Eric Stoen of Travel Babbo has traveled to 45 countries and all 7 continents with his three kids. They’ve passed through a lot of airports! We asked him for his best tips for traveling families.
At this point flying, and airports, are second-nature for my kids and me. We’re on planes so often that we give very little thought to the travel element itself – it’s simply a way to get to our destination. But part of our ease in airports comes from being prepared and planning ahead, whether it’s months before, the night before or an hour before we depart. Here’s my advice for traveling families, based on what’s worked for us.
Ten Tips for Surviving the Airport
1) Bring snacks
Eventually you’ll have travel issues. Maybe you miss your connection and you’re stranded at an airport for five hours, or overnight. Maybe there’s a delay after the plane leaves the jet bridge and your time on the plane is extended. Maybe you’re sitting in the back of the plane and the flight attendants run out of food before they get to you. When problems arise, your chances of having grumpy kids are directly related to how hungry the kids are. Snacks can prevent a lot of meltdowns. Bring enough for your flight duration plus a few hours – just in case.
2) Bring empty water bottles
You can’t take water through security, so don’t be those people dumping whole bottles of water into the trash or holding up the security line because you forgot you had liquids. Bring empty bottles and fill them up after security. This is far preferable to buying water at inflated prices at the airport, and if your kids have water bottles on your flights they’re less likely to spill drinks.
3) Choose early morning flights
The first flights of the day are rarely delayed. It’s worth waking up early to greatly increase your odds of getting to your destination on time. We put pillows and blankets in the car the night before so the kids can go back to sleep on the way to the airport.
4) Arrive at the airport early
We always estimate our drive time and then leave early enough to have two full hours at the airport. That way if there are unexpected traffic delays, we can change our routing or wait out the delays. It also gives us some breathing room if check-in or TSA lines are long.
5) Check in and pay baggage fees online
The more you can do in advance, typically starting 24 hours before departure, the faster your check-in at the airport will be.
6) Check everything
We differ from other families on this, but we’ve always preferred to check everything that we can and travel light through the airport. The advantages to this are numerous: we’re less likely to leave anything behind; we don’t have to board first since we don’t need space in the overhead bins; security is faster; and if we need to run for a connection, we have less to bring with us. Most airlines will check strollers and/or car seats for free.
7) Have your kids travel light too
Again, we differ from others because I’m always seeing kids as young as three pulling their own small rolling bags through airports. But we’ve found that the more that our kids bring with them, the greater the odds that they will lose something. This usually happens when we’re slightly separated on planes or when we have a very tight connection – things out of our control. Also, when we’ve had late arrivals somewhere, we’ve frequently had to carry sleeping kids off airplanes and through airports. This is far easier to accomplish when we’re not also carrying multiple bags. We’ve let our kids bring their own rolling backpacks at seven – old enough that they can easily wake up when we land and walk off the flight with their bags.
8) Think about getting TSA Precheck or Global Entry
TSA Precheck gives you expedited security screening at most airports – meaning shorter lines and not having to remove shoes or take out laptops or liquids. Global Entry lets you skip the immigration line when you come back into the US, quickly entering your information at a kiosk instead, and it includes TSA Precheck. Each program requires an in-person interview and has fees associated with it (currently $85 for Precheck and $100 for Global Entry, both good for five years). I love Global Entry since it saves us time in line on both ends of our trip, but Global Entry requires that every member of your family be enrolled – including the kids – if you want to skip the immigration line. With TSA Precheck you only need to register the adults.
9) Strongly encourage your kids to use the restrooms in the airport prior to boarding
You never how long it will be until you can use the restrooms on the plane, nor do you know if there will be lines.
10) Bring electronics, chargers and power banks
We’re very pro-device when traveling. We download shows and apps before we leave home, and the kids can entertain themselves for hours in airports. Bring chargers and cables for when you’re near outlets in the airport or on the plane, and bring fully-charged power banks for when you’re not. We’ve used power banks from a dozen different companies. Right now I’m liking Ventev’s powercells because they come with built-in lightning cables, reducing the likelihood that we’ll forget a cable or leave one behind. Also think about bringing along a multi-port hub, so that you can charge several devices from one outlet.
Do you have airport tips for families? What have you found to help minimize stress while traveling?
Eric Stoen is an official Travelocity Gnational Gnomad. Gnational Gnomads is an exclusive group of high-profile travel and lifestyle experts who offer tips and inspiration on behalf of Travelocity. For more information on the Travelocity Gnational Gnomads, visit TravelocityGnomads.com.
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