By the time I was 2, I had traversed the globe and been in 6 countries. My children had flown halfway across the Pacific by the time they were 6 months old. Since then, we’ve been all over, although so far not Asia or Eastern Europe. So if anyone is qualified to talk about travel, you’d think it’d be me.
Today, Tina at Antique Mommy is hosting the first edition of Terrific Travel Tips. I personally think Tina would be a really fun person to meet for coffee when you’ve got a 6 hour layover, or indeed any time, although after reading her travel tips I’m not so sure we’d be perfect traveling companions. She doesn’t check luggage! I mean, how freakishly organized can you get?
Here are some tips on travel from my point of view.
1. Arrive at the airport in plenty of time and schedule enough time between flights to get to your gate with ease. It’s just easier if you don’t have to sprint through the airport gasping for breath while lugging an infant seat complete with infant, a diaper bag, and your own purse which has 2 books stuffed in it. Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything, but I do recommend wearing comfortable shoes for this part if at all possible.
Also, if you don’t allow enough time, there is a chance the airline may not seat your family together. This may be all right for you, but the people who were unwilling to move to let you sit next to your toddler may end up regretting it. Of course, they deserve it.
Note: this does not apply to you Time Freaks out there (cough*my father-in-law*cough) who think you should get to the airport 3 hours early and allow twice as much time as necessary to get there in the first place. If you are a Time Freak, you should practice deep breathing, throw your watch in the swimming pool, and perhaps seek therapy.
2.  Do not necessarily trust the word of airline personnel. They are not personally affected if you miss your next flight, and so they really don’t care. Case in point: the time one directed me to the wrong gate causing me, my husband, our 2 year old, and our 4 month old twins to miss our flight. They boarded us first on the next flight just when it was time for the twins to eat and Elliot to nap, so that everyone else on the flight could stare at us in horror as they saw us with 3 howling little ones just when they were getting on.
3. Of course it’s fine to check luggage, Tina. We always check luggage. For one, our lives are hectic enough without trying to add even more to our already oversized carry-ons. However, if you are moving internationally with 12 suitcases, I don’t recommend the now-defunct Air Afrique (emphasis on FREAK). They lost all our luggage when we moved to Mauritania in 2001; they managed to find 9 pieces of it eventually. We like to imagine Donn’s large format camera being used as a bucket in a dusty Saharan village somewhere.
4. Bring plenty of reading material. Do NOT assume that you will be able to find something to read at the airport, or that your toddler won’t sleep, or that the in-flight magazine will last you the entire trip. Pack at least 2 or 3 full books per 8 hours of travel time. Because perhaps your plane may sit on the runway for 3 hours while they deal with some trifling electrical problem, causing you to miss your connecting flight, or perhaps you will assume you can buy a New Yorker magazine at JFK airport, which is, after all, in New York, but you will turn out to be wrong. You just don’t know. Be prepared. Also, if you bring an empty water bottle, you can refill it at the fountain after you get through security, but that’s only for you frugal people out there.
5. Don’t stress. It’ll all work out. If they lose your luggage, they will probably find it, and if they don’t, life will go on. The plane won’t crash. The airline personnel will be kind. Relax. Travel is broadening, after all, and I don’t just mean the fact that if you cross even one time zone, you can totally justify second breakfasts or even just an extra double cappuccino, as eating helps you reset your body clock. Dark chocolate also helps. I think that’s true.