And now for a fabulous guest post from the ex-general counsel at Expedia, Mark Britton. I wish I had known about his site, Avvo, before I experienced my Traffic Court Tribulations!
Being the ex-general counsel at Expedia and now running Avvo and its free legal advice Q&A forum, I get a lot of questions about travel-particularly travelers’ rights and responsibilities. As a parent of three rambunctious little boys, I offer this post to help traveling parents everywhere. On that note, I am reminded of one of Expedia’s great early ads which said something like, “Whoever said getting there is half the fun has never gotten there with a screaming two year old.”
So, in that spirit, here are some nuggets of knowledge for your next child-laden trip:
1. Traveling with kids doesn’t give you special legal rights. A lot of people assume that because they are traveling with kids they have special rights and preferences granted by the Federal Aviation Administration or some higher authority. The reality is that your rights-with or without children-are largely whatever the airline chooses to give you. Don’t think you can be involuntarily bumped with children? Oh yes, you can. Outraged that the airline denied you early boarding with your pokey young children? Tough beans. Not able to avoid your child’s tantrums by letting her run up and down the airline aisle? It’s the flight staff’s call.
2. Add 30-60 minutes to get to your gate. Let’s face it, kids take their time. That dead cockroach en route to your gate may be disgusting to you, but it absolutely requires closer inspection by a five-year-old. I learned long ago that rather than trying to whip your kids into an adult pace, allowing more time to get to your gate preserves family harmony. Just going through security is stressful for a kid-take it slow and make it fun.
3. Reserve the allowed seats for your kids. One place that the feds do get involved is where your children may sit on a plane. They may not sit in an exit row, and if they are in a car seat, they must sit by the window. So don’t think you will book your young child in an exit row and the airline will have to live with it-they won’t. The flight attendants will move you-I see it happen all the time. Also, don’t book two aisle seats-one for you and your car-seated kid. Just take it for granted that your child will be sitting by the window and you will be sitting in the middle by the big hairy guy who hogs the armrest.
4. No need to smuggle your baby food. Keep in mind that while you are not allowed to take liquids on a plane, you may take liquid-based baby food. Many people don’t know this, and so they attempt to come up with creative ways to smuggle on formula or the always-popular peas and carrots. Stow your criminal tendencies, and simply declare the baby food. You can take up to one-day’s supply on board, but I have found that TSA personnel are always very sympathetic and accommodating when it comes to food for your infant.
5. Kids can get the boot too. Finally, keep in mind that an airline can deny you boarding-or even ask you to deplane-if your kids are disorderly, abusive or violent. This goes for adults too, but people are always surprised that it pertains to kids.
I could go on and on (bring a DVD player with headphones, seat your child behind a parent, etc.). However, I think I have already exceeded my word limit. Of course, if you have any more legally related travel questions, we are always here to answer all of your questions. You can go directly to our free legal advice Q&A forum to ask your personal legal questions- anonymously if desired-and real attorneys will answer them.
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