Flying can be a lot of fun, but also very confusing. There is a lot to think about, especially when you are traveling with infants and kids. In this episode of Travel Talk, we’re talking about getting your family ready for the airline flight to your vacation destination. We’ll walk you through the flight process and share the tips you need to know to help your travel be turbulence-free.
Booking Your Flights
When comparing airlines and booking your flights, you should consider a few things. What are the airline’s policies? How do they have you book an infant/lap passenger? How many checked and carry-on bags are included with your airfare? Do you purchase your bags ahead or at the airport? You may want to purchase a fare that includes seat selection so you are assured you are seated together. Check requirements for gate-checked strollers. Some airlines gate-check any strollers, but others have a weight limit. This is important to know.
For families with at least one child under six we like Southwest A LOT! You get flight flexibility and two checked bags per person plus a carry-on and personal item. You board between groups A and B and that allows you to select seats together. You must understand their open seating policy and where to line up at the airport, but if you know the way they work they are a good option.
Arrival at the Airport
You may want to park at the airport, a nearby offsite parking, or a hotel that offers park and fly. Park and fly can be a great option if you have a longer trip and may make it easier in the morning to be close to the airport.
It is recommended to arrive two hours ahead of domestic flights and three hours ahead of international flights, but when traveling with children and the current airport business, I recommend an extra half hour. I would rather have time to eat or get a snack than being rushed.
Check-in at your airline and get your boarding passes. You will need a boarding pass for everyone, including any lap passengers (children under 2). The lap passenger boarding pass may not be available at the check-in kiosk so be sure to go to the desk to get this before going to security. You will need to show ID for adults and may be asked for proof of age for lap passengers.
Check your luggage at the counter, but you can keep your stroller with you and gate-check it later.
If you want to expedite your way through security you can get TSA PreCheck before your trip. This should give you TSA PreCheck on your boarding pass. You do need to get it for all passengers ages 13 and up. Those under 13 can go with their parents through the TSA PreCheck line. Not only will TSA PreCheck save you time, but you also don’t have to remove your shoes and other items that make it easier to get through security. Get more info on TSA PreCheck here.
I like to have a plan going to security with a parent at the front and a parent at the end and the kids in the middle. This way you always have a parent on either side of security. Make a plan so you know who is doing what and be sure you follow the rules for what you can bring through security.
Young children do not have to take their shoes off so confirm with the officer what is needed before you start. Also, electronics, such as tablets, sometimes have to be taken out of bags. Double-check this as well.
You cannot bring liquids of more than 3 oz. through security. Liquids include applesauce, yogurt, baby food, etc. If you need to bring some food items for a baby, be sure to have it all together in one place and pull it from your bag. Medicine should stay in the original container. They allow a limited number of items for babies and children, but it needs to be tested so be ready to show what you have and for the extra step. Take a look at the TSA website for more details.
Items that should be packed together and ready to pull out are any electronics, liquids/liquid medicines, and all foods. This way if you need to pull something you are not opening fou different bags. Once you are through security, you can rearrange how you want it. Having a parent responsible for all bags and one for all children may be helpful as you may have to get a few items looked at.
Before the Flight
After security, head to the gate. If you have a stroller or any other gate check items, be sure to go to the gate podium and get your items tagged. These will look like the baggage tags you put on your checked bags. You will want to get this done right away.
Buy drinks and snacks for the plane. Although you can’t take much through security, you can purchase items in the airport AFTER security to bring on the plane. This can be a fun part of traveling, having the kids pick their in-flight snacks. You may want to pack some empty water bottles or kids’ cups to fill before the flight.
Even with a delay, don’t go too far from the gate. Delays can change at any time so be sure to stay near your gate once you are within 45 minutes of your original departure time.
Boarding will begin about 30 minutes from departure so about an hour to 45 minutes before departure is a good time to change diapers, use the bathroom, and get everything ready for boarding. Check you have everyone’s boarding passes (especially for lap passengers), tagged strollers, etc.
Boarding and In-Flight
When you board the flight you will leave your gate checked items on the jet bridge right before you go on the plane. This is where you will get the items at your destination.
I always like to have each child have their own bag for the flight (depending on age) with a few activities, a device, headphones, snacks, beverages, and maybe a treat. I also like to have a comfort item, especially if they may sleep on the flight. A new toy or surprise can be a good idea too. You can have it in your things and pull it out if needed.
For international flights you will need to go through customs and immigration before a bathroom is readily available. Be sure to do a bathroom or diaper check with the kids about an hour before landing. You won’t be able to once the plane starts to descend.
Again, a plan for landing is a good idea. If you have gate-checked a stroller, be sure to have a plan. It can take a little while before the items are brought up so you may leave one adult behind to get the item and the rest head out of the jet bridge and meet up again at the gate. It can be crowded on the jet bridge waiting for the stroller.
Departing the Airport
After arrival, you will head to baggage and collect the rest of your luggage. There are usually options to get a cart to carry the luggage if you need one. Now you are on your way to your destination and ready to start your vacation!
Other Packing Tips
- Small notebooks and stickers packets can make a great activity and be moved to your day bags to keep kids busy at restaurants on vacation.
- Avoid bags with your kids first names for safety purposes.
- Take the kids on your early morning flight in their pjs. Pack a change of clothes and bathing suit in your carry-on.
- Pack kids’ breakfast to eat when they are ready.