The idea of flying with kids is probably the biggest single cause of stress for traveling parents. Nobody looks forward to lugging a lot of luggage through the airport with a tired and unhappy child (or children) in tow, and the prospect of keeping them seated, quiet, and happy for hours on end can be terrifying. While we can’t promise that your kids won’t have a melt down, our travel tips will help streamline your air travel and keep everyone in a better mood! We also have helpful advice for making travel with infants easier.
The first step is to get to the airport early. It is time consuming to get through the airport and security in any circumstances and you won’t be as able to make a last minute dash to your gate as you would without a child (or children) in tow. The extra time at the airport will give your child a chance to exercise (find an empty gate area or ask if there is an airport play area) in between the long car ride and the flights.
- When possible, check in and secure your seat assignment online before you leave for the airport. Don’t forget to print the boarding passes & put them in your carryon!
- Be sure to pack your itiniary (including any phone numbers you’ll need) and a map of your destination in your carryon. Nothing is worse than struggling to find your hotel with tired children in tow.
Getting to the Airport
Unless you live in an urban environment with good public transportation, getting to the airport can present a challenge. The need to bring a car seat makes it difficult to have a friend drop you off or take a taxi, but it can cost a fortune to park at the airport.
- Consider off-airport parking for short trips. A shuttle will pick you up at your car and drops you off near your airline.
- For longer trips, find a local car service that provides a car seat. They should pick you up at home and drop you off at curbside checkin. The cost usually slightly cheaper than taxi service (in part because the meter isn’t running while you gather your last items and lock up the house). If you choose to do this, book well ahead and request a car seat when you book. Call and reconfirm both the time and the car seat before you travel. You will also want to confirm what type of car seat you need. Expect that the driver will not install the seat for you (for liability reasons) but if they do, you should check over the installation yourself to make sure that it has been done properly and the seat is secure.
- Can’t find a limo service that provides car seats in your area? Some car services will use your seat and store it until they pick you up for the return drive.
Hopefully you have already checked in online & just need to drop off your baggage. Here are some helpful tips that will make airport checkin with kids easier.
- If the line is long, the open spaces in the airport can be a good place to let the kids run a little while one parent waits in line to check the bags. Remember to stay close in case the gate agent needs to see each of the passengers or check id.
- Don’t check your stroller unless you plan to carry your child in a sling. Most airlines will allow you to push your stroller all the way to the gate. They’ll then check it at the gate and have it waiting for you outside the plane door when you deplane. Some airlines will even let you bring a small stroller on board if there is space.
- Make sure that your stroller has a tag with your name, address, and phone number. If you do check your stroller, consider packing it in a bag as many airlines consider strollers “fragile items” and will not reimburse you for damage.
- If you are travelling with a lap infant in a carrier car seat, consider keeping the car seat with you until you find out whether there is a free seat on the plane that you can use for the baby.
- Check with your airline in advance about baggage restrictions. On international flights, some airlines will allow a lap infant to check baggage, other airlines exclude baby items like a car seat or stroller as part of the parent’s baggage allowance.
When possible, we avoid bringing our car seats. Checking them worries us (Remember that advice about not using a car seat after it’s been in an accident? Baggage handlers don’t use kids gloves with car seats or anything else) Onboard, we use a CARES Airplane Seat Harness and we try to use trains and subways at our destination.
Airport Security With Kids
The most important thing you can do to ease your trip through security is to have everything organized in advance. Having lots of loose items, stuff hanging off the stroller and in the basket underneath will make it take forever to gather everything and you will risk leaving something behind.