2016 Gift Guide for the Baby Traveler

It’s almost the holidays, so we thought it would be a good time to post our current favorites for the baby (and family) on the go.  Just a few tried and tested gifts for easier family travel.  Have a look!


1. Indestructibles Book: Baby Peekaboo

These books are indestructible, hence the name.  Your baby can fold them, chew them, roll them up, crinkle them, and they can even get wet.  Perfect for stuffing in the carry-on bag.


2. Baby paper

Oh baby paper, how much do we love thee!  It’s the perfect crinkly sound that almost every baby loves, and it doesn’t take up as much space as bigger stuffed or rattle toys would.


3. Oli and Carol Apple Teether

This apple teether is a favorite around here.  So much so that it was a staple for every trip until we left it behind on our last flight!  I need to learn not to put her toys in the seat pocket, because they become very easy to forget when you’re in a rush to get off the plane.  Because of the shape this toy can also be attached to a toy leash, so it doesn’t get dropped.


4. Ringley Natural Teething Toy

We’ve had this teether for a while now and Baby Flyer loves it.  She likes to chew on the maple ring, but she also likes to feel the fabric and has been known to play peekaboo with it.  The fabric comes of easily, and can be thrown in the washing machine.

sophie-giraffe-teetherSophie la Giraffe

Sophie is ubiquitous, Sophie is expensive, but boy does Baby Flyer loves her!  The natural rubber makes for a perfect chewing surface.  But to be honest, some days she seems to prefers her apple teether and Ringley toy even better.

green-sprouts-sippy-cupGreen Sprouts Glass Cup

This cup is wonderful because it has a glass insert which holds the liquid if you’re trying to avoid plastics, but it’s protected so you don’t have to worry about it breaking.  It comes apart, and is dishwasher safe.  It’s been great on the go, no leaks or breaking.



Cosco Scenera NEXT Convertible Car Seat

We’ve written about this car seat before, but it’s great for travelling.  It’s light weight, uses a regular seat belt for installation, has a 5 point adjustable harness, and depending on the age of the child, can be rear or forward facing.  The cup holder comes off, so it fits in snug airplane seats.


Car Seat Backpack

We’ve also written about this before but we bring it on every trip.  It makes it relatively easy to transport the car seat and provides protection for the car seat, and keeps it clean.  Travel tip- you can put extra items in the bag with the car seat.  We like to put our package of diapers, or bulky coats.


Babyzen YOYO Stroller

While we do not have his stroller (yet), we’ve heard very positive reviews, and seen it around the airports.  It is light weight, has tight steering, and most importantly can be folded down so it fits within the carry-on size restrictions so you can bring it onto the plane instead of gate checking.  Personally, I think it’s a genius idea.


Summer Infant 3Dlite Stroller

We have this stroller for travel and it fulfills all of our needs.  It steers surprisingly well (most of the time we use our BOB Revolution stroller which has amazing steering but we haven’t wanted to risk it getting damaged while travelling so we leave it at home), is lightweight, has a storage area under the seat, and the seat back can be reclined.  It comes with a cup holder, but it seemed flimsy.  However, we’ve found that either of our cup holders/stroller organizers work with it (this or this).  One complaint we have is that the canopy doesn’t provide much sun protection since Baby Flyer isn’t tall enough yet.

gate-check-bagStroller Gate Check Bag

We use a bag like this for both the stroller and the Pack N Play.  The extra handle and strap help when transporting the Pack N Play, since it can get heavy.


Summer Infant Pop N’ Jump Portable Activity Center

Baby Flyer went through a stage where she loved to jump.  We used this on a couple of trips over the summer.  It folds down into a relatively small carrier, and it was nice to have a safe place to let her play on her own for a few minutes.  When we were in Cabo, we set it up on the balcony so Baby Flyer could take in the views!


Graco Pack N Play

When Baby Flyer was younger, this was a traveling staple.  Now it is hit or miss if she will sleep well in it, so we’ve been leaving it home more lately.  If you were mainly going to use your Pack N Play for travelling, I would recommend buying one of the lightest one that still meets all of your needs.  Hotels also provide cribs or pack n plays on request, so if you’re going for a short trip, it may be easier to borrow.  When we do this, we do bring our own crib sheet that’s familiar to her.

