We would like to introduce you to Claressa. Claressa hasn't yet celebrated her second birthday but she is celebrating today because she earned her first Rapid Rewards Award. Since she and her parents are such frequent travelers on Southwest Airlines, I thought I'd get a few tips for other parents traveling with young children.
Q: How was the first flight with Claressa? Any tips for moms and dads on how to pack and prepare for the first flight? A: The first flight on Southwest was heaven. It was April 2006, and she was 5 months old. She is always lulled by the sound of the jet engines and was usually asleep before we even took off. It was only in June 2007 that the streak was broken. For the first flight, make sure to bring a favorite blanket and toy. Put the pacifier on a leash so baby doesn't throw it on the floor, rendering it useless.
Q: What are Claressa's favorite things related to flying? A: She loves sitting in her stroller that converts to a car/air seat, bought in the SkyMall catalog. She also loves to say hello to everyone when they're boarding. As she's gotten older, she likes to "read" the Southwest inflight magazine.
Q: What are the best snacks to pack? A: Dry cereal. Claressa's favorite is Cheerios. I also pack her 100% Sesame Street juice (TSA is OK with it), cheese crackers and 2 Graduates Pasta Pick-ups in case she gets really hungry. She also loves the dried fruit mix in the Southwest travel snack box.
Q: What suggestions do you have for parents with newborns? What about traveling with liquids and the TSA bans? A: Her father and I decided from the beginning to just buy Claressa her own seat for her safety and our comfort. And with Southwest discount baby fares, that eased the expense. If you can't buy a seat, I suggest the bulkhead section if you're carrying a newborn. There's a bit more room. As long as you let TSA know that you have liquids for baby and separate them from the diaper bag for x-ray, I've never had a problem.
Q: Any suggestions for how to handle the hated ear pressure issue? A: Claressa gets something to drink at takeoff and landing. The sucking helps relieve ear pressure.
Q: You mentioned great child friendly crews, any specific stories? A: On one flight, Claressa woke up and was very cranky and crying. A flight attendant came by and chatted with her, which helped. Claressa started crying again, and she brought over a cup with a lid filled with peanuts and started shaking it. She gave it to Claressa and the baby was amused until we touched down.
Q: What are the 'must have' items for a flight with a child? A: Take along their familiar things. On her latest flight earlier this month, we started taking the portable DVD player with "Blue's Clues," her favorite video. She is more active now, so I'll let her out of the seat for awhile. You also must have a child's favorite snacks and bring extra just in case there might be a delay (which has been extremely rare on Southwest).
Q: Any other tips or tricks that you'd like to share? A: Make the trip seem like a big adventure. Point out all the features of the airplane. Claressa is just fascinated with the light and air in the panel above her head. I keep drink coupons to buy a round for the person sitting in front of Claressa when she starts to kick. But I just learned that if I take off her shoes, she stops kicking. Let them stand in their seat and look around before the plane takes off. And if your flight is 2+ hours, take baby for a walk for a change of scenery.
Thanks for so many great tips! We can't wait to see Claressa onboard again soon.
For parents, you can also check out Baby On Board, Taking the Kids, and Southwest Airlines Policy on Children. Also visit the TSA.gov for information on Traveling With Children.