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The holiday season is the biggest travel season of the year, and traveling during the holiday season, especially with kids, can be super stressful. AAA forecasted that 112.5 million people traveled in the holiday season in 2018, and sometimes it feels every single one of them is in the airport with you at once! Here are 5 ways to keep your sanity if you have to navigate the airport while traveling this holiday season.
A little bit of planning goes a long wayEspecially if you are flying with young kids, make sure that you are planning your travel smartly. Yes, that red-eye flight or 6 hour layover looks like it won’t be a problem back several months ago when you booked the flight, but now that it’s impending, you might be starting to second-guess yourself. If you do find yourself in an unenviable situation, don’t just ignore it. Make a plan for it (and if you’re traveling with young kids, you might as well make 2 or 3 backup plans too!)
Keep track of your flights
One of the things that I highly recommend is to keep track of your flight reservations. Every couple of weeks, log on to the airline’s account and make sure that your flights still have the same time and you still have the same seats that you picked (if your ticket allows you to pick seats). Airlines are changing their flight schedules all the time, and the more time you have to make changes, the better. The worst thing that can happen is that you don’t find out about a flight change or an aircraft swap until the day before, when there isn’t much you can do.
Another thing I usually do, starting the day before my flight when I check-in, is to look at where my flights are, and where those planes are coming from. I use FlightAware.com to do that kind of research – you can put in your airline and flight number and it will show you not only the status of YOUR flight, but also where your plane is now.
By looking at where my plane is now, I usually know about flight delays BEFORE the airline itself acknowledges it. More information can help you plan your day and get a leg up on making alternate arrangements should you need it
Consider an airport lounge
If you do have an extended layover in an airport, you might want to consider checking if your airline has an airport lounge and how much it costs for entrance. Many credit cards come with access to the Priority Pass network of lounges, which allow you complimentary airport lounge access.
If you don’t have a credit card that gives lounge access, you can investigate how much it costs for a day pass. Most lounges cost $30-$50 for a day pass, though many admit children under 12 for free. Generally I wouldn’t recommend paying that much for a day pass, but it depends on your situation. Look at what you might pay for food and drinks at an airport restaurant and you may find that a day pass to an airport lounge isn’t that much more.
In addition to a quieter place than the terminal and complimentary food and drinks, many airport lounges have a separate children’s area which can be a lifesaver on a long layover.
Sign up for TSA Pre®
Another travel benefit that comes with some credit cards is a $100 credit towards Global Entry membership. If you have Global Entry membership, you also generally will receive TSA Pre on your domestic flights. Depending on where and when you’re traveling, this could be a huge lifesaver to keep you from spending a ton of time waiting in an endless airport security line.
Many of the credit cards that give Global Entry / TSA Pre are premium cards with annual fees north of $450. But here are a few cards with smaller annual fees, including some that waive the annual fee the first year.
- IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card – $89 annual fee
- United Explorer℠ Card – $95 annual fee; waived the first year
- Southwest Rapid Rewards® Performance Business Credit Card – $199 annual fee
Be smart about checked bags vs carry-ons
Our final tip to keep your sanity in airports while traveling this holiday season is to take a step back and consider whether checking bags is better for your situation than just taking carry-ons. There are pros and cons to both situations and you need to decide what works best for you. Our family of 8 has done it both ways. When our kids were younger, with all the baby gear we toted around, we tended to check bags. Southwest Airlines and their 2 free checked bags on every flight were huge – I remember a Southwest flight to Reno where between checked bags, carry-ons, strollers and car seats, we lugged 17 pieces of luggage through the airport! We’ve now gone more towards not checking bags and just taking carry-on luggage. Not only does that save on bag fees, we also don’t have to wait at baggage claim or worry about the airline losing our luggage. But my kids are now all old enough where they can take care of their own carry-on luggage. If you have younger kids who can’t manage their own rollerboards in the airport, then you might consider checking your bags, even if you have to pay extra for it. You don’t want to have to be lugging around multiple suitcases through the airport on top of making sure your kids stay happy and safe.
I hope these tips have given you some ideas to de-stress your holiday airport travel. Got another tip? Leave it in the comments!