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The FAA and Getting to Europe

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Last summer my husband had the opportunity to travel back to Italy for his startup company to meet with some of the developers face-to-face. Again, not thrilled to stay home alone with a 1-year old, we ended up turning the trip into our family vacation. So, with Prague first and a business related stop in Bonn, off we went to Italy. I’ll break the different segments of this journey down, but for the purpose of this post, I’ll keep the focus on getting to Europe.

Quick Tips:

If you need nothing else in this post, these are the fundamentals to traveling with a kiddo in her or his own seat.

  1. Learn what the FAA has to say about traveling with kids.
  2. Get a car seat with the FAA approved travel sticker.
  3. Use a car seat trolley to haul your car seat through the airport.
  4. Bring a light-weight or your daily stroller with you and put it under the plane in a travel safe bag.
  5. Don’t schlep more than you have to around the airport. Below I will list out the must-haves for your travel days.
  6. Keep liquids in ready to get places for the TSA security check.

Let the Journey Begin

Now that we’d had a few trips under our belt, this was the first trip where we decided to get Charlie his own seat. We were at a point where keeping him on our laps was cumbersome and in the high-roller section, coach, we just were running out of space to keep him (and us) comfortable. This decision may have saved our marriage! Giving Charlie his own space allowed us to have some freedom to do normal things. Like, I don’t know, read a magazine, sit alone without getting elbow jabbed in the throat and more importantly close our eyes and nap (though not at the same time for obvious reasons.) Parenting at its best, ha!

Getting the Right Car Seat

As the first time with Charlie in his own seat, I think this trip required a bit more planning since we hadn’t done this before and lacked the necessary supplies…such as a convertible car seat. I allude to this on my Recommendations page, but you must have a harness (i.e. Cares Airplane Safety Harness) or a FAA approved car seat. We opted for the car seat because we’d need one anyway once we got to Europe. Picking a car seat was harder than I thought. Some sites say that any car seat is fine, but on one or more of the trips, flight attendants have looked for the FAA approved sticker before allowing us to use it on the plane. I had read about this and was super thankful I heeded that advice.  Air Canada, in fact, almost didn’t let us fly because the flight attendant wanted to see the Canadian equivalent of the FAA sticker. Thank goodness another attendant said it was ok…..crisis averted. Anyway, this is a long way to say that you should look for a car seat with an FAA sticker like the picture on the right. Before your first flight, I highly recommend taking a look at the FAA’s page about Flying with Children. I did and it definitely saved us from making some critical mistakes. I also found resources like the Car Seat Lady and Parenting.com came in very helpful.

Test driving the new car seat.

After doing a little bit of research, we took a trip over to Babies R Us and started looking at the options. At the time, about a year ago, there weren’t that many options. One of the few car seats that we could find with a visible FAA sicker was the Safety 1st brand. We had already gotten a Recaro car seat already for my husband’s car and really liked it, but it didn’t have the FAA sticker. Being that I needed a second convertible car seat for my car, we opted to get the Safety 1st and called it a day. As much as I wish I could say the other features were what coaxed me toward this seat, it was really all about that FAA sticker. Ultimately, we love it. It is easy to adjust and you can throw the fabric components into the washing machine for easy care. (Note, hang dry them!) I know this is a lot of work for a car seat, but it really was important to slow down getting ready for our son’s first trip in his own seat. Knowing we had to be compliant with airline regulations meant we could be stymied before even setting foot on the plane and completely derailing our trip.

The Accessory I Love Most

To prepare, I asked several mom’s what made their life easier. Our first two trips where in the books, but we were still struggling with getting around efficiently on travel days. One of my PEPs friends, who traveled often and with multiple children, recommended the Brica Roll N Go Car Seat Transporter. This little baby was essential! If you look at the picture to the left, you may be able to see that it’s a trolley that you strap to the bottom/back of your car seat. It’s so simple! I’ll add a how-to video to show you, shortly. I cannot tell you how many times I hear people say, “boy I wish we had that when the kids were younger,” or “that is so cool, where did you find it?”

That said, it does have it’s negatives. I really do believe it makes a difference in how you ‘drive’ it. I founds that by pulling it, Charlie was prone to tipping over! OOPS!!! And really embarrassing. The looks I would get when this happened… TIP: push the Brica Roll N GO. I have had zero issues with it tipping by doing this. Tip, tuck in all the straps. I mean really tuck them in. It sounds so straight forward, but as you get going, the weight of the straps, with the help of gravity, seems to be the right combination for dragging them along the ground. The simple fix is to click the straps or tie them so this doesn’t happen. Like I said, straight forward. Tip, this is not a stroller replacement. You definitely need to bring your stroller with you if you intend to use it when out and about. We bring our UPPAbaby CRUZ with us everywhere and are very thankful we have it. The Brica Roll N Go is simply for getting around the airport.

TSA Security

When going through the security lines, you will need to follow standard protocol; however,  TSA agents have always been really cool about Charlie’s food and drinks. Typically you can’t bring bottled water though, but we’ve found that it’s ‘okay’ to bring a full sippy cup of water or milk (I don’t typically give our son juice) through as long as they can take a look at it. You will need to take your kiddo out of the car seat, though, so they can test the seat for anything fishy. Just make sure any liquids (pouches too) are easy to get to for security. Otherwise, the agents will pull you aside to inspect the bag; but they may do this anyway. I recommend giving yourself at least an additional 30 minutes for any security slow downs. Just note they’ll let you keep your kiddos liquids and food. Yay!

Fast asleep, but I’m free to use my arms!

Airport Packing List

  1. Convertible car seat; again, we liked the Safety 1st brand
  2. Brica Roll N Go Car Seat Transporter
  3. Diaper bag, including
    1. One diaper for every hour on the plane
    2. Patemm round changing pad
    3. one new bag of wipes
    4. 1-2 changes of clothes (depending on length of flight)
    5. Several toys (E.g. cars, coloring crayons/paper, Melissa and Doug Water Wow, etc.)
    6. Sippy cup (the airlines usually have milk!)
    7. Snacks (E.g. Graze, gold fish, pouches, yogurt melts or other ‘favorite snacks’)
    8. Soothers (E.g. Charlie loves the Aden + Anais blankets, but whatever calms your child best!)
    9. Your personal items (E.g. wallet, phone, ear-buds, magazine, etc.)
    10. Passports (if applicable)
  4. Carry-on suitcase with your 1-2 backup outfits for you and your spouse, as well as for kiddo.
    1. Don’t forget toiletries!
  5. Spouse’s carry-on item (E.g. backpack, additional carry-on suitcase, etc.)

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