The thought of air travel with children can fill you with anxiety, especially if it’s your first trip. Use these tips to navigate the airport with ease and make your trip start off right!
- Get there early, but not too early…
When traveling of course you want to make sure you have enough time, but with little ones, too much time can be hard. I have found that about 1.5 hours prior to take off is about right, depending on when and where you are traveling. If you are traveling around the holidays or busy times, give yourself more time but otherwise you want to time it just right. Get parked, check any bags, grab waters or snacks, and get to the gate. Too much free time hanging around the airport makes for anxious kiddos!
- Park at the terminal or use valet parking.
I know that this may not be in everyone’s budget, but the ease of parking close to your gate or having valet is such a help when you have little ones. At our home airport, DFW, I have found an outside valet service that costs that same as parking at the terminal, $24/day. If I am traveling alone with my little one, this is a big benefit to me. I can pull up to the check-in area, drop my car off with a service agent and get going. Then, when we get home, someone is there waiting with my car! If your airport doesn’t offer valet, then consider parking at the terminal. It’s so much easier to take all your luggage and kiddos in when you are close by. I’m sure you’ve seen those parents trying to get suitcases, strollers and carry car seats onto the remote parking shuttles. Trust me, it’s no fun. Oh and don’t forget the best case scenario, having a friend or family member drop you off!
- Get real time info regarding your flight.
Most airports and airlines now have all their flight and gate info online. Make sure to check the status of your flight and what gate you need to get to, before arriving. Once there, be sure to check the screens again as gate numbers often change or delays may have occurred. You can download Gate Guru app and receive real time alerts regarding your specific flight and many airlines also have similar apps. I personally have used the American Airlines app and it will text or email me updates. When you have little ones to entertain, it’s so much easier to know ahead of time if your flight will be delayed or changed, thus avoiding the hassle of arriving at the airport only to see a major delay.
- Check any unnecessary bags.
I know that in this day and age of bag fees everyone is trying to stuff their entire trip into a carry on, and I get saving the $50. But… when you have babies and toddlers to keep track of, toting around luggage too can become such a hassle. I usually have my stroller, a personal bag or purse, and a carry-on full of kid approved items. I always use my cross-body purse so that it is one less thing I have to carry with my arms, since my daughter will often want me to carry her!
- Invest in TSA PreCheck.
If you travel often, I would highly recommend investing in TSA PreCheck or Global Entry. You will be able to skip long security lines and get right through. No need to take off your shoes, take out laptops, or bagged liquids. It almost feels wrong walking past all those poor people waiting in line! TSA PreCheck is good for domestic travel and costs $70, while Global Entry works for international travel and is $100. If you are approved for one of these credit cards, they will reimburse your costs!
- Get lounge access!
This one is relatively new to me and I wish I would have done it years ago. There are multiple ways that you can gain access, read about them here, and it has made traveling so much easier for us. Free food and snacks, coffee and water are benefit enough if you think about how much airport food costs! You also enjoy clean and spacious bathrooms, comfortable chairs and tables, tv, magazines, newspapers, and many of them have kid areas with toys and computers. You almost forget that you are at the airport, so don’t miss your flight!
- Fly nonstop if possible.
I know that this is not always possible, but nonstop flights for us have been so much easier. The shorter the duration of your travel, the better chance you have of avoiding a melt down!
- If you chose not to gain lounge access…
Take advantage of the family restrooms. Rather than trying to fit your carry-on and stroller in a handicap bathroom, that’s if it’s open, you have the whole room to yourself. You can take your time, have privacy, and not worry about the little one crawling under the door and escaping when you are going to the bathroom! Although my daughter knows how to unlock doors…
- Don’t feel bad for getting on the plane first.
Whenever they call for those who may need special assistance, we get on. It’s hard enough to carry your things and your baby and squeeze down the aisle without hitting or upsetting people. Then once you actually get to your seat, it’s so much easier to get in and settled before other people are on the plane.
By the time my daughter was 2, we had navigated air travel 5 times already, that’s 10 flights. Some went great and others not so much, but you know what? I never have to see those people again and we got to make some great memories on our trips. I am determined to keep traveling and not stop because I’m scared of what “may happen”. The majority of people we have encountered have been understanding and try to be helpful. Obviously some may not be excited to see kids on their flight, but no one has ever actually said anything to me. So relax and happy traveling!