How should I travel with an infant from New Jersey to Florida?
May 22, 2004 1:38 PM   Subscribe

This summer I'll be traveling with an infant from New Jersey to Florida (Tampa Bay area/Tarpin Springs). I've gone to a few sites and picked up a book, but I was hoping for some personal tips/stories from parents that might not have been gone over before. Also, which would be better, traveling by car train or plane? Thanks!
posted by FunkyHelix to Travel & Transportation (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Car. Air and Rail travelers thank you in advance.
posted by pieoverdone at 1:50 PM on May 22, 2004

Response by poster: Car train. Not car comma train. But thanks for the knee jerk reaction to children. Now if I could get some tips/stories from people who have children and can actually answer my question, that would be great.
posted by FunkyHelix at 2:08 PM on May 22, 2004

How old? Nursing? It sucks to be so stuck in a tiny plane seat, especially if the kid is accustomed to being walked around when fussy, etc, but a shorter overall time spent in transit is always desirable.

If the kid is still nursing, in our experience, it makes for an easy first flight and therefore easy subsequent flights. You don't need to worry much about their ears if they can nurse during the flight, and it's also something quiet to do.

Otherwise, be sure to bring your own water and cups/bottles and try to get the kids to drink everytime you pop your ears. Book departure for around naptime, but try not to let them sleep during descent so they keep swallowing.
posted by ulotrichous at 2:31 PM on May 22, 2004

Response by poster: He's ten months now, and should be almost a year by the time we go. Unfortunately he's a bottle baby. Someone suggested a pacifier for the swallowing, but he hates them.
posted by FunkyHelix at 2:39 PM on May 22, 2004

If you fly, ask the airline if they have any accomodating procedures for infants to speed you through security.
posted by mischief at 3:34 PM on May 22, 2004

I've flown three times in the past year from Buffalo to Ft. Lauderdale and back again with a baby, twice alone. He is now 9 1/2 months, and I just made the last trip a few weeks ago. By "car train", I'm assuming you mean the Amtrak AutoTrain, from Lorton, VA to Sanford, FL, which I've taken three times back and forth (in 1999 and 2001, all times travelling alone).

I would say from my experience: fly down. I wouldn't even consider the AutoTrain with a baby unless 1) you are travelling with another adult, and 2) you really, really need your own car when you get there. Since you listed flying down as an option, I'm going to assume you don't really need your own car.

To take the AutoTrain, you'd need to drive a few hours from NJ to VA (for a baby, that's a long time to drive, even with breaks). Then you'll have to be at the station by 1:30 PM-ish so they can load up your car, and wait around there 'til they let you board and leave the station at 4:30 PM. You'll have a lounge car for snacks and TV (full of people), access to a good-sized bathroom, and a dining car with fixed booths that will be near-impossible for you to get your own dinner eaten while juggling the baby, unless you have a partner to trade off with.

You'll be on the train overnight (4:30 PM to 8:30 AM, IIRC). You can shell out money for a sleeper: I can't tell you exactly what the sleepers are like on the train - for a single it's not going to be very roomy (but it will be expensive) - a family-size berth doesn't look so bad (but will be even more expensive). Or you can sleep in a relatively roomy seat, which does recline, but I can't imagine it being very comfortable with a baby in your lap all night. Or you can get him his own seat, put him in his car seat, and only you can say whether he'll put up with that for any length of time, much less sleep in it overnight - and you'll be in a car with everyone else sleeping too, so if he decides to fuss there's a good chance he'll wake people up. Then you'll arrive in FL and wait another hour or three 'til they finally take your car off the train, then drive another couple hours out to Tarpon Springs.

So, to recap: to go on the AutoTrain will take you a full day and a half of straight travelling each way, it will cost you almost twice as much as a cheap plane ticket round-trip if you don't bring a car, half a grand at least if you do bring a car, and even more than that if you book a sleeper; and you'll have to feed, change, and amuse a little one all that time (pray that the movement of the train keeps him drowsy more than half the time). The only advantages I can see are getting to bring your car with you, and, uh.... you can walk around a lot with the baby during your 16 hours in transit! And watch a couple movies in the lounge car! =) I admit it's a neat trip to make, it just doesn't seem practical with a very small child if you have other options. I would say the train is pretty kid-friendly overall if you feel you must try it; there were always families doing the trip when I rode it.

