It’s the question on every parent’s mind before winging away on a trip: how can I get the family through the airport and onto the plane faster and smarter?
Virtuoso’s Misty Ewing Belles has the answer to that. The network’s managing director of global public relations recently shared her tips with a national audience on NBC’s TODAY Show. Discover below how you can prepare for the smoothest possible air travel with kids.
Look for the TSA priority lane
Maneuvering yourself plus children plus all their carry-on accoutrements likely means you’ll need some extra help getting through security. “There’s no longer a family line at the TSA so what you can look for is a priority lane for people needing additional assistance,” Belles advises.
Many parents wonder if the three-ounce rule for liquids applies to children’s drinks and food. The good news: no. “You can bring as much breast milk, formula, juice, even jarred baby food, as you like, but keep them separate from other carry-on items and let the TSA officer know as soon as possible,” clarifies Belles. That’s because the screening procedure is different for these liquids.
Invest in TSA PreCheck and/or Global Entry
Both government programs help pre-approved trusted travelers navigate airport waits more efficiently. It’s worth it to apply for one program or both, depending on how much and where you travel.
Global Entry helps you enter the U.S. faster after international trips. The program is good for five years and costs $100 per person. Every member of the family has to have it to use it together.
TSA PreCheck speeds you through special security lines in more than 180 U.S. airports. Lines move faster since travelers don’t have to remove their shoes, liquids and laptops. It’s also valid for five years and costs $85 per person. Children under 12 can accompany their parents for free.
The bottom line? “It’s going to save you a lot of time,” Belles declares.
Research airports in advance
Belles recommends that parents scope out airports online before the trip to find places sure to delight youngsters. “A lot of the airports have these great play areas now for kids,” she says, naming Chicago O’Hare, Dallas-Fort Worth, and San Francisco in particular. Taking the family to a play area “lets the kids get their wiggles out before they’re actually on the plane.”
Two other important elements to research: kid-friendly food, and live entertainment to distract the little ones until flight time.
Board the plane early
“Every airline now – US carrier – allows preboarding for families,” notes Belles. The process on each airline varies a little, so check with the carrier in advance.
If you have a stroller in tow, check it at the gate: “It moves you to the front of the line and gets you ready for preboarding.”
Select seats with a strategy
Advice for airplane seating varies depending on how many family members are traveling.
“For a family of four, we say to go ahead and have the parents on the aisle seats and then have the kiddos on the middle seats,” Belles recommends. “That way you maximize your space and you can turn your attention to one child.”
But if it’s one adult traveling with two kids, “the adult sits in the middle, a child on each side.”