We’re fortunate enough to be within a reasonable driving distance from Buffalo airport, so we’re able to take advantage of the almost laughably cheap airfares that peeps South of the 49th parallel enjoy. This is the 2nd year in a row that we’ve chosen to fly Southwest to get to Florida, and if airfares remain what they are with Canadian carriers, I doubt we’ll head to FLA from Pearson ever again. The airfare for all 3 of us is the cost of one seat on either major Canadian airline and flying Southwest with a baby is pretty painless.
The drive to Buffalo usually takes about 2 hours – although take the information from the Current Border Crossing Traffic Conditions Hotline with a grain of salt. They said the Peace Bridge had no delay and we actually waited for 45min. That left us less than 2 hours once we got to the airport to park, check in, pass security, feed/change kids and board. Would have been plenty of time in the olden days or if the kids were older – but we felt rushed and it was not a good feeling. Next time we’ll cross at Niagara Falls and leave 30min earlier.
Flying Southwest with a Baby…
Southwest has a generous allotment of luggage per person – so we did not have any extra charges due to having 5 pieces (3 suitcases, 1 car seat, 1 playpen). We hung on to the baby’s car seat in case there was room on the flight. No room on the way out so we gate checked it with our stroller with no problems. On the way home from Tampa the flight was not full so he was safely ensconsed in his bucket for the entire flight – and slept the whole way home!
Ok so here’s what I’ve figured out about Southwest’s boarding procedure… There are no seat assignments, it’s first come-first served. You can pay extra for priority pre-boarding, but that does NOT guarantee you’ll be one of the first to board. Luckily, if you’re traveling with children aged 4 or younger, you can escape the rigamarole and board following the “A”s. It’s a pretty mad scramble to get seated and organized, but on every trip we had no issues and first access to the overhead bin! One note – only the immediate family of the person aged 4 and younger can board. Grandma was with us for our trip last year and she was not allowed to board with us.
We found the Southwest folks very friendly, you get a little snack (peanuts – beware!) and a drink for free, and the seat pitch is decent – even for my 6’7″ husband. The Southwest website is really informative when it comes to flying with children. Don’t know if this is good or bad, but these were the first flights where the flight attendants did not make a point of going over procedure of taking off and landing with a baby.
We had just 2 issues… The washroom in the rear of the plane (Boeing 737-700) was extra small and did NOT have a fold-down change table in it (don’t know if the front washroom had one, but doubt it), and our stroller was damaged after being gate checked on our return flight. Keep this in mind for future Southwest flights – had we reported the damage within 4 hours of landing, we may have been compensated. However, I just wanted to get our things and go home, so when I inquired a few days later I was informed (via super-friendly automated email) of the 4 hour window.
Driving home is a bit of a slog, but the savings in airfare is definitely worth the drive to Buffalo! In fact, with how great Porter Airlines is out of the Island airport, I have a feeling our trips out of Pearson will be fewer and fewer.
This is so funny. When I was in high school and lived in Buffalo we used to fly out of Toronto to go to Florida. There was a fabulous, best I have ever flown airline Wardair that we would try and take. (giving away my age, huh?)
As a kid I used to always fly Wardair with my mom when we went over to Scotland every year to visit family. The meals were served on real china!
It’s no doubt that the prices are incredibly lower out of Buffalo (being from Toronto too) – but I would drive to Queenston/Lewiston instead of the Peace Bridge – it is much faster in our experience to get through it…
Great tip, Melanie!
Although, no matter how hard we try to take the other routes, we ALWAYS get end up getting stuck on that one coming home.
I just came across this blog, a great resource!! I am flying cross country (Chicago to Seattle) with a 9 month old on Southwest. Did you find it necessary to sit in the bulkhead area? Would it be worth paying the extra $$ to get more leg room, or just board after the A group? I would greatly appreciate any advice you have, I am starting to worry.
Hi Ruth – and thanks!!
We didn’t sit in the bulkhead, nor did we pay extra for priority boarding. Families with children under 4 board after the A group, so that’s what we did. We had no difficulty finding a seat, and the flight attendant at the gate was able to tell us if the flight was full so we could bring our car seat on (if you’re bringing yours).
Don’t worry! The deal for us on Southwest is no seat-back entertainment, so be sure to have plenty of distractions on hand, as well as snacks.
Don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any more questions!
Hello. I know this is really late, but I just came across your article and thought I’d let you know one thing. There is now a changing table in the front lavatory only. They just installed them in the last few years, so they may not have been there when you flew. Of course, it’s an airplane bathroom, so it’s very very cramped 🙂
Good to know Sara, thanks!!