Thanks for reading & Happy Travels!



Getting to the Gate – Gate Passes


The first time CR set out with Baby Flyer alone, it felt overwhelming all over again for both of us.  I set out to see what I could do about helping her for as long as possible through the airport.   Since you can’t go to the gate without clearing security, and you can’t clear security without being a ticket passenger, this proves to be a bit of a problem.

Luckily, there are a couple ways to work around it. The most standard way is to plan ahead and ask for a “gate pass.”  A gate pass is basically a ticket that allows you to pass security, but not to actually take a flight.  I recommend calling a few days before the flight to explain the situation, and then arriving early for the flight and asking again at check in.  It will be at check in that they’ll actually be able to issue the pass.  Ask politely, let them know it’s your partner/spouse’s first time flying alone with baby.  If there are any other special circumstances that might weigh in your favor, go ahead and let them know these as well.

Remember that you will have to go through the full security process even though you’re not flying, so be prepared for that.

The other way is to purchase a ticket you don’t intend to use.  Generally speaking, a ticket allows you to access the airport on ‘the day of travel.’  So, if you have a ticket for 5pm, you can arrive first thing in the morning, clear security, and hang out in the airport all day.  (Not that I want to admit that I’ve done that….but I’ve done that)

This means if your family is flying, at say, 8am, you can book a ticket that departs at noon, and cancel it after you send them off safely, but well before ‘your’ flight is set to depart.


Airport Selfies!  Taking CR & Baby Flyer to the gate for their first solo flight.

The key to doing this is to find a reasonable refundable flight.  If you have airline miles, you can also book an award ticket for this purpose, as long as the fare rules say it is refundable as well.  Be sure to call the airline to cancel well in advance of the time your ‘flight’ leaves, and if you can, book with a credit card that has good customer service, in the event you have to deny the charge.  American Express, especially their charge cards, are good for this.

Most importantly, however, is to not exploit this process.  I’ve only done it one time this year, because you don’t want the airline to see a pattern, especially if you’re a frequent flyer and have a mileage account at stake.  A time or two per year likely won’t raise eyebrows, but I wouldn’t do much more than that.  Asking for a gate pass is the safer option, though they’re not guaranteed to give you one.

Happy flying!






Flying Solo With Baby


Good Morning, LAX.

The first time I flew alone with Baby Flyer I was nervous.  It was a whole new ball game, and having just started flying as a family, I honestly wasn’t sure how it would go.  I had plenty of unaswered questions- how would boarding work?  Putting my things up?  And last but definitely not least- how does one use the airplane restroom when flying alone with a 5 month old?!?

The task seemed overwhelming.  It was her third trip, the second time flying from coast to coast.  It feels like a long day of flying without a baby, so I imagined it would feel even longer with a baby in tow.

I got slightly misty as I said goodbye to CT and boarded the plane, but I reminded myself that I could do this.  I had the same tools as I have on the ground to sooth, comfort, and entertain her.  This continues to be my mantra before every flight.  Luckily, CT had managed to accompany us to the gate for our first flight alone, so I had help through the airport.

We’ve since flown numerous times just the two of us and we’ve been just fine.  It can be a decent amount of work, but I may even venture to say it’s been enjoyable.    The key I’ve found is to stay relaxed and be organized.


First Things First: Boarding and getting settled in.

A few first tips- I like to change her diaper prior to boarding where I have more space.  I either stop by an airport lounge, if there’s one we have access to, or look for a family bathroom in the terminal.  It’s nice to start the flight with a clean diaper since you never know if it will be a bumpy take off, and how long you’ll have to stay in your seat.

