Band-Aids? Check. First-aid kits? Check. Extra clothes for when someone inevitably throws up on themselves or eats something sticky? Double check.
There are so many things to check off the packing list when you’re a parent that you practically need a whole other passport just for your kids’ stuff. That’s probably why so many families I know skip air travel altogether and opt for closer getaways they can get to by car. Sometimes, the airport hassle just doesn’t seem worth it.
But I’m going to let you in on a little secret I recently discovered: When it comes to making traveling easier for families, not all airlines are created equal.
Enter, Emirates Airlines. I’d heard rumors about it for a while, but it wasn’t until I boarded a flight from Orlando to Dubai last month that I realized what all the fuss was actually about. And honestly, I’m not sure why other airlines aren’t catching on quicker.
For starters, the airline has so many ways to occupy kids, there’s literally no way for them to get bored. Ever. The in-flight TVs alone offer over 2,500 channels, including kid-friendly channels and movies. That’s right: I said 2,500 channels. (My own flight was 14 hours, and I didn’t even touch my laptop or tablet once — which is really saying something.)
But if you don’t want your kid to get that much screen time in at once, they’ve got you covered there too: All Emirates flights offer plenty of old-school entertainment as well, with kid-approved toys like puzzles, Etch-a-Sketches, and even puppet characters. (You know, like we used to play with when we were kids.)
And for moms with babies, Emirates has free access to bassinets, baby-changing stations, baby bottles, formula, and even two types of jarred food, all available for use on each flight. (They’ll even heat up your baby’s formula for you — I asked!) There are also extra diapers available for that messy blowout you’ll inevitably encounter. Plus, there’s plenty of room for toddlers to get their wiggles out — including a special lounging area where mamas can enjoy a cocktail (while the tots entertain business travelers with their never-ending rendition of “Be Our Guest.” (Yep — a lounging area on the plane.) They even have extra baggage allowances for those traveling with kids.
Considering how many headlines I’ve read about moms feeling uncomfortable when bringing their babies on planes or being forced to dump perfectly good breast milk at the airport, all of this sounds like pretty amazing service to me.
And then there’s this: Normally, I hate airline food, and the process of getting my kids to eat it is equally torturous. But I’m telling you, Emirates doesn’t mess around when it comes to their menu — even with their offerings for kids. They know that picky young travelers only dine on the finest chicken nuggets. And they serve it with a side of flourless chocolate cake (that is, if you don’t swipe it from your kid when they’re not looking).
But here’s what I thought was the best part: Before I even stepped foot on the plane, I spotted a rack of complimentary strollers at the airport for families with kids. Seven easy-to-grab umbrella strollers, right there to help you transfer from one gate to the next or pop into a duty-free shop with your toddler who suddenly has jelly legs. As a mom of two who spent years schlepping my own stroller to and from the airport (along with everything else), I can say for sure that this is a huge convenience for families with young kids.
But I’m not alone. Any parent with a passport and even an ounce of patience will tell you that traveling long distances with small kids can really test your sanity. (I can still remember the screams of my then-18-month-old toddler on hellish flight many years ago — and the undeniable strength of prayer that allowed me to survive it with just one diaper in hand.) The packing, the stress, and of course the journey itself almost takes all the fun out of finally dipping your toes in the sand once you reach your destination.
And most airlines aren’t making it any easier on us. Until recently, many airlines charged parents extra just to ensure they got a seat next to their children. (Luckily, Congress stepped in, and as of this year, the extra fees will no longer be legal.)
But as Emirates Airlines proves, it doesn’t have to be that way. And it’s about time other airlines step up their game, too, and realize that mini-travelers are just as important as business and first class travelers and new parents shouldn’t have to stress so much just getting from Point A to Point B. (Especially when consider the cost of an airplane ticket these days.) The fact is, the global world is getting smaller, and it only makes sense for family travel options to improve along with it.
Now, if we can only get inflight day care taken care of, we’re all set, right?