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Going by Plane? Advice on Adoption Airline Travel

Your international adoption trip is made easier with this experinced travel advice on selecting your flight, navigating airport paperwork, and caring for your baby or small child on the plane.

By Denise Harris Hoppenhauer, author of Adopting a Daughter from China

Depending on the airline you choose, you may be able to fly coach/economy, business, or first class. Some international airlines may offer business class seating equivalent to what we consider first class, and they are often no more expensive than a coach seat on another airline. On return flights that are not full, flight attendants will sometimes upgrade adoptive families.

Consider traveling as direct a route as possible. This will help minimize travel time and decrease the risk of missing connecting flights. Once you have been granted custody of your daughter, you will be anxious to return home. Don't add additional travel or sightseeing to the end of your trip. Doings so, will only add additional confusion and time to adjust for your daughter.

When flying on an airline that is not American owned or operated, investigate their smoking policy. This is especially important if you or someone in your party has asthma or smoke allergies. Smoke may be more prevalent in economy or coach seating on some international flights. You may be able to upgrade to business, or first class.

Make sure that the person booking your tickets understands that you will be traveling with a small child. You can request bulkhead seating, which offers more legroom and sometimes a foldout bassinet. You should request a child's meal in advance if you are adopting a toddler or older child. When traveling with a small child, it may be necessary to enlist the help of the airline between connecting flights.

Many airlines offer adoption rates. However, it is not uncommon for travel agents or airline personnel to be unaware of these discounts. If you know that an airline does offer adoption fares, it may be necessary to speak to a supervisor or someone who is more knowledgeable in discounting rates. If you have been quoted an outrageously priced ticket, look around before committing, most likely you will be able to find a better rate.

In addition to being given customs declaration of your flight, you will also be given arrival and health forms to complete. You may want to make a quick trip to the bathroom shortly before landing as you will have to make several stops before you can clear customs. First you must go tot the Health Inspection desk and give them your competed health form. Secondly, you will go through Immigration. They will need your completed arrival card, your passport, and Visa. Once it h as been determined that you may enter the country, you may then go to luggage pickup and proceed to customs.

Prior to returning home, you will want to change your money back to U.S. Dollars. Remember you must save the exchange receipts to do this. When it is time to leave, you will exit through customs and immigration. You will have to fill out a departure card at the airport which will be turned in at this time. Your Visa will be invalidated.

Children over two years of age must have their own seats in an aircraft regardless of their size. While it is not required, it is recommended by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that all children under forty pounds ride in a FAA-approved child safety restraint system. Children under forty pounds will not fit in a airline seat properly. It may be logistically impossible to carry a child seat with you, and most likely it will be impossible to keep a toddler buckled in any type seat for any extended period. If your daughter is not buckled in her seat and you experience turbulence, she should be buckled in immediately.

One alternative to taking a car seat is the Baby B'Air flight vest. It secures to your lap belt, may be used in flight, and is considered safer than holding a child in your arms. It is not allowed during takeoffs, landings, or taxiing in the United States. Check with your airline; some now provide child safety restraint systems. Families who travel with an FAA-approved child safety restraint may receive additional discounted tickets for their children.

Takeoffs and landings may be painful to little ears. One way to relieve air pressure is to give a child something to drink during this time. Avoid juice as it may cause upset stomach. Tea and un-carbonated beverages are best. If needed, you can shake the bubbles out of carbonated drinks.

For toddlers, try lollipops or safely pops. Older children may benefit from nausea pops that may help alleviate airsickness. Yawning will help release ear pressure and another alternative is earplugs or swimmer ear plugs. They are available in child size for children under age six. Earplugs are small wax plugs that are placed over the ear opening as a cover. They do not go inside the ear itself. Getting ear plugs of any type in the ear to be left in may be tricky but besides relieving ear pain they also help to drown out noise.

Some adults may benefit from earplugs or "Ear Planes." Ear Planes help relive ear pain, clogging or popping, and regulate air pressure. If you have frequent sinus pain or pressure, you may also benefit from taking sinus medication prior to air travel or thirty minutes to one hour before your final descent.

When you arrive in the US you will have to go through immigration and Customs. The "mysterious" Visa package will be turned in to customs at this time, remember do not open this as it has been sealed. You should have completed a customs declaration form, listing purchases. Depending on how much and what you purchase you may be subject to paying Duty. Consult customs regulations prior to your trip.

Denise Harris Hoppenhauer is an experienced traveler, adoptive mom and the author of Adopting a Daughter from China and Adopting a Toddler. Her adoption books provide a wealth of extensive, well researched travel advice. This adoption travel article from her book, Adopting a Daughter from China, is copyright protected and reprinted here with her permission.
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