Heading home for the holidays? Navigating air travel, especially with kids, can be a challenge amidst flight delays, bustling airports, TSA hurdles, and the general stress that accompanies the holiday rush. But with these tips, we hope that your family trips will be much simpler and more enjoyable.
Strategies for Holiday Air Travel with Kids
While holiday travel success can’t be guaranteed, these five tips aim to make the journey a bit smoother for families taking to the air this holiday season.
1- Know Your Airline
Holiday seasons attract infrequent travelers, potentially leading to complications due to unfamiliarity with current air travel norms. The ever-changing landscape of the airline industry can catch people off guard, making it crucial to understand the rules of the airline you choose, especially when traveling with kids.
Common airline considerations for families:
Bag Fees & Rules
- Familiarize yourself with baggage fees, as most domestic airlines charge unless you hold an airline credit card with a free bag perk.
- Certain budget airlines may impose fees even for bringing carry-on bags.
- Be aware of unexpected bag rules, such as American Airlines’ restrictions on gate-checking larger strollers.
- Confirm seat assignments for your family, as many airlines charge for this privilege, especially with basic economy fares.
- Regularly check to ensure the airline hasn’t altered your chosen seats without notice.
- Pre-plan whether you can pre-board with your kids, considering that most airlines no longer prioritize families during pre-boarding.
- If bringing car seats and strollers on board, understand the procedures for gate-checking.
2- Know Your Airports
Understanding airport logistics is as crucial as airline knowledge. Take time to review airport maps and any unique rules, even for familiar airports that may have undergone changes in recent years.
Considerations for different airport scenarios:
At Your Originating Airport
- Assess the airport’s holiday crowd levels to anticipate potential long lines.
- Utilize self-tagging options if checking bags to streamline the process.
- Check in and download boarding passes at home to skip the counter if carrying on.
- Exploit TSA shortcuts, such as family lanes, for a quicker security process.
At Your Connecting Airport
- Determine the walking distance between gates, especially if traveling with a stroller or young child.
- Plan for food availability, considering potential long lines and staff shortages.
At Your Destination Airport
- Outline the steps to retrieve bags, access ground transportation, and reach your destination.
- If using a rideshare service, familiarize yourself with pickup locations.
- For rental cars, assess whether a shuttle or train is needed.
3- Be Prepared
Once airline and airport details are sorted, prepare in advance for potential challenges and bottlenecks. Entertainment, snacks, and essential travel gear can make a significant difference.
Preparations for traveling with kids:
- Ensure entertainment options for children, including tech and non-tech distractions.
- Bring sufficient snacks, as many airlines may not offer kid-friendly options.
- Strategically pack necessary travel gear, such as car seats, strollers, and baby carriers.
4- Be Proactive
Holiday travel often brings crowds and inclement weather, leading to delays and issues. In case of disruptions, proactive measures can expedite problem resolution.
Proactive steps during travel setbacks:
- Act swiftly in case of delays or cancellations, both in the airport and by calling the airline.
- Utilize social media help desks, particularly on platforms like Twitter.
- Propose solutions to gate agents, conduct independent research for alternate flights, and think creatively.
5- Be Nice
Maintain composure and kindness during the holiday rush, as being pleasant can go a long way. Air travel is inherently stressful, and the added pressures of recent times make it even more crucial to remain courteous.
Guidelines for maintaining a positive attitude:
- Avoid meltdowns or confrontations in the airport, on the plane, or with airline staff.
- Navigate the challenges with a calm demeanor, setting a positive example for your kids.
In the spirit of the season, kindness and consideration can make your holiday air travel not just manageable but a memorable experience for the whole family.”