,800 seats. Some of the seats are given to corporate sponsors, but on any given day, the theater doesn’t know how many of those people will come or exactly how many tickets will be available to the general public. Each day is a surprise.

Personally, I find it ironic that the public can’t really get all that many tickets to public theater on certain days because private donors get most of the tickets. Just a thought. I don’t think this is bad necessarily. It’s just an observation. As the tickets are being given out, they don’t know how many people in line will be taking one or two tickets.

Once the tickets are gone, a certain number of vouchers are handed out. If you get a voucher, you may get a ticket later, but again, they won’t know until they see how many people who have corporate tickets don’t show up to claim their seats, or how many people who got tickets earlier decide not to come and bring their tickets back.

And also, there are those UNETHICAL CHEATERS who hire people to show up to wait in line for them. The hired help show up at 6:00.

And that’s the story of why we didn’t see “Hair.”

Although, ticket luck was not ours to have, we did have a good time thanks to the ice-cream truck and the people we visited with who were also waiting. One of the women in line was asked out on a date by Kevin Kline when they were in high school.

Coincidentally, I saw Kevin Kline in Pirates of Penzance at the Delacorte Theater years ago when it was easier to get tickets. That’s what makes New York City a surprise. There are all sort of crazy connections.

Maybe one of these days when my son is older, we’ll pack breakfast, lunch, games, lawn chairs and books to read and show up at least by 7 a.m. in order to give ourselves a fighting chance. We’ll keep our eye out for the cheaters and give Line Watch Dog a hand.

The show goes through September 14, so you still have time. Since there are no reservations, except for the corporate tickets and Summer Supporters, you have a fighting chance. Be smart. Show up no later than 8 a.m. To be a Summer Supporter, you donate $165.00 to Shakespeare in the Park and you can get a ticket.

(The above picture is one thing we did after we didn’t get tickets. Walk to the pond, where sailboats glide and ducks like to be fed, to see where Stuart Little, the talking mouse had his victory ride in one of the boats.)

Yourdon, who took the first two pictures, did get tickets this summer. So, it is possible.

Tips for carrying more on a plane

Now that American Airlines is opting to charge passengers $15 for the first checked bag, as Grant wrote in his post yesterday, there’s a huge potential of more people taking carry-ons on the plane. Yep, lots of luck finding overhead bin space. I can see a rush to get in line first when a plane is ready for boarding.

Here are some of my ideas for maximizing the carry-on potential if more airlines follow suit and charge for that first bag. I have tried them and they work. I think I was a pack mule in a past life.

1. As, I’ve posted before, this is a good time to pick up a kid if you don’t already have one–get two if you can. I have two for this very reason. Give Mike and Mindy a little backpack for crayons, a coloring book and snacks, and a stuffed animal or a doll to take along if they are so inclined, but remember, if they have a seat that’s been paid for, they get an adult size carry-on. No one said that the passenger has to be able to carry his or her bag onto the plane. Kids’ clothes are small, so that leaves more room for yours. Your child also perfect for carrying that camera bag.

2. Instead of packing that sweater or jacket that you might need when you get to a colder climate, wear it. So what if it’s summer and 98 degrees outside? Don’t let something you can wear take up valuable space.

3. Tie that pair of running shoes onto your carry-on handle. Don’t pack them inside. Just be careful as you’re walking down the airplane’s aisle that they don’t whack people who have already settled into their seats.

4. If you’ve been somewhere and picked up a souvenir item–like an African drum, don’t see it as a carry on. Sure, it’s a carry-on, but it doesn’t really look like one now, does it? I’ve carried an African drum, PLUS a carry on twice. No one said a word each time.

5. For some other packing ideas, check out this photo posted on Flickr by Halley. Particularly, notice the young woman with the pillow in the plaid pillowcase. She’s not getting on a plane, but she has the right idea. Last week someone asked me how to take a pillow along without it taking up space. I suggested this way exactly. I’ve done it and it works.

Duct tape: A traveler’s friend

A few months ago I “waxed” poetic about the uses of dental floss. Duct tape can also be a traveler’s friend when it comes to fixing things that need fixing, or making the passage of time more interesting when you hit the road. The following ideas came from Debbie who writes Delicious Baby, a blog about traveling with babies (older kids included).

Debbie, a frequent traveler with her two young ones, doesn’t leave home without a small roll of duct tape tucked in her gear. Colored duct jazzes up the options. She suggests:

  1. Repair broken luggage with duct tape. (I actually had a zipper break once. Taping a suitcase closed is a great idea.)
  2. Outside of the U.S., and its regulations, tamper proof your suitcase by putting duct tape around it.
  3. Use duct tape to create a design on your suitcase to make it stand out on the conveyor belt so you can find it more easily.
  4. If you’re in a hotel room and the curtains won’t quite close to make the room dark, use the duct tape.
  5. Make an inside label for your suitcase by cutting a piece of duct tape and writing the label information in permanent marker on it.
  6. Seal a drain without a stopper with the tape so you can do laundry or take a bath.
  7. Make a hopscotch board or some other game with duct tape to keep yourself or kids entertained. Duct tape could be used to represent a highway for cars. ( I have a 6 year-old son. Great idea, Debbie!)
  8. If there is a fire, use the tape to seal the cracks around the door. Chances of this happening are less than in your own home, but good to know.
  9. Duct tape is a terrific addition to a First Aid kit. If you don’t have band aids, duct tape can work if you have cotton , some tissue, or a paper towel. (I actually made a band aid this way about a month ago, but with regular tape). You can get a splinter out with duct tape too. And you can make a splint with two Popsicle sticks.
  10. Check out baby proof your hotel room for some other ideas.

My idea: When I backpacked through Europe the first time, I had pitifully old sneakers and one of them ripped. I duct taped around the rip to hold it together. They were the only shoes I had and it was winter. So sad.