So I’ve had the pleasure of flying twice with kiddos. Last year I flew alone with my 18-month old daughter via Southwest (Bags fly free!). Just recently I flew with my husband, 3-year-old daughter and 10-month old son via Alaska Airlines (Active Duty Military is allowed 5 free bags!). Here’s a brief comparison of the two experiences:
Us on the Southwest flight –
TSA lines: Be prepared to have milk/formula tested, hands swabbed, and car seats thoroughly examined. So factor in time for all of those extra tasks. I recommend wearing babies/toddlers if possible ~ it’s easier to be hands-free without worrying if your tiny person is going to try and wander off at any given moment. I also recommend a Go Go Babyz Travelmate because it is helpful to have wheels on your car seat if you plan to bring it along. And it does fold up small enough to fit inside of an overhead bin.
Boarding the plane: Southwest doesn’t offer assigned seating, you are just assigned a boarding group (A, B, or C) and a position (1-60). The earlier you check-in the closer to the front of the line you can be. So their boarding goes a little like this: Group A – Family Boarding – Group B – Group C. I felt that boarding during the “Family” time gave me sufficient enough time to get situated and seated without being too much in the way. I chose to bring the car seat along on the plane and have my daughter sit in it during the flight. She really seemed to like having her own special seat on the plane. However, the flight attendants were a bit perplexed as to how to strap the seat in and were confused about all the rules surrounding car seats on a plane. Apparently people don’t bring their car seats on planes often and I was really surprised that they weren’t up to speed on car seat procedures. In fact, they were even kind of rude about it which was even more surprising. The only thing they did know was that the car seat had to be placed in a window seat.
Layovers: One in Kansas City which was super boring since it is a really small airport. One in Nashville which was actually not too bad because they have a kid’s play area. ALL airports should have this! Starbucks was also nice enough to give me a free cup of milk for my daughter.
Swag: Basic airplane stuff – peanuts/chips, beverages, headphones. Also to note: they don’t offer milk on the plane, so bring that with you!
Overall, I would give this experience a B-
Us on the Alaska flight –
TSA lines: Similar to the previous flight; however, we flew back a few days after Thanksgiving which made for horribly long lines. One agent did give my daughter a TSA badge sticker which kept her distracted for .7 seconds. Get there early if you plan to travel with kids during the holidays! I also used the Alaska mobile app this time which made checking in and flight tracking easier.
Boarding the plane: Alaska does offer assigned seating, but they also allow families with small children and active duty military to board before everyone else which eases some of the stress. The flight attendants seemed a little more knowledgeable about the car seat rules and actually checked the seat to confirm that it was airline-approved. Same rules as previously mentioned-the car seat has to go in the seat closest to the window. I also learned that the car seat can’t go in the very first row because of the air belt. And only children 30 lbs and above may sit in that row.
Layovers: None this time, just a very long 5 hour flight each way with some antsy kids. I counted down the hours and minutes with the handy app that I previously mentioned.
Departing the plane: It took us so long to get off the plane that we actually got to baggage claim too late. Thankfully, a representative from Alaska Air held our luggage in the office and came and found us in the airport. They get bonus points! 🙂
Swag: We flew coach on our way to FL and First Class (thanks Mimi) on the way home. So along with the basic airplane swag, we also received a whole meal, dessert, bottled water, extra snacks, and a hot towel (which I’m still unsure as to what the purpose of a hot towel on a plane is). And my daughter even scored this sweet kids pack:
So what was in it?
Pirate’s Booty White Cheddar Puffs
Old Wisconsin Honey Brown Sugar Turkey Jerky
Tree Top Strawberry Applesauce
My Super Snack Chocolate Chip Granola Bar
YumEarth Organic Fruit Gummies
Wikki Stix Play Pack (These were awesome! They kept my daughter entertained for hours!)
Overall, I would give this experience an A- Only because my son was upset half the flight and there was a seating mishap which made things a little stressful.
My final tips: Pack light and allot yourself extra time and patience! Also bring suckers for not only a distraction/treat, but it also helps with the ear popping. And keep diapers and wipes within reach because it’s a tight squeeze between the rows and you don’t want to be digging around your bag for supplies with a screaming/kicking baby.