I always wear Baby Flyer when boarding, and I keep her in the Ergo 360 while I get organized at my seat.  I start by wiping my seat, seat belt buckle, and tray with a Dr. Brown’s Pacifier and Bottle wipe then I take out whatever I think I will need for the beginning part of the flight.  This typically includes: Aden and Anais swaddle blanket (multipurpose- blanket, nursing cover, and prop for my arm if she falls asleep), headphones if my seat has a personal television, gum, a baby toy, a book or magazine, my cell phone (I use it to check the time) and her American Airlines ‘Junior Aviator Logbook.’

Once we are settled, Baby Flyer typically wants to watch boarding.  She loves attention and people.  She stares as people walk by, just waiting for someone to notice her.  This is one thing that hasn’t changed from her early flights.  She’s always been fascinated by being on a plane.  When boarding is almost over, I take Baby Flyer out of the Ergo and put it in the overhead bin.

We’ll do a separate diaper bag post, but I always bring two bags.  My regular diaper bag with all the necessities, and an additional small bag with the swaddle blanket and her toys.  I find keeping her toys separate makes my diaper bag stay more organized.


Silly babies like to watch boarding upside-down. (For a few seconds, anyway)

Onwards and Upwards: Ready for Takeoff.

My goal is to feed Baby Flyer during take off and landing to help keep her calm and adjust the pressure in her ears.  Sometimes she will be fussy, hungry, or tired and I’ll have to feed her prior to take off, but I try to hold her off for as long as possible.  I get organized when we push back, so I’m set once the plane starts to roll down the runway.

I nurse her as much as she wants throughout the flight.  Very rarely will she nurse for the whole take off or landing, sometimes she will want her pacifier instead and other times she won’t want anything.  The first few times this happened, I worried about her ears.  I thought since she wasn’t sucking on anything she was going to get fussy, but I have since learned she will suck when she needs to, and so I stay attentive and trust her natural instinct.


Baby Flyer Peruses the Inflight Menu Options

Up in the Air: Passing the Time In Flight

Baby Flyer only slept for the majority of the flight on her first few trips.  That’s the beauty of flying with very young babies.  At 6-7 months, she typically dozes off and on throughout the flight, so I like to be prepared with a toy or two for when she wakes up.  When she does fall asleep on me I make sure my swaddle blanket is nearby to prop up my arm, and try to have something accessible that I can read or do with one hand.

Sometimes her toy is of no interest and she prefers the plastic beverage cup, the emergency landing pamphlet, the seatbelt buckle, I could go on.  If I’m feeling like I’ve run out of options and the fasten seat belt light is off, I let her sit in my seat and play, and I squat in front of her.  This will usually keep her entertained for a while.  Creativity and patience is key.

If you’re in first class, eating during the meal service while holding a baby is tricky, but possible.  Usually I’ll ask to time my meal service for when Baby Flyer is sleeping, and I’ll eat what I can with one hand.  It’s hit or miss if it’s my dominant hand that’s free.


Bulkhead seats can be a great option for little ones- More legroom for you, and more play room for them.

When it’s time to change her diaper mid-flight, I take only what’s necessary with me.  Airplane bathrooms tend to be small.  I take our changing pad that came with our Skip Hop diaper bag, and a changing pad liner, wipes, and a clean diaper.  As an FYI, at least one bathroom on each plane has a changing table, that typically folds down from the wall.  After I change her diaper, I’ll go to the bathroom myself while holding her (yes, this is how one does this when flying alone.)  It’s a bit awkward and rushed but is certainly doable, especially if you really need to go.  If you really luck out, I’ve had a flight attendant on occasion be smitten enough with Baby Flyer to offer to hold her while I eat or use the restroom, but they can be busy and you can’t count on this.

On Approach: Happy Landings

I try to nurse her again for landing, and have a pacifier ready in case she’s not in the mood.  When I first started flying, I wore a nursing wrap scarf for privacy, but now that Baby Flyer is older, she spends half of the time playing with any nursing cover, and pushing it away, so I’ve stopped trying to use one.  Instead I wear clothes that I’m able to comfortably and discretely nurse her in.  Typically it’s a long sleeve shirt or a t-shirt with a tank top underneath.  So when I’m nursing her I can pull my shirt up and tank top down.  Sitting by the window I feel like I have more privacy, but being on the aisle makes getting up and down easier.  There’s benefits with each.  If you’re in first class, the window seats are easier to get up and down from without disturbing the person next to you, since there is more space between rows.

