A great way to insure a rotten family vacation is to miss your flight. Thankfully with a little prior planning, you can prevent this catastrophy from happening to your family...
1. Allow Enough Time - The rule is your family should be at the airport and all checked in 1 hour prior to domestic flights within the U.S. If your family is flying overseas then you need to be at the airport 2 hours prior to departure. If your family will be flying during over spring break, Thanksgiving or the December holidays, then you should plan on DOUBLING these airport wait times. This is due to the fact that the airport are so crowded during these peak travel times. You should also plan on allowing extra time if you are traveling with babies, toddlers or extra baby gear.
2. Check In Online 24 Hours Prior To Departure - This will save you a ton of time and waiting in airport lines. If you print your boarding passes online, you can simply drop off any luggage that you need to check and proceed right through security and onto your gate. It's easy enough to do this before leaving home. Be sure to do this for your return vacation flight too. Most hotels have business centers with computer printers so you can do this yourself. Many resort concierges are happy to do this for you if you simply ask.
3. Triple Check Your ID's - Don't leave home without them!!! Adults flying domestically will need to show a valid photo ID like a driver's license. If you're flying to a foreign country ALL passengers will valid passports. If you arrive at the airport without the proper ID, you will not be allowed to board your plane. You will forfeit the entire cost of your vacation.
4. Avoid Traffic Jams - If you need to drive to the airport during commuter or high traffic times, be sure to allow PLENTY of extra time. It's much better to be waiting longer at the airport sitting with a couple of coffee instead of sweating it out worrying in traffic. If your family has a very early morning flight or if you live more than an hour from the airport, you may want to consider a Park & Stay package. We can offer families a stay at an airport hotel the night prior to your departure that includes parking during your vacation and free airport/hotel shuttle service.
5. Make Parking or Limo Reservations - This becomes extremely important during peak holiday travel times. It can also catch you off guard at any time if you're flying out of a busy metropolitan airport. Many times you can receive discounts and incentives for making your parking or airport transportation reservations in advance.
6. Prevent Luggage Hold Ups - Proper packing and knowing your airline's baggage rules will make airport check in go much more smoothly and avoid any last minute extra fees, hold ups and hassles. This is even more important if you're travling with larger gear like double strollers, Pack N' Plays, bikes or golf clubs.
7. Dress For Success - Remember you may need to do a great deal of walking to get from airport parking to your gate. You may also have to wait and you want you and your kids to be comfortable. High heels won't help you if you need to make a last minute airport dash. Wear good walking shoes that you can easily put on and off. Avoid wearing belts and extra jewerly that you will need to remove for security check.s
8. Understand TSA Security Rules -Travelers are responsible for knowing the TSA rules.
Being prepared will certainly help speed your journey to your airport gate. Any liquids that you plan to take on the aircraft will need to be in containers smaller than 3 oz and all packed in a 1 quart zip loc bag. You will need to take this out of your luggage as you pass thru security. Being informed, knowing what you can and cannot take along with the right way to pack all of your items will help speed your way thru airport security.
9. Non-stop vs Connecting Flights - Many novice, DYI travelers will book their own flights online and notoriously choose the absolute cheapest priced flights. Many online travel sites do not allocate the proper amount of connect times when they package connecting flights together. Professional travel agents will allow 2 hours worth of connection time between flights to avoid missing connections. If your family is flying overseas, you WILL need to clear customs at your first arrival airport in the U.S. In this case, you should leave at least 3 hours connection time allowing your family plenty of time to clear customs, immigrations and security.
In addition to short connection times, online travel websites will often "hack" connecting flights together using two separate airlines. If you use the same airline for both legs of your trip and find that you become delayed making your connection, your airline will work to get you rescheduled and on your way to your final destination. If you use two separate airlines and airline A makes you miss you miss your connection for any reason, airline B has no obligation to help you get to your final destination. This could definitely cost you in the long run.
10. Airport Maps & Apps - Any trip is easier when you know where you're going. Mapping out your way thru the airport will certainly make navigating the airport much more easier. You may know your way through your home airport but knowing your way thru a connecting airport can mean the difference between making or missing our connecting flights. Map out your way thru the airport and be prepared with airport maps or use phone apps. My favorite is GateGuru.
11. Listen and Be Alert to Gate Announcements - Airports can often make last minute gate changes. You need to pay attention to departure boards, phone apps or listen to announcements. This can be a little tricky in a foreign country if you don't speak the language. You need to pay particular attention if you are flying on a charter flight to the Caribbean and Mexico. With Charter flights, once all passengers have check in, they will OFTEN depart early. Be sure that you be extra alert when flying charter flights. If you head off to do a little last minute airport souvenir shopping you may return at the proper departure time to your gate only to find that your flight has left without you.
12. Kids Dress Rehearsal - If you're traveling for the first time with toddlers, you may want to consider doing a dress rehearsal at the airport. Show your little ones the process of checking in and how security checks will work. This will give you plenty of time to explain why they may have to part with their favorite toy for just a moment. Experiencing all the new sights and knowing what to expect may make your airport journey easier and less stressful for everyone.