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Your magical vacation is booked. The kids are excited to go. You have everything packed and are on your way. In all the hustle and bustle of planning, packing and getting ready for your vacation chances are you forgot to prepare for one important aspect of the trip. Traveling with kids in an airplane and airport can be challenging. Especially with toddlers and babies.
If you aren’t prepared for the airport or airplane ride, this can cause your trip to start off on the wrong foot. Don’t worry, with a little preparation you can make sure your family is ready to tackle the airport.
As a person who travels constantly for work, which includes making trips in and out of Orlando multiple times a weeks. I see families struggling to make it through security and get to the airplane on time. Then once on the airplane the parents struggle to keep the kids entertained or quiet.
Over my years of traveling around watching families struggled I have been able to develop a full proof list of tips for traveling with kids. These tips will help you navigate the airport and airplane with ease. Thus beginning your magical vacation stress free.
Tips for traveling with kids
Arriving at the Airport
The first step towards a stress free trip is to strategically book your flights. Not only consider the time it will take you to get to the airport, check your bags, go to security and get the kids ready for the flight. You also need to consider the needs of your kids. Are they morning people or are they grumpy when you wake them up early? Do they need to be laying down for a nap? Can they go without a nap? There are a lot of variables that you can and need to consider when choosing flights. It may be worth it to spend the extra 50 bucks on a later flight if it means your kids will be awake and not grumpy.
It is common to hear parents say, we will fly early in the morning so the kids will go back to sleep. Or, we will make sure the flight is during their nap time. As a parent and seasoned traveler I do not necessarily agree with those statements. Are your kids really likely to go back to sleep after being up for 2-3 hours before the flight. Can your kid nap while sitting up in the airplane seat. What will you do if the flight becomes delayed?
Get to the airport early. Ok! Most parents will laugh at this one. I know its hard enough to get them ready in the morning and get out of the house on time everyday. However with so much happening when you get to the airport, you will be thankful for this extra time. I would rather be sitting at the gate an hour early, then walking up to the gate as the airplane is pushing back.
Why arrive early? There will be extra luggage to check. You will be moving at your kids pace, which will be slower than yours. You may get additional screening going through security because of the formula you packed. This list can go on and on.
Baggage. Depending on the length of your vacation and age of kids yo may have a lot of baggage to take with you. The best thing you can do to help manage time at the airport will be to check as much luggage as possible. Only carry on what you need for sitting around the airport and airplane. This will help make everything go smoother.
Get your kids to carry or pull their own bags. Get backpacks or small roller bags your kids can pull through the airport. If you don’t they are going to want to pull yours through the airport which can be disastrous. This will help keep the contained as well. When packing the bag for your kids, make sure you have everything they will want or need during the flight in one bag that can fit under their seat.
Yes, I know most airlines charge for baggage. To help reduce this cost, use large suitcases and pack multiple family members in the same bag. Just make sure the bag weights less than 50lbs. Otherwise there will be an overweight bag fee.
While you are getting your bags checked, go ahead and get the boarding passes printed for everyone in your party. I know, you probably already have them saved on your phone. But I see it all to often that the parents are scrambling through their phones trying to find and make sure they scan the right boarding passes.
Yes, I know we all hate having to deal with airport security. Traveling with kids won’t make it any easier. There are several things you can do to make getting through security easier with kids. Before you head to the airport make sure you take some time to look over the Do’s and Don’ts of going through security. Know what you can and cannot take with you.
- If you plan on traveling a lot within the next 5 years. Go ahead and sign up for TSA pre-check. It will be will worth the $85 investment. Your kids under 12 can travel through TSA pre-check for free with you.
- Airport food can get expensive. Good news, you are allowed to bring food items through security. Just remember no liquids, keep the snack items to crackers, goldfish, fruits.
- For parents that still have babies drinking breast milk of formula, TSA will allow those liquids through security. These liquids do not have to comply with the 3.5 ounce rule either. Just make sure you inform an officer at the beginning of the screening process. Additionally, be prepared to have an officer do a secondary search of your bag.
- All items will have to go through the x-ray machine. Since most strollers will not fit through the scanner, an officer will conduct a visual inspection of the stroller.