I will admit that after a predawn wake up, followed by a solo cross country flight, I looked and felt a bit tired, but that’s about par for the course with any flight like this, baby or no baby.

As we recently shared with a friend who was about to embark on her first flight with her new baby, my main takeaways are to arrive at the airport early so you’re not rushed, change their diaper before boarding, go one step at a time, and relax.  You’ve got this, and in any case it’s just a couple hours.

Happy Travels!

~CR & Baby Flyer

Family Getaway: Chicago


Chicago is one of our favorite ‘weekend cities.’  For several years running, we’ve visited in the late fall for a night or two.  We have a few traditions we try to keep up when we’re there, but mostly just enjoy the sights and architecture, and relax away from home.

This year was our first time going as a family of three.  As would be expected, the experience was different than prior visits, but we had a blast!

It started with a great deal on our flights, just $71 per person from LAX-ORD round trip.  For more on the flight deal, check out CT’s companion blog post at Cruising Altitude.  We didn’t upgrade our seats, but on account of our status with American Airlines, we booked complimentary ‘main cabin extra’ seats in the bulkhead row.

Since the flights weren’t booked full in main cabin, we used the ‘infant block’ trick- two adults on the same reservation and one lap child, and ended up with the row to ourselves, which was very comfortable and convenient.  Baby Flyer has just started to crawl and cruise, so it was nice to be able to let her roam around a bit in the row without disturbing other passengers.


Even with her new found mobility, she was a good travel citizen, and we kept her well occupied when she was awake.

We decided to rent a car for the weekend.  We like National on account of our Executive membership, that allows us to pick from a range of upgraded cars.  This weekend we chose a nice Buick Enclave, which was great to haul around the baby gear.  In addition, the car seat installed easily, and it was comfortable to drive.


Photo Credit: Palmer House

After looking around at the options, we booked two nights at The Palmer House, which is a Hilton property.  It’s located right downtown in the loop, just a block or so from Millennium Park, which is one of our traditional destinations.

This hotel, as we learned, is the longest continually running hotel in the US.  It is also, incidentally, the birthplace of…. the brownie.  You learn something new every day. The property itself is impressive.  It is 24 floors, and occupies nearly an entire block.  The main lobby has a beautiful soaring atrium, with ornate columns, and an intricately painted ceiling.


Photo Credit: Palmer House

What made our stay truly memorable, though, were the people at the hotel.  It started with a check in agent who, when she realized that our reservations for adjoining rooms (one for us, and one for CR’s parents who had met us for the weekend) had been mixed up, and the rooms were on different floors entirely, went out of her way to accommodate us.  Way out of her way.  Long story short, we ended up spending the weekend in the expansive and luxurious penthouse suite.  It’s easily the nicest hotel room (if you can even call it that) that I’ve stayed in.  The accommodation included three bedrooms, four bathrooms, and expansive living areas that were easily double the size of our house!





Even without this windfall, I’d recommend this hotel if you’re looking to stay in a central location.  It has a distinctly historic feel, and the service is above and beyond.  We had complimentary breakfast due to my Hilton status in the executive lounge on the 23rd floor.  Each morning, we were welcomed by our server Ernest, who kept things running smoothly and offered great service, and a few laughs.  Baby Flyer especially enjoyed ‘talking’ with him.


The central location of this hotel puts you a block away from Millennium Park, which has one of the nicest, most expansive and creative playgrounds we’ve visited.  The Maggie Daley park consists of numerous themed play spaces, with activities appropriate for kids of all ages.    We were really impressed by the level of imagination and attention to detail in the design, and spent time there both days.  Baby Flyer especially liked the swings, and climbing around the wooden boats in ‘The Harbor.’


We have three main traditions when we come to Chicago.  The first is to take pictures at ‘The Bean’ in Millennium Park (Pictured at the top of this post).  We have them from each trip, including some taken last year when we were expecting Baby Flyer.

