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10 Tips For Navigating Busy Airport With Kids


It seems every holiday season someone predicts there will be more travelers than ever flying this year. Fickle December weather, long lines, smaller planes filled to capacity and too many people trying to sneak around the one-carry-on rule can make getting to and through the airport and onboard your plane stressful and fraught with delays.

Flying with kids always has its own unique challenges, and more so around the holidays when anticipation and emotions are high.

So I really liked these ten travel tips from Travelocity for the holiday season or any peak travel time.I found them genuinely helpful, and you might too. May your travel days be merry and bright. And may your luggage always be light!

Here are the tips:

10 Last-Minute Tips To Help You Cruise Through the Airport

1. Ship big items ahead

Baggage fees start at $25 for the first bag and climb from there.  But the fees for flat-rate shipping at the post office top out at $18.75, and boxes arrive within three days. Why schlep if it doesn’t save you money?

bottles usually contain approved liquids when flying

Order holiday presents online, have them shipped directly to the family you’re visiting and buy some wrapping paper when you get there. At other times of the year do the same thing with diapers and wipes, sand toys or that car seat you’ll need when you get there but not before.

2. Know your liquids

Creams, liquids, gels and sprays in checked bags still have to be under 3.4 ounces. (1oo ml). If you have items that are larger they’ll have to take the time to check your luggage by hand and they will take them away.

Target and most drug store chains carry a good variety of travel size toiletries. If you can’t be bothered worrying about getting everything travel-sized, plan to check your bag or to stop at a Walgreen at your destination.

The TSA makes exceptions for flying with milk, formula, breast milk and juice for toddlers, which is good to know about, too.

3. Use your apps

apps can do a lot to ease your way when you're travelingA few days before you go, download apps for your airline, which will keep you updated on your flight, and give you access to your boarding pass if you’re not near a printer. And see if the airports you’re flying through have their own apps.

If you’re flying through unfamiliar airports, download GateGuru, which helps to navigate many airports. If you have a long layover rely on LoungeFinder to tell you what lounges you can use in the airport you’re in.

If you’re flying international, download Mobile Pass from U.S. Customs and Border Protection.  Add standard information, passport numbers and photos for everyone in your family. At participating airports it will help you to breeze (yes, I said breeze) through immigration on your way back in to the U.S.

4. Check in as early as you can

Airlines are still opting for smaller planes they can fill to capacity. For domestic trips, make sure you check-in online 24-hours in advance.

Check your seat assignment to make sure it’s the one you made when you bought your tickets. And make sure your kids are seated next to you. If you can manage that, keep checking seats leading up to your flight and at the gate. Sometimes a last minute shuffle will open seats. And sometime they open premium seats that no one buys.

Even if you’re flying internationally and have to present your passport, checking in ahead can save you time.

 5. Pay fees in advance

Checking in online saves you time, even if you plan to check luggage. If you know you’re going to pay fees for checked or carry-on luggage do it ahead of time online when you check in if your airline will let you (Jet Blue does; American Airlines doesn’t).

You might save a few dollars. You’ll also avoid waiting in line to take care of it at the airport—that’s a little more time saved.

research parking before you get to the airport6. Research parking

If you’re driving, find out ahead how much long-term parking is, where it is, and whether off-airport long-term parking might be no more inconvenient and less money.

If you can, pre-pay for parking online; it might get you a discount and it’s yet another time-saver.

7.  Use your Precheck!

TSA PrecheckThis is the time of year TSA Precheck was made for

If you’ve qualified make sure your airline has your TSA known-traveler number. And if you check-in online, make sure you can see “TSA pre√”on your boarding pass.

Even if the TSA line is long it moves faster than the regular line. It self-selects to frequent travelers, and folks who use it don’t have to take off their shoes, remove their toiletries from their carry-ons or take out their laptops and tablets.

If you aren’t TSA precheck-approved, consider it for next year. Kids up through age 12 who are flying with an adult can piggyback on a parent’s known-traveler number.

8. Use the family lane

Many (but not all) airports have a Family Lane at the security check. I’ve had several parents tell me it’s often under-utilized and thus is the fastest way through.

We have yet to pass through an airport that has one, so I haven’t been able to test this theory.

TSA lines are even longer at Christmas break

9. Give yourself lots of time

Check-in and security can be exceedingly busy on peak days. Not only are more people flying, but more inexperienced travelers are navigating the airports and more people are trying to pass off ridiculous items as carry-ons.

If you don’t have a short-cut like Precheck, Google the average and longest wait times for your airports and plan accordingly.

Even if your airport is pretty good, get there at least two hours in advance for domestic flights and three hours for international flights.

Before heading to the airport, listen to your local traffic report and check Google Maps or Wayz for delays so you can adjust your route or allow more time if necessary.

10. Prepare to wait

Even during the holidays some travel days are busier than others. After you do all the right things to get to your gate in plenty of time time,  there is more of a chance than usual that your flight will be behind schedule. This means more waiting.

Check the average on-time rate for your flight and handicap it on a busy day. Even if things are fine where you are, be prepared for weather or delays elsewhere to slow things down. I’ve had flights canceled because the plane or crew meant for me was stuck somewhere else.

Bring your own snacks and plenty of them. Bring toys and games, a change or clothes and/or set of pajamas for little ones. Find out where amenities like airport play areas and lounges are.

If your kids get small toys or crafts as holiday presents pack them in your carry-on so they have something new to play with on the journey home.

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3 Comments

  1. November 23, 2014 at 2:25 am — Reply

    We’re flying during the holidays this year so these great tips are very much welcomed and a wonderful reminder. I hope the Family Lanes work out for you. It’s been a hot or a miss with us depending on airports and agents. Happy Thanksgiving!

    • Editor
      November 26, 2014 at 1:21 pm — Reply

      At LGA we didn’t have one. And at tiny Hayden I don’t think we’ll need one. We’ll have to wait for the next trip. Interested to know how it went wrong for you

  2. November 22, 2014 at 4:17 am — Reply

    Great tips for air travel here. I seriously could not handle the stress of arriving too late for an international flight as it is a long drawn out process from check-in to boarding. I ensure that I am fully organised. Taking your own snacks is definitely as must!

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