Ok, you made it through security with no issues and now have time to kill before you board your flight. This is the time you want to let your kids burn some energy. If you can go find an empty corner. Easier said than done at most airports. Or find the least crowded area in the airport. Allow them to walk or crawl around and burn that energy. Hopefully by the time you get on the airplane they will be content with just sitting there and not want to run up and down the aisles.
- Strollers are everywhere in airports. For most travelers strollers only become a problem during the boarding process. Because the parents aren’t prepared to board. Airlines typically begin the boarding process 30-35 minutes prior to departure. Make sure you are at the gate before this time ready to board.
- At one hour prior to your departure time, head over to the gate to get your stroller properly tagged. Most airlines will tag your stroller with a gate claim tag. This tag tells the ground personal to leave the stroller at the airplane and not baggage claim.
- By ready, I mean have the kid out of the stroller or unbuckled ready to go. Go ahead and take the backpack off the stroller and empty the basket underneath. This will expedite the boarding process. You won’t be fumbling around with impatience passengers behind you at the end of the jet bridge.
- Boarding process. Hopefully when you booked your flights you were smart enough to purchase your seats together. If you forgot, make sure you speak to the gate agent as early as possible and tell them you are traveling with your family so they can try and accommodate you all together. Don’t worry they will never make a child sit alone. It just means that Dad may have to deal with the kid the entire flight while Mom gets a nice nap in the front of the airplane.
- Airlines have family boarding, which allows parents with small children to get on the plane early. This will give you a few extra minutes to get settled into your seats without nagging passengers. This is way you need to make sure you are at your gate early.
- Potty Breaks are another issue parents with have to deal with. They are always unpredictable when it comes to going potty. If your kids are like mine they will tell you they need to go potty when the plane is on the runway for takeoff and they can’t hold it. Make sure you take frequent potty breaks in the airport before you board the aircraft.
On the airplane
Keeping your kids entertained on an airplane will probably be the most challenging part of your journey to Disney World. There isn’t a lot of space for the kids to run around and burn off energy. That’s why its important to make sure they can burn off their energy. Preparing specifically for the flight, can make traveling with kids much easier.
- Potty breaks on the airplane. It will without a doubt happen. Your kids will have to go potty on the airplane. Most lavatories on aircraft are large enough for you and your toddler. Some of the smaller regional jets may be a tight squeeze. When possible always head to the potties in the aft of the aircraft. This way you can stand outside the door if you need to while your kid is going potty. You are not able to stand outside of the forward lavatory, you will have to go into the forward lavatory with your child per FAA regulations.
The best way to keep your kids occupied and entertained while on the airplane is to have activities they can do in there seats. There are tons of activities to keep your kids busy with.
Are you looking for activities to do with your kids while traveling? Check our your activity packet, which has numerous pages of activities for kids to do. These are great to have when traveling with kids.
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It’s also a great idea to charge up your Ipad or tablet and download some movies and games for the kids to play with. Just remember to bring headphones for them. The people around you may not want to list to Frozen on repeat. Most airlines do offer free inflight entertainment for some movies, but don’t count on this. The WiFi may go down or may not be any movies you want to watch.
Having your kids snack is another way to keep them busy and quiet during the flight. They will most likely get hungry during the flight and be begging you to eat.
This is probably the easiest part of traveling. The hardest part of deplaning is making sure you have grabbed everything you have brought onboard with you. To help make this process even easier stay seated until the majority of the aircraft has deplaned before you get up and start assembling the troops to get off. No need to rush off, you are going to have to wait for your stroller and for the ground crew to get your bags to baggage claim. Always make sure you do one final check behind your kids for anything they may have left.
- Ground Transportation. Before you depart on your magical vacation, make sure you have travel arrangements already figured out to get you to Disney or your resort. If you are flying into Orlando and are heading over to Disney, the Magical Express is probably your best option.
- The transportation to your resort is the last step you have before you arrive at Disney for your magical vacation and hopefully everything has gone smoothly so far. Do not mess it up here.
How do you manage your trips when you are traveling with kids? There are many ways to make a trip go smooth.