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The Novice Father: Will she fit in the overhead compartment?

Kelly Coffey
Vail CO, Colorado
Special to the DailyKelly Coffey
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Even when gas prices topped $4.50 a gallon in July, even when we factored in four days worth of driving, even when we pictured the sweaty backs and cramped legs and dirty gas station bathrooms … when given the choice to fly or drive to Los Angeles this summer, my wife and I chose to drive. That’s how much we despise air travel these days.

Thanks to schedule constraints back home, driving is not an option for an upcoming trip to San Francisco. So, for the first time, we’re bringing our three-month old daughter to the airport.

Air travel for us used to be an easy, throw-everything-in-one-bag-and-go affair. It’s now a complicated logistical mess. My baby weighs only 10 pounds. Yet we’ll require two butlers to carry the luggage to the check-in desk. How can I plan this trip so the family flies with as little turbulence as possible?



I should keep my daughter sucking on something during take-off and landing, said Linda Coffin of Overland and Express Travel in Edwards. The pressure change in the cabin during these times affects babies’ sensitive ears. That’s why kids are always crying on planes. The sucking reflex helps to pop her ears and sooth her. “Hopefully she just sleeps through it,” Coffin said.

Coffin also suggested I pad my schedule with extra time. Baggage check, security screening, checking my stroller at the gate: everything takes longer with a baby.



That’s true for just about everything I do nowadays, so why should airline travel be any different?

Lastly, I should pack extra baby wipes and not be stingy about using them, Coffin said. A commercial airplane is essentially a sealed germ factory. “It’s hard enough for adults to get on a plane and not pick up germs,” Coffin said. It will be a miracle if my baby makes it through this trip without catching some bug.

In the past, my stomach always dropped when I took my seat next to a parent with an infant. I get nauseous just thinking about constant crying echoing through the cabin.



Now, I’m going to be that parent. I’m concerned about how other people will treat us on the flight.

“We get some dirty looks from some people. For the most part people are nice and helpful,” said Joe Blair of Eagle-Vail. He has flown a number of times with his two-year old son, but not yet with his two-month old daughter. “A lot more people are willing to lend a hand, pick up your bags for you, and let you cut in line,” he said.

Blair seconds Coffin’s advice about padding my schedule with extra time. Blair always left plenty of time to get himself to the gate, even without child in tow. Yet he still adds an extra half-hour when traveling with his children. So I’ll plan to add more than an extra hour, since I normally arrive at the airport with seconds to spare.

Blair’s son has done well on most flights. Statistically speaking, that means the first time he takes his new daughter flying, she’s bound to be a terror. “It’s always a crap shoot whenever you get on the plane,” he said.

Thanks to Blair’s and Coffin’s advice, I’m picturing how we’re going to navigate this maze. With some luck, the only inconsolable crying will come from me when I find out exactly how much the airline charges for all my checked baggage.

Kelly Coffey is a novice father. He shares his mistakes, fears, and laughs along his journey to figure out how anybody could possibly raise a child. E-mail comments or questions about this column to cschnell@vaildaily.com.


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