To fly will take you just a few hours from getting to the airport in NJ to landing in Tampa, even if you can't get a direct flight (and I find I prefer a stop en route since it gives us a chance to stretch out, but if your direct flight is less than three hours, go for it). For example, from Buffalo to Atlanta is a little over two hours in the air, then an hour in the airport there, then another hour-plus to Ft. Lauderdale. This is easy to line up with a naptime schedule. Even if he's cranky and won't sleep, it's not so long to keep him amused for. And, of course, flying will be a *lot* cheaper.

Plane travel tips: pack your carry-on as lightly as you can, bring some toys and books for him, and you don't need to bother getting him a seat and hauling his car seat on the plane with you (a lot of them won't stay in it anyway) - just sit him on your lap for the flight. Bring a small stroller: you can use it right up to the gate to the minute you board the plane, and they will tag it for you and have it ready when you step off the plane, even on layovers if you let them know, so you can just wheel him from one gate to the next - *very* convenient especially for potty breaks! There's a good chance you'll get in the expedited line for security checks going to the gate, and they'll let you board the plane ahead of everyone so you can get settled.

Get an aisle seat so you can walk him if he fusses over sitting still, try to get either a bulkhead seat for the extra room or, after boarding, if there are open seats ask if you can move to an empty row to give him some space. Try to get him to suck on takeoffs and landings to pop his ears, and if he won't, you can blow air gently in his face 'til he blinks his eyes - this will make him swallow and it helps. And really try to time it with his naps and feeding schedule, since sleeping and feeding can take up a lot of the sitting-around-in-the-tiny-seat time and keep you both occupied.

It's hard to be crammed into a little seat with a (possibly) moody baby, but don't worry about the trip, it doesn't take so long. I've survived it fine. Now East Coast to West Coast, ugh, I wouldn't do that! =) Hope this answer helps you.
posted by Melinika at 10:41 PM on May 22, 2004

Fly. It will suck, it will suck for you, your child and every other person with the misfortune to be seated near you. But, and it's a big one, it will be over quickly. Myself, I would gladly trade a few hours of misery for a day and a half of chronic pain -- and who knows, with any luck at all he/she may sleep the whole way.

The car train I've never seen the point of unless your moving permanently. Rental packages are usually less expensive than the absurdly priced (and inconvenient) car train.
posted by cedar at 8:19 AM on May 23, 2004

Ah, you're all wimps... three hours on a plane with a ten month old? Piece of cake. Try nine hours on a plane with an over-active three year old and a six month old, followed by an hour break and then another two hours on a plane with them. Hey, it's really not too bad. Plus, there were two of us.

It's really a no-brainer on your choice: you fly. As everyone has said, it's over quickly. Maybe consider the train when said child is three or four if they love trains. For now, fly.

Take spare clothes for them. Take twice as many nappies as you think you might need. Take plenty of fluids, for you and them. Hope that you get nice attendants. Take some simple books to read to them. Most importantly, try to schedule the flight at nap time. Feed them as you take off, hope they fall asleep, and then hope that the buzzing of the plane keeps them asleep. If not, and they're walking by that time, let them wander up and down the aisle a bit once you get going. It can be tough at that age when they want to be independent and go and explore everything.

Really, it's nothing to worry about. Do not, for a moment, worry about people with this attitude: It will suck, it will suck for you, your child and every other person with the misfortune to be seated near you. It won't suck. Even if your baby cries the whole time, it's not going to be that bad on a flight that's over in a few hours. This is your flight: forget anyone else on the plane. If they get annoyed because your infant is crying, they're not worth caring about themselves.
posted by humuhumu at 2:12 PM on May 23, 2004

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