5 Quick Tips to Survive Holiday Air Travel With Kids
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The holiday season brings out the best and worst in all of us — especially when airports, airplanes, crowds and little kids are involved. (Here are the 10 busiest airports during Thanksgiving week.) It’s now crunch time, so I’m going to assume you’ve selected a family-friendly airline, booked your holiday travel, know the rules for flying with a baby, know the best US airports for layovers with kids, have onboard entertainment covered, scheduled extra time for traffic and security and have a game plan for any long-haul flights.
What you need now isn’t a 3,000 word guide on flying with kids (though here that is, just in case), you need five to-the-point tips on surviving holiday travel with kids, so here we go.
1. Check Your Seat Assignments — Now
Holiday travel season means more families and less single business travelers. That translates to tougher solutions to onboard seat assignment fiascos if your toddler is in 32B, you are in 18D and your partner is in 22E (and, yes, that can happen). Make sure you have assigned seats together in advance and keep checking them regularly until you and your family are firmly strapped in and ready for takeoff. Mommy Points advice: Pay extra for seat assignments now if that is what it takes and be careful with your seat assignments if some travelers in your party are eligible for upgrades.
2. Don’t Drive to the Airport
Airport parking lots can fill-up during the holidays, so don’t subject yourself to that extra layer of stress. Get dropped off, take Uber, use public transportation (or even a helicopter if you win the lottery between now and then). If you must drive yourself to the airport during the holidays, be sure and check the status of the airport parking lots before leaving your house. In some cases, you might be able to reserve a spot in advance, especially at some of the off-site lots.
3. BYO Snacks
“Hanger” is a very real thing for kids and adults, so pack a bag of crowd-pleasing snacks for holiday travel. This way, a delay at the gate, on the plane or even in the car won’t trigger a low blood sugar meltdown. Not sure what snacks to pack for the trip? Here are some TPG staff favorites (the list ranges from M&Ms to caviar). Personally, I’ve never packed caviar, but do recommend bananas, granola bars, Goldfish, M&Ms and Larabars. A refillable water bottle is also a great thing to have on-hand.
4. Know Your Short-Cuts and Special Access
Hopefully, your family members ages 13 and up have TSA PreCheck and/or Global Entry (use your credit cards’ benefits to cover application fees). The value of PreCheck during the holidays cannot be overstated. If you don’t have PreCheck and can’t get it in time, CLEAR can be another way to manage (aka skip) massive security lines. You can sign up for CLEAR and use it at the same time — kids under 18 can come through the CLEAR line with you for free.
In addition to knowing the short-cuts through security, know your lounge access and other in-airport benefits. If you have an eligible credit card, such as the Platinum Card® from American Express, Chase Sapphire Reserve, and Hilton Honors Aspire Card from American Express, check to see if Priority Pass can score you some free meals or a lounge visit at an airport on your holiday travel schedule. This perk can save your family some serious cash and help the time go by much faster.
5. Don’t Panic, Use Credit Card Protection
Despite all your best laid plans, something could still go wrong. Your flight may be canceled, your bags may get delayed, someone might get sick at the last minute, etc. These things happen, and if they happen to you, don’t freak out or panic. I promise, neither of those things will help you solve the problem faster.
If your flight is canceled or significantly delayed while you are in the airport, look for alternative flight options in the airline’s app/website or call its 1-800 number. This may be faster than waiting for a real person to help you, if you are at the end of a long line. You can also ask for assistance in the airline’s lounge, if you have access. If you booked your ticket with a credit card that has built-in travel protections, you may be eligible for reimbursement of some unexpected eligible expenses if you get stuck or seriously delayed on your journey.
The holidays are special, so keep your focus on why you are traveling — and try to forgive some of the frantic moments along the way. If you want more tips (or just want to commiserate with others), the TPG Family Facebook Group is full of experienced holiday family travelers. If you have a favorite holiday family travel tip, we’d love to hear it.
Featured image by Mikhail Starodubov/Shutterstock