If you travel a lot, you may soon realize that you have enough points to fly the whole family somewhere. As great as a vacation sounds with your spouse and kids, getting there via air can be quite the ordeal. A lot of families fly on Southwest, especially on weekends and holidays and you can too. These tips can help make the day less stressful and get you there in a better mood. Do this, and hopefully, you won’t be “that family.”
I’m no expert on parenting, but I think many of you will agree, if you tell your kids what is going on ahead of time, you can avoid a lot of issues. For example when going through security, if you don’t tell your two year old that they are going to get their blanket back after it goes through the X-ray, you are likely to experience a melt down. For all they know that monstrous machine is going to swallow it whole and never give it back.
Take the time, to explain to your kids what will happen when you are checking bags, going through security, boarding, and in flight. Explain what they can and can’t do ahead of time. The more they know, the less likely there will be an issue when something unexpected happens such as a flight delay.
Arrive earlier than you normally do
As a business traveler, I know I can show up at my airport exactly 52 minutes before my flight and get through security and have a beer before getting in line to board. That’s not going to fly when you have the kids with you. Give yourselves double the time that you normally do. Don’t give yourself too much time though, because idle time kills. As soon as your child gets bored waiting to board, sure enough, he or she is going to get in trouble. Whether it is running off or hitting their brother, it’s going to happen.
This one is obvious. I don’t know how people ever traveled with kids before the age of hand-held electronic devices. Even if your child isn’t in to games, they can always watch a movie on your tablet. Make sure your devices are fully charged and bring the power adapters. You never know when your flight is going to get delayed. Once that entertainment device dies, they will look for other means of entertainment such as punching their little sister. What’s nice now is that the devices don’t have to be turned off during takeoff and landing. This makes that time a bit more tolerable.
As some of my extended family recently learned, you can’t travel with an infant (less than 2 years old) without a birth certificate. I assume this is to keep people from stealing babies. Children between 2 and 12 don’t need any identification unless you are traveling internationally.
This is hard to do I know, especially with small children. The fewer suitcases you can bring the better. Keep in mind you are carrying those, your carry-ons, the kids, maybe a stroller and a car-seat. That’s a lot! If you can bring one less suit case, it makes a big difference. Sometimes, rental car companies will let you rent car seat, but it is usually quite cost-prohibitive, so you might as well bring yours.
Inspect your child’s carry-on
The last thing you want do is get pulled out of security because your child packed a toy gun or 16 ounces of liquid soap. Go through your child’s bag multiple times. I guarantee you will likely find some kind of contraband. Check it right before you get in the car too before heading to the airport. You never know what they will slip in there.
A hungry child is a loud child. Bring snacks because otherwise you’ll end up buying high priced snacks at the airport. Once you are on the plane, if you don’t have anything, you’re just screwed until the peanuts and pretzels come around. My children also tend to become “hungry”, when they get bored. Sometimes, a quick 100-calorie pack is the perfect distraction.
Take the time to explain the drink and snack service on the plane. Also warn your children that sometimes, this service doesn’t happen due to turbulence. This will help avoid any issues should the service get interrupted.
Have a boarding strategy
As a frequent traveler, you may find yourself with status and therefore having a nice A boarding pass. The problem, your spouse and kids are likely stuck with a B or C. You should know that there is no way the gate agent is going to let your spouse on with you when they are in a different boarding group. I can usually get my kid on with me though. Although, lately, I saw a gate agent deny early boarding to the kids. So you are taking your chances with this technique.
What you absolutely don’t want to do is get on early and then try to save a whole row of seats for your spouse and kids. That’s a real asshole thing to do and everyone on the plane will hate you. If you want to sit together, my recommendation is that you just wait and board with the rest of your family.
Of course what I haven’t mentioned yet is Family Boarding. This allows those traveling with small children (under the age of 5) to board after the A group. This is your best bet for traveling with small children. You won’t be sitting up front, but you will be able to easily get a seat together somewhere in the middle of the plane. Family boarding does not mean you get on before everyone else.
Children under 2 traveling on your lap are free but is it worth it?
Usually not. For a short flight, it may be no big deal. If you are making a connection and going to be in the air 3+ hours, suck it up and pay for another seat. On longer flights, your baby might fall asleep. It’s nice to be able to put them in a car seat. Southwest offer reduces fares for children under 12 but you have to call to get them. When I am booking reward travel, I have never bothered before and I just pay the whole amount.
Say hi to the pilots, but get out of the way
It’s cool for you to introduce your child to the pilots, but don’t do so at the expense of everyone behind you. Remember, there are people behind you trying to get on the plane.
Explain what is happening on the plane
If your children are new to travel, take the time to explain takeoff and landing. When they hear a noise such as the wings moving or the fasten seat belt sign, explain what it is. Tell your kids about turbulence before it happens. In my experience, the more information I arm my kids with before-hand, the better.
Hopefully, these tips will help you get you and your family to your next vacation destination. If everything else fails, you can always ask the fight attendant for a drink. I’ve had more than one take pity on me when experiencing troubles keeping the kids happy.