Flying the Family in the Eco-Friendly Skies

by eco18

In just a few weeks my husband and I will be taking our children on an airplane for the first time. To say I’m nervous would be an understatement. Many adults are afraid to fly and have a difficult time sitting in their seats for the duration of a flight. It has to be so much harder for children. My 3 ½ year old and 1 ½ year old hardly sit still for more than five minutes at home. Additionally, there are so many regulations to consider when traveling with children. Plus, I want to bring my eco-conscious attitude along on our trip.

Before even booking airline tickets, you may want to make sure you’re choosing an airline that is taking steps to have a positive impact on the environment. Seat Guru offers a helpful section detailing what each airline has done and continues to do to minimize their negative impact on the environment.  The site also tells which airplanes are the most and least energy efficient. My family typically flies JetBlue, one of the airlines currently testing biofuels. When you book your flights, you can try to choose an airline that is taking part in responsible ecologic business practices.

I spend weeks planning what I need to pack and this time it has been especially stressful since it will be the first time I bring my kids. Given the regulations put in place after the 9/11 attacks, it’s important to know what you can and cannot bring on the plane in order to minimize wait times (especially since kids can get very agitated when they are waiting in lines). The TSA has a section on their site about travelling with children, which I found helpful. When flying with an infant and toddler some exemptions are allowed, for example juices, baby formula and breast milk can be placed in your carry-on luggage in excess of the 3.4oz limit for other liquid items. Since my children only drink water, I called to find out if water can be carried on the plane. Bottled water can be carried on, but I’m waiting to hear back from the TSA to find out whether I can bring the water in a sippy cup or reusable water bottle instead.

When packing, it isn’t just about the liquids. It’s a good idea to pack light whenever possible. According to Newsweek, “A study concluded that the 10 pounds Americans gained on average during the 1990s required an additional 350 million gallons of fuel a year.” Based on this data, many have taken it to the next level—meaning an extra ten pounds of luggage per traveler will also require an additional 350 million gallons of fuel per year. I try to pack light for the simple fact that it makes navigating airports and hotels much easier throughout the trip, but knowing this helps the environment is certainly a bonus. My tips for packing light include:

– Buy certain items when I get to my destination—like diapers and wipes

– Pack only one dressy outfit per person

– Pack five to seven days’ worth of outfits and plan on doing laundry (or using a laundry service) at the hotel

– Use personal care products provided by the hotel, or bring products that the whole family can share

– If there is gear you will need, call your hotel first to find out if they already have it (like a pack and play for your baby to sleep in). You could also check out companies that rent baby gear- everything from cribs to strollers and car seats. Baby’s Away is one of the larger companies in the US that offers this service, operating in over 30 states.

While I’m trying to keep my luggage light, I’m also trying to pack some items in my carry-on luggage that will keep my children content for those few hours when they are stuck in one seat. Each of my children has a favorite item–my son’s is a blanket and my daughter’s is a stuffed Minnie Mouse doll. To minimize ear discomfort I’ll be bringing my daughter’s pacifiers and lollipops for my son. Since Disney World is our destination, I’ll be printing out coloring pages with their favorite characters on recycled paper from the Disney Channel website. I’ll also be bringing sticker books for the kids—hopefully I’ll have the good fortune of finding one made from recycled materials. Lastly, I’ll be including a variety of their favorite snacks, because a well-fed child is usually less cranky and more likely to fall asleep.

Once your family is safely on the ground, you’ll need a place to stay. Have you noticed that many hotels now have signs in the rooms asking you to reuse towels and bed sheets so they can cut down on water usage? It’s not about lowering operating costs, but more about minimizing the carbon footprint left by these hotels. There are some helpful websites that allow you to look for “green” hotels. One site is called Environmentally Friendly Hotels. I find the best way to search is by scrolling down and clicking on the name of a state or country. Once there you can click the link next to a hotel to find out more information about their “green” activities. And don’t forget— just because you’re staying in a hotel doesn’t mean you should leave your eco-minded behavior at home. Make sure you turn off the television and the lights when you are not in the room.

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