Hopefully you have already read our 10 Tips for Parents Getting Ready for Family Vacations and followed that advice.
So here are a few more tips for navigating your way through the airport with your kids in tow on the day of your departure....
1. DRESS For Success - Wear comfortable clothes that can easily layer. Temperatures can vary on planes and in airports. Plan outfits that your family can easily pile on or peel off. Keep everyone casual with elastic waist pants and skirts, especially good for quick pit stops with the kids. Wear comfortable, slip on walking shoes to make airport security a breeze. Avoid belts, lots of jewlery and change in pockets too. REMEMBER to take a quick phone photo of everyone before leaving home or your airport hotel. Not only is this a fun "before" photo rememberance of your vacation but it can come in handy for security purposes should you and your child get separated at the airport. You may want to consider saftey tats for little ones.
1. Plan For Your Return - If you drove yourself to the airport, put your parking ticket in a safe place and take a photo of where you parked for easy access on your way home. If you had a driver or took a hotel airport shuttle, put their number into your phone so that they can easily fetch you on the way back. You will thank yourself later!
2. Airport Check In - If your family did online check-in within the past 24 hours and you have your boarding passes in hand, you do NOT need to check any luggage head STRAIGHT to security.
If you DID online check in AND will be checking luggage- proceed to your airline check in desk with your phone or printed boarding passes in hand. Nearby you should find "Self check in computer stations". You will need to scan the bar code on your boarding passes or phone ( just like supermarket check out) and scan your credit card as ID (that you used to pay for any luggage or book your tickets). Once you're done, you will be directed either by the computer or a nearby airline agent where to deposit your luggage.
If You DID NOT do online check-in and you didn't read our 10 Tips For Parents Getting Ready For Family Vacations and you ONLY have your e-tickets, you MUST wait in line at your Airline Departure Desk to get your boarding passes. You will not be allowed to pass security or get onto your plane without boarding passes.
3 Double Check Your Departure Gate - Use airport TV monitor screens or your handy phone apps to double check which gate our plane will be departing from. Keep your ear tuned to airport announcements. Gates can change and frequently do so stay alert to this fact.
4. Airport Security TSA - Next head to airport security. Have everyone's boarding pass in hand. If you are flying within the U.S. adults will need to also show their photo driver's license. Kids under 18 just need to show their boarding passes. If your family is flying internationally, everyone WILL need to show their passports including children and babies. Have your boarding passes and required ID's out and ready for the agent to check.
Next you will be directed to the Xray machines and body scanners. Many airports now have family lines for parents who may need extra time. Be present in the moment, avoid distractions and use any time waiting in line get prepared (like unzipping zippres, loosening shoes,
- Adults will need to remove their shoes and place them in plastic containers.
- laptops and cell phones must go in a plastic bin
- All 3-1-1 liquids in 1 quart ziploc bags must be out and in the bins
- Children under 12 no longer need to remove their shoes.
- Sweaters, hats and all outter wear for adults and kids must also go into the plastic bin with your shoes, along with belts and any metal.
- Strollers and car seats must be placed on the belt and go through the Xray machine. Parents must carry small children through the scanner.
- Keep your boarding passes, IDs or passports in your hand. Nothing is allowed in your pockets when you go thru the scanners.
Pay attention to the number of bags and bins you send thru the Xray machine...be sure to collect the same number on the flip side. If your kids are old enough and when possible, it's a good idea to send one parent through the scanner with the youngest child first, then let other siblings pass through with the other parent puts gear on the Xray belt before taking up the rear. Having this kind of a plan and teamwork will make your life so much easier and your fellow passengers will thank you for it.
5. Pack a Picnic - Be prepared and pick up food, drinks and snack to take on the airplane. You need to do this AFTER you pass through airport security due to their 3-1-1 rule regarding liquids. Most airlines do NOT serve meals anymore. Most will offer snacks and expensive box meals that you can purchase with credit cards only. These are expensive and not the healtiest of choices. Some airlines are even charging now for drinks. Be aware that cabin staff are only allowed to serve when your plane has reached cruising altitude in calm skies. If you get stuck waiting for take off or have a bumpy flight, they may need to remain seated. Last thing you want is crabby hungry and thirsty kids so be prepared. If you have a very early morning flight, many airport vendors will not yet be open for business. You may want to bring powerbars and a refillable water bottle.
6. Boarding Time - Most airplanes will beging boarding about 1/2 hour prior to the departure time listed on your boarding pass. To avoid a few hundred people making a mad dash down a single file jetway, most airplanes are boarded according to either seat rows or zones. Many airlines will allow families with small children under a certain age to board first because they know you'll need a little more time, especially if you need to belt in your FAA approved car seat. If you're not sure, just ask the gate attendant.
If you've been using your stroller to get through the airport you'll need to check it at the gate. When the attendant makes the boarding announcement, get your act together. Collapse your stroller and get your gate check bag ready if you're using one. Make sure you have a your name and cell phone number on it or attach a luggage tag. At the end of the jetway, right before you step onto the plane there should be an airline staff member waiting to take any gate check items. When you hand off your stroller, they will place a tag it and tear away part of that tag for you which has an ID number on it. Keep that tag number in a safe place until you are reunited with your stroller.
Now settle in, make sure all electronics are turned off and stowed. All carry on items are placed in the overhead compartment or stored completely under the seat in front of you. Tray tables must be locked and your seats returned to their full and upright positions. Everyone's seat belts should be securely fastened around everyone's hips. Have gum, hard candy, water or formula handy to help ears adjust to altitude pressure during take off.
You've done it!....You are not "officially" ON VACATION!