The second is to go to ‘The Green Zebra‘ in West Town.  The Green Zebra is an upscale vegetarian tapas restaurant that we’ve always had good meals at.  We stumbled on it our first visit, and now make it a point to go back when we’re in town. The service this time was especially friendly and personal, and we all had a great time, especially Baby Flyer, who always enjoys a good window seat.





Our third stop is to spend some time in the Oak Park neighborhood.  In the past we’ve done the Frank Lloyd Wright tours, but the last few trips we’ve just stopped by Lake Street to grab lunch and do a little shopping.  Especially in the Fall, this area is charming.  As an added bonus, it’s also half way back to the airport, so heading out here early on the day we flew out let us miss the traffic.

Overall, Chicago is a great family getaway.  You can see and do plenty without having to go far from downtown, and if you don’t rent a car, many attractions are walkable.  We look forward to getting back to Chicago in the future as a family and exploring even more of the city!

Travel Well,


This post is part of Budget Traveler’s Sandbox’s #TravelPhotoThursday, #CityTripping at Wandermum#WeekendTravelInspiration, and #FlyAwayFriday at Time Travel Blonde. Check out these linkups!

What is a Bassinet & How to Get One


Baby Flyer chooses her seat carefully.  

One of the most asked about topics in baby travel is always, ‘What about a bassinet?  How do I get one?’

First off, bassinets are only available on wide body (two aisle) aircraft.  They are also an amenity that only applies to international flights.  So, if you’re traveling domestically, you’ll need to either fly with baby on your lap, or purchase a seat for them.


A JAL Bassinet

For flights where bassinets are provided, the basic concept is that on certain planes there are bulkhead rows (the rows with a wall in front of them) that have fold-down shelves for installing removable bassinets for infants to sleep in on long flights.  Some airlines may also provide infant ‘seats’ for these locations, which are much the same idea, but just resemble a light car seat, rather than the flat bassinet.  Bassinets are provided after the plane is in flight, and collected before landing by the flight attendants.


British Airways Infant Seat

Bassinets may not be used during takeoff and landing, and generally you will need to remove baby from the bassinet when the seatbelt sign is on.

Seats in the bassinet rows are extremely limited, and there may only be 2-4 available on any given flight.  Further, the seats in these rows may be considered ‘premium’ and subject to extra fees.  They also may have extra legroom due to there being no seat directly in front of them, and as such, may be in high demand by elite travelers.

Each airline handles the assignment of these seats differently.  At the time of booking, I recommend calling the airline to inquire which rows and seats have bassinet capability.  It’s obviously easiest if you can get assigned those seats from the start.  Some airlines may ‘block’ these rows until the day of the flight, so they can accommodate lap infants and travelers with special needs.  If this is the case, ask when these seats are released, and how they can be assigned.  It’s a good idea to get to the airport early to check in, since this is likely when you can get a bassinet confirmed.  On a few airlines there may be a small charge for the bassinet itself.

American: Bassinets are available on a first come, first serve basis at the gate for travel only on 777-200, 767-300, 777-300 and 787 aircraft.  Bassinets are not available in First and Business class cabins.

United: Bassinets are large enough to hold an infant weighing 22 pounds (10 kg) or less.  A limited number of bassinets are available for use, free of charge, on international aircraft only. Bassinets are available for customers traveling international segments in United BusinessFirst® or United Polaris business class on select 757, 767, 777 and 787 aircraft and in United Economy® on 747, 757, 767, 777 and 787 aircraft. Bassinets are not available for customers traveling in United Global First℠, United Polaris first class, United First® or United Business® at this time.

Delta:  Onboard bassinets, also known as SkyCots, are available free of charge for passengers assigned to a bulkhead seat on equipped aircraft for some international flights. SkyCots can be requested by contacting Reservations before arriving at the airport and then speaking with the gate agent at the boarding gate, but cannot be guaranteed due to a limit of two SkyCots per aircraft and weight restrictions. Infants permitted to use a SkyCot must weigh 20 pounds or less and be no longer than 26 inches in length.

