Written by Kara Turner
These tried and tested tips should help you avoid many of the usual carry-on pitfalls. The key is to travel as light as possible. Borrow or rent key baby items (check out baby-equipment-rental.com) at your destination.
Before you travel outside of Canada, check the expiry date of your family's passports: some countries require that your passport is valid for at least six months beyond the date of your expected return. If you're travelling to the US, there's no such requirement. Just make sure that your passports do not expire before you're due to return!
Baby food, formula, milk, water and juice in reasonable amounts for your itinerary are exempted from the liquids restrictions if you are travelling with a baby under 24-months.
Keep the following documents to hand for everyone in your travel party (even infants need ID): passport, SIN, birth certificate (for infants & children), health care number, aeroplan card and vaccination record. If travelling without your partner, carry a signed consent letter (and a copy of their driver's licence) to prove that you have permission to travel with your child/children. A sample consent letter is provided on www.voyage.gc.ca (follow links to "Children and Travel"). Keep a photocopy of the original documents in a checked bag and another copy at home.
Put contact information on every piece of luggage, including carry-on bags, strollers, car seats, etc.
Pack a diaper bag with a spare change of clothes for parent and baby, several diapers, plenty of wipes, Ziploc bags, a refillable bottle and snacks, and a few simple toys. Backpacks are a great choice for carry-on baggage because they leave your hands free. Kids over three can carry their own little backpack with a stuffie, a couple of toys and a drink bottle for the trip.
Toys such as transformer robots that resemble firearms or toy weapons such as water guns are not permitted in carry-on baggage.
Ensure that your carry-on bags conform to airline size/weight restrictions so that you aren't surprised at the gate and forced to check any of them. Check your airline's policy if in doubt.
Infants without a seat are usually permitted a baggage allowance of 10kg/22lbs., but policies vary by airline. Air Canada and WestJet allow two items of baggage per infant (for example, a car seat and a stroller).
If you're taking a car seat onto the plane, check the car seat before you leave home to make sure that it has a CMVSS 213 or 213.1 compliance sticker on it. Most airlines require the car seat to be installed in the window seat and only one car seat is allowed per row. If in doubt, call the airline to confirm their policy. (On a recent British Airways flight with our 11-month old, who was still in a rear-facing infant seat, we were told that we could only install the seat in a forward-facing position.)
Consider renting or purchasing a CARES harness for children aged one to four years (weighing 22 to 44lbs.) sitting in their own seat. It does the same job as a car seat, but fits in your purse. CARES are available in Canada from Little Traveller.
Lightweight or combo strollers are a must for most airports if you child is under four (or bring a baby carrier for young babies). Confirm in advance that your airline offers a "claim at gate" option. This option is not usually available for international flights - strollers have to be picked up at the baggage carousel with the rest of your luggage. (I travel with a Quinny Zapp that folds right down and comes in a compact carry case with a handy shoulder strap. I sling this over my shoulder before boarding and stow it in the overhead lockers. It makes for a quick and easy transition when we land.)
Some airlines (but not Air Canada or WestJet as far as I know) are starting to charge for large items, such as car seats, that are gate checked. Check with your airline in advance so that you can avoid additional charges.
Pack winter coats at the top of your checked bags so that they are on hand when you land, and just carry on a warm sweater for you and your children. This saves you battling with big bulky jackets.
Bring your own cheap headsets for the kids so you don't have to wait for the flight attendants to offer them. Consider bringing a compact, portable DVD player so that you have more flexibility over what your children watch and when.
Customize the look of your bags to make them easy to identify on the carousel.
Keep the stubs from your checked luggage. Immediately report the loss of luggage to the baggage agent on duty.
Prepare to deal with a lost bag. Pack so that you can continue your trip with the loss of one of your bags. Distribute key items like diapers, formula or underwear so that you can get to your destination.
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