No one says it’s easy—especially with kids in tow—to travel during one of the busiest weeks of the year. Did we mention it’s always the most expensive time to travel too?
Millions of us do it of course, taking to the roads and skies to see family or increasingly, grab a little R&R with the kids.
Here the Taking the Kids Guide to Flying this holiday season that’s guaranteed to de-stress the experience and maybe save a little money in the process:
1. Juggle your dates
Travel the weekend before Thanksgiving or Thanksgiving morning, or just before Christmas. Major search engines like Kayak.com let you see the prices if you shift your travel by a day or two. If you are just heading for vacation, check sites like Getgoing.com that promises to save you money if you let them choose between two similar destinations with their “Pick Two, Get One “ deal.
2. Book a non-stop flight
Even if you have to pay more non-stop flights can be worth it. The planes will be packed and if you miss your connection — all it takes is one major storm somewhere — you won’t find enough seats on the next flights for your family.
3. Pay extra for economy-plus seats
Especially if you are traveling with young children, it may be the only way you can guarantee getting seats together on packed flights.
4. TSA Pre Check
This rapidly expanding program costs $85 and allows you to speed through domestic security lines without taking off your shoes, belts, etc. Kids under 12 can go with parents who are part of the program.
5. Travel with carry-on bags
Jet Blue and Southwest currently are the only domestic carriers not charging baggage fees, not only to save fees. But traveling with carry-on can also to save time. You’ll get to the gate — and out of the airport at the other end — significantly quicker As an early holiday gift, get the kids their own rolling carry-on, monogrammed with their name in a favorite color, from Landsend.com or LLBean.com.
6. Buy a seat for the baby and toddler
Yes, kids can fly free until they are two, but everyone from the FAA to the American Academy of Pediatrics reports that young children are far safer — not to mention more comfortable — in a safety seat, especially when a flight hits turbulence. You’ll have a more comfortable flight too.
7. Arrive at the airport extra early
It will take you longer to park and go through security.
8. Snack and drinks, a must
Stash sandwiches, snacks and reusable water bottles that you can fill when you get through security. This way you not only feed the kids healthier food and drinks en route, but you also save considerable money and time.
9. Download before you go
Be prepared with something new to entertain the kids while on the road—a movie for the tablet, a video game, a holiday book you can read together, a mini toy or game.
10. Directions for unaccompanied minors
Make sure kids who are flying as unaccompanied minors know where they are going. (Yes, kids have been put on wrong flights.) Give them a cell phone and all of the phone numbers they might need. Teens who aren’t being supervised by airline personnel need to know that if their flight is diverted or if they miss a connection, they’ve got to speak up and tell the gate agents and flight attendants they are alone. You don’t want them to get lost in the shuffle.
Most important, keep you’re cool. No matter what happens, getting angry and upset won’t help. Just remember, you’ll have another story to tell around the holiday table.
Eileen Ogintz is a nationally syndicated columnist and creator of TakingtheKids.com. Her new Kids Guide to Boston is available online and from major booksellers, along with the Kids Guides to NYC, Washington, DC, Orlando, LA and Chicago. Coming later this year: San Diego, San Francisco and Denver.