Traveling With A Toddler. Crazy Seat Prices Over 2 Years Old

Ok, so our toddler is over 2 years old and we’ve benefited several times from the ‘lap infant’ policy of most airlines in the past. What’s got me is that this holiday two things have changed.

1. Our little guys, as stated above, is now over 2 years old and so no longer qualifies to be a lap infant. This despite the fact that I doubt he’ll sit in his seat for more than take-off and landing.
2. This year airfares in Canada are CRAZY!!! 3 people (2 adults, one toddler) flying from the west coast to Toronto totals almost $3,000. THREE THOUSAND DOLLARS.

This year we’re lucky and I was able to book our flights on points, but it wasn’t easy. The number of points required was higher than normal, and our program’s ‘partner airlines’ had conveniently blacked out the entire holiday season such that we weren’t able to get a direct flight and have to ping-pong through Chicago of all places (praying for no holiday snowstorms).

All this despite having booked a couple months in advance. Good times.

What makes it all the more frustrating is that a couple weeks ago I booked a work flight 5 days in advance that saw me bounce from Western Canada, to Salt Lake City, then to Silicon Valley then back to Canada and the entire trip cost less than $700. 5 days in advance.

Dear airlines. Please note that unless fares change this is likely to be the last holiday flight east for us for a long while. Further, it might help to ease the irritation if you didn’t have a UI that suggested that there would be some discount for children when there’s not. It’s very irritating to specify the number of adults, then the number of children and then be prompted what what age (greater than 2) the child is when there’s no change in fee. Might as well just ask how many passengers over 2 and be done with it, then allow the purchaser to confirm that there are adults with the group.

So irritated.

Traveling with an infant on Westjet? You’ll be just fine. Hints for traveling by air with infants.

So we spent the last week on the other side of the country and we flew WestJet for this particular trip. This was our first trip with the little guy, and definitely the first time on a plane so we weren’t really sure what to expect. We spoke with friends about what advice they had for us based on their experience of traveling by air with babies and young children and the advice was good. Most of it we put into practice and I’ll outline that here for anyone who might benefit.

Before I get to the list let me say that the WestJet crew was great with us and made the trip as easy as it could have been. All were eager to help out, but us time when changing etc and generally making sure we were comfortable, aware of policies (in a friendly way) and happy.

    My takeaways from this trip:

  • Borrow as much as you possibly can. We arranged a ride to the airport with a friend who had a suitable car seat in his vehicle. On the other end we were able to arrange a loan of a car seat for use while in town. This saved us lugging a bulky car seat through the airport and worse, risking damage as it was stowed in the hold.
  • Wear your carrier. Keeping junior in the Bjorn while moving through the airport is huge. It frees up hands to do other things, as well as keeps him calm despite all the distractions and noises around him. Note that while the Bjorn was great for moving through the airport and getting on and off the plane it was not permitted during flight. More accurately it was not permitted during takeoff, landing or when the seat belt sign was on which means it really wasn’t practical during the flight. Note that I’ve heard some people get lucky and so were able to keep their child in the Bjorn for the duration of the flight, but based on our experience you shouldn’t count on it.
  • Bring a nursing pillow. My wife brought her nursing pillow as carry-on despite its size and it was well worth it. Given that the Bjorn was not allowed through the flight the nursing pillow provided a comfortable surface for our baby to sleep (we did not purchase a third seat), not to mention made things more comfortable for the person holding him the most.
  • Bring a changing pad. The washrooms do have a changing surface for your baby, but I question how clean those washrooms are. We had a properly sized changing pad that fit perfectly on the changing table in the plane restroom, and which also made the time more comfortable for our son.
  • Sit near the back and ask for window and aisle. The largest restroom on our plane was at the back, and additionally most people tend to avoid the back row of the plane. Sitting there with your baby will get you closer to the restroom when needed, limiting the need to guess when the line will be short. Additionally booking the two outside seats will mean that virtually every other available seat on the plane is more desirable than the one you’re guarding – the middle seat in the back row which doesn’t recline. Since you won’t be sleeping you won’t miss the ability to recline. We tried this strategy and it worked like a charm. We ended up with the middle seat open and the extra space was quite helpful.
  • Use the soother on takeoff. Pressurization is a problem especially if the little one is congested. If you can get him working the soother on takeoff and landing it should help limit the discomfort.

I’ll edit this post as I remember additional items that may be helpful, but at minimum I hope the items above prove helpful to some.