Air Travel with Kids Without The Stress
By Carmen Sognonvi
As many of you know, my family is passionate about travel. We have traveled extensively as a family of four, so I know a thing or two about how to fly with kids. Here are my top 9 tips for surviving air travel with children:
Upgrade, Direct, and Carry-On Only
Upgrade your experience. Spring for the highest class of airfare that you can afford. The new premium economy class concept is becoming very popular. (Keep in mind; different airlines will have different names for this.) It provides useful perks, like priority boarding, food service, and more legroom.
Fly direct. Sure, it may cost a little more, but is the stress of rushing between gates with little ones in tow or missing your connection altogether really worth the lower fare? It’s stressful enough as a solo traveler, but throw in kids, strollers, teddy bears, and carry-ons and it just compounds the stress.
Fly carry-on only. I encourage families to consider flying carry-on only and I promise it’s possible! Let’s say you are a two-parent and two-child family, like mine. You actually get four carry-on suitcases you can bring onboard, plus personal items (usually backpacks), and you have four allotments of liquids that you can bring on. Kids’ clothes are smaller and they don't generally have a huge collection of toiletries, so you can really use their allotment for your stuff.
Fast Lane, Lounge, and Seats for Everyone
Skip the long security line. If you do mostly domestic travel, you should apply for the T.S.A. PreCheck, which lets the TSA know that you and your family are safe travelers. It’s $85 per person and lasts five years. Every family member over the age of 12 needs to have their own membership. You go through a separate security line that's drastically shorter than the regular line. You don’t have to take off your shoes, take out your laptop, or your liquids, either. International travelers should opt for Global Entry, which is $100 and lasts five years. Children do need their own membership for that one. Some credit card companies offer these memberships for free to their customers.
Lounge up if you can. One of the big benefits of flying first class is that you have access to the airport lounge. It’s a quieter space with free food and drinks. You can access the lounge even if you aren’t flying first class, thanks to some credit cards that offer free Priority Pass Memberships.
Get everyone his/her own seat. Lap children are okay for short trips, but flights over two hours require a seat of their own!
Bribes, Drinks, and Neck Pillows
Bribe for good behavior. I let my kids know that they'll get a surprise gift once we take off, if they have behaved, and another at landing, if they behaved during the flight. These are dollar store items that don’t take up a lot of room.
Pack your own food and drinks. I will always pack an empty water bottle for each child. We fill up at those special water fountains airports have nowadays after we get through security. I also pack tons of snacks to keep everyone in a good mood. Just stay away from highly perishable foods and sugary items.
Pack activities and a neck pillow. Bring activities the kids can entertain themselves with. Don’t rely on in-flight entertainment because if they have technical difficulties, you are out of luck!