Other domestic airlines that only fly single aisle aircraft (Southwest, Alaska, JetBlue,Frontier, etc) currently do not provide bassinets.

For more information about International (Non-US) Airlines, see the links below:

British Airways, LufthansaAir Canada, QantasJapan Airlines, LANTAM, Virgin Atlantic, Cathay Pacific, Malaysia, Singapore Airlines, Thai, Air New Zealand, ANA, Eva Air, Air France, KLM, Swiss, Finnair, Emirates, Etihad, Qatar

As you can see from looking at the various policies, the key to obtaining a bassinet seat is to ask, and then ask again, and then again.  Annoying, yes, but on a long haul flight, having the option of a place to put baby down to sleep is worth it!  It’s baby’s first ‘lie-flat seat!’



Local Life: Halloween Edition


Contrary to popular belief, sometimes we do actually spend a week at home.  This one counts, even though CT did spend most of Saturday flying to Chicago and back again in her quest for miles.  But she was back in plenty of time to enjoy Baby Flyer’s first Halloween!!


While she is too young for candy, or fully understanding what Halloween is, she had a blast.  One of her friends and his parents came over for play time, dinner, and to help hand out candy.  We also got to hear about their recent experience flying with an infant to Europe with Lufthansa.  They gave the airline a great review for making travel with a baby enjoyable, even on long-haul flights.

When we first moved to our neighborhood, I was sure we would get a ton of trick or treaters since it’s a popular area, and the houses are close together.  So, I bought a bunch of candy, and ended up sending most of it into work with CT so we wouldn’t be tempted by it laying around the house.  After speaking with some family who grew up in this area, it seemed like it was unusually quiet all around and we blamed the drizzly/cloudy weather.  They sent their leftover candy bars into work too.

For our second Halloween here, I still bought a decent amount of candy and ended up practically giving it away to kids as they walked past.  Encouraging them to take two pieces and offering a piece to the adults.  This year, I kept it simple.  I bought one bag from Costco (150 pieces for $15.99) and we probably used about half of it.  I think I need to accept that we just may not get a lot of trick-or-treaters.


 In any case, we had a great night, especially Baby Flyer.  She took a long late afternoon nap and was ready to party- literally.  She was giggling, squealing, and scooting all night.  When we picked her up, she would kick and pump her legs in excitement.  Though I’m sure if it had just been the three of us at home, she would have been ready for bed half way through dinner.

Speaking of dinner, I made Neverhomemaker’s Vegetarian Pumpkin Chili topped with shredded cheddar cheese and Mel’s Kitchen Cafe Cornbread.  This chili recipe is my go to.  It always hits the spot, especially on a cooler evening (which we’ve actually been having!).  I’ve tried many cornbread recipes, but they have all been too dense.  This was my first time making this recipe, and it was perfect.  Light and fluffy.  I used half of the sugar the recipe calls for and found it plenty sweet.  Some had a glass of wine, others had a pumpkin beer and we finished the night with a sliver of German chocolate cake our guests brought.



Something to know about me- I love decorating for Fall and Halloween, even in SoCal.  It reminds me of ‘home’ back on the East Coast, where the seasons are beautiful.

I keep my decorations simple, focusing on the front two rooms of the house.  Last year, I made paper bats out of cardstock then I used painters’ tape to stick them to the wall and inside lampshades.  After Halloween, I store them for next year, and they hold up great.  I always hang our bat garland and put our out black candlestick holders with our black and white drip candles.  Basically, I have fun and like to add something new each year.


Baby Flyer was a marathon runner for Halloween!  It was simple to put together and oh so cute.  It’s official, babies in Halloween costumes are the best!  She managed to keep the sweatbands on, even the one on her head.  When we first put it on, she immediately tried to take it off so I thought it was a lost cause.  However, we learned that if we distracted her for a few seconds afterwards, she would move on and leave it alone.

If you want to “get the look,” I found  her running shorts on clearance at Marshalls, but here is a similar pair, Nike Baby Running Shorts and Nike Toddler Socks.  Her sweatbands are from Amazon and her running shoes are from the Nike Factory Store.  She wore a white onesie we already had and I made her bib using a piece of felt, Tacky Glue, and foam letters and numbers.  I used her birthday for the number on her bib.


