10 Quick Tips For Flying With Kids
It seems every holiday season and every summer someone predicts there will be more travelers than every flying. Fickle December weather, smaller planes filled to capacity and all that extra luggage people try to carry on these days can make getting to and through the airport and onboard your plane stressful and fraught with potential delays. On top of that, flying with kids always has its own unique challenges, too. 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:
1. Ship big items ahead
The average baggage fee is about $25 for the first bag and even more for the second. 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? 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.
The TSA makes exceptions for flying with milk, formula, breast milk and juice for toddlers, which is good to know about, too.
3. Pay fees in advance
If you know you’re going to pay fees for checked or carry-on luggage do it ahead of time online. 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.
4. 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.
5. Make technology work for you
A few days before you go, download apps for your airline, your online booking site if you used one, your airports if they have one, GateGuru, which helps to navigate many airports, LoungeFinder, which tells you what lounges you can use in the airport you’re in, and Lyft (or Uber) if you need a taxi at the other end. Your airline’s app will keep you up to date on you flights. And if you are staying someplace with no printer access, you can download your boarding passes to your phone before you fly home.
6. 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 of ridiculous items as carry-ons. Check 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 Google Maps or Wayz for delays so you can adjust your route or allow more time if necessary.
7. 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. Congress told airlines over the summer they must let kids under 13 sit with a travel companion who is 13 or older. If your airlines tries to split your family up in a way you don’t like, call them and gently remind them they can’t.
8. Prepare to wait
The flip side of having to get to the airport early is that airlines are often behind schedule, which means more waiting. Check the average on-time rate for your flight and handicap it on a busy day. Then be prepared for weather or other major issues to really slow things down. (It doesn’t have to be bad weather where you are, or where you’re going. I’ve been delayed 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, and find out where amenities like airport play areas and lounges are. If your kids get small toys or crafts as holiday presents put them aside if you can, so they have something new to play with on the journey home.
9. Use your Precheck!
This 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 as long as the regular one, use it. In my experience it moves faster because it self-selects to frequent travelers. And folks who use it don’t have to take off their shoes, remove liquids from their carry-ons or take out their laptops.
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.
10. 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 often 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.
What’s your best airport tip or flying tip with kids?
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