My parents wouldn't have dreamed of taking us children to Europe. Instead, we stayed home with Grandma and Grandpa for six long weeks. These days, not many people have a grandma and grandpa team that would move in and take over, so most people take the kiddies with them.
We traveled with our children, but it was never to Europe--we took them to cays in the Bahamas where they could swim with fish and discover the delights of a different culture. We took them to live on a Fijian coconut plantation on the sea, where our four year old preferred to hangout with our gracious Indian hosts in their outdoor kitchen with chickens running about and giant blue crabs waiting in a covered pot. I'm not sure museums and fussy Frenchmen would have meshed well with our children. The opportunity has long passed, yet I find myself sort of wishing we had tried the European adventure with children. Could they have appreciated the culture?
I marvel when I am told about an acquaintance who regularly took her children to Europe and started doing so when her youngest was two.
"Did she take a nanny?" I ask the storyteller.
"No!" and we are both bewildered by the woman's adventurous spirit. "She and her husband just made it work. He took the kids to the park and she went shopping."
Last November, we ventured out of the country for a wedding and took the whole family along. We made it work, but we did run into a few glitches with our airline. Unbeknownst to us, and without any warning from the airline, we learned there are special exceptions to taking under-two-year-olds out of the country. It came down to standing at the departure gate, almost everyone having boarded and still not knowing if the almost two-year-old could go. The gate agent told us everyone could board but him...really? The problem was resolved by buying, literally, in the last minutes, a full fare ticket for a child who was supposed to fly free. Another member of the wedding party flying from another state wasn't so lucky. The glitch caused a delay they couldn't solve in time and she missed her flight. Her family went on and she was left alone, crying, to figure out how to get to the wedding with a six-month-old.
The irony was that the airline workers on the way back into the country poo-pooed the stringent requirements and didn't require the urgently needed papers we were told we must have to bring the children back.
It happened again this week on our way to Florida in the company of a two month old and a one year old. The airline agent needed proof of the newborn's date of birth since she was flying free as an under-two-years-of-age lap child. Looking at her isn't proof enough?
The only proof of her birth my daughter had, was a video on her phone, of her C-section birth. Yes, Mandi stood at the airline counter showing her c-section video to the airline agent. Bonding. It only worked because the video was dated.
"This really should be posted on your website when we purchase our airline tickets."
The gate agent responded that it was.
But we didn't see it.
Hence the warning and the reason for this piece. If you are bold enough to travel with children, if you lack a grandma/grandpa team to take over, by all means take the children. Enjoy them...make it work, but caveat emptor...check and double check the airline requirements, supposedly FDA mandated, but not universally enforced, to carry that precious cargo on and off the plane.