See you at the finish line!

-CR (and Baby Flyer)

Help for the Nervous Flyer


One thing I kept telling myself when we started flying as a family of three was, ‘at least we’re used to flying as a family of two.’  The experience is daunting enough without the added stress of feeling out of place, uneasy, or downright scared of flying itself.

While I have never really suffered from anxiety while flying, at least over the act of cruising along at 38,000ft in an aluminum tube (or composite, as is more and more common), Mrs. CruisingAltitude still has her fair share of worries about it.  She’s no big fan of turbulence, the specter of bad weather, or take-off and landing phases, generally.

I completely empathize with her feelings, I really do, even if I do tease her on occasion that after averaging 50,000 flight miles each year, she really should have sorted this out by now.  But fear of flying is a human instinct.

If you also get nervous to fly, these stresses may only be enhanced by now having to deal with them while holding your new baby.  This is fully understandable, every new parent is pre-programmed to think the worst may happen, and the instinct to protect goes into overdrive.

As in many things, the solution, least I hope, is knowledge.  I’m a fairly logical and science-based person, so for me a little research can help assure.  It seems to work for Mrs. CrusisingAltitude as well, when she goes as far as to listen to my mini-lectures on the topic.

The truth of the matter is that the safety and design of commercial aircraft is extremely regulated in every way possible.  They are also highly automated, and have layers of redundancy in their safety systems.  The reason it seems like there are ‘so many crashes’ is that when they happen, they are so rare that the media treats them as a BIG deal.  Not to say they’re not important, but statistically speaking, given the number of people who board commercial flights each day, they’re extremely unlikely.

Aircraft design is also highly regulated, and is rigorously overseen by layers of government authority.  A plane is one of the most tested and scrutinized products ‘on the market.’  A manufacturer must prove the design capable of safe flight in any operating condition, as well as showing that it has wide safety margins, and can withstand heavy turbulence, wind, hail, lightning strikes, hard landings, and even warn its pilots when improper flight conditions are being approached.

While we’re on the issue of turbulence- it’s likely the most common condition a passenger will experience in flight that may cause them to grab for the armrest for dear life.  However, on average, even an experienced flyer has only ever experienced ‘light to moderate’ turbulence on any of their flights. These conditions, though uncomfortable, do not really mean the plane is moving more than 10 to 20 feet vertically.  This is not even approaching a structural or control issue for the plane.

One of the best stories from a pilot that’s helped Mrs. CruisingAltitude on bumpy flights comes from an essay by a pilot, who described the reaction in the cockpit when encountering turbulence.  As he put it, ‘you may imagine the scene as the pilot fighting for control of the bounding aircraft, but really, that’s not the case.  In fact, aside from making a small adjustment to the forward speed to reduce the forces on the airfame over time, the discussion might go something like this:

Pilot: “It’s getting a little bumpy, I’m going to turn on the seatbelt sign.”

First Officer: “Okay.”

Pilot: “Oh man, some of my orange just spilled, do you have any spare napkins over there?”

First Officer: “Sure, here you go.”

Now, whenever things get bumpy, she just ‘thinks about orange juice’ and she says it helps.  Just about any turbulence that you may encounter in your flying is more or less a nuisance, rather than a safety issue.  Even extreme turbulence, the kind most people will never experience, is a hazard, not because it causes any damage to the plane, but because people don’t have their seatbelts on, and hit the top or sides of the cabin.

The most basic fact about air travel, is that it’s statistically orders of magnitude safer than driving your car to work each day, or walking across the street.  If you need a real life microcosm of this- I once spent a weekend flying over 10,000 miles domestically, in the winter, with snow, completely safely…only to get hit by a distracted driver on the 405 freeway on the way home from the airport!

Overall, familiarity with flying, and taking the experience one step at a time will go a long way to ease anxiety about the process.  Do your research before you go, try to plan some fun activities and treats for the flight time & take a deep breath.  You’ll be fine!