How to survive traveling with little kids: Part 1 – The Airport
When I imagine heaven, I see a picture of my 3 kids running around in a park laughing, giggling and screaming with joy. The sun is shining brightly and their infectious laughter can be heard for miles on end. However, when I imagine hell, I picture dragging those same 3 children through an airport as we are running to catch a plane that we are in jeopardy of missing. One is crying and the others are walking frustratingly slow. I scream and shout at them to hurry up as I try to keep my toddler from crying too loudly and not draw stares from other travelers.
As a parent of 3 beautiful little girls, Lucy (8), Stella (5) and Margo (1) my wife and I know the horrors of traveling with children. We have flown to Europe, Asia, Hawaii and Mexico with them multiple times and each time we fly, we seem to pick up a new trick that makes the trip a little less hellish.
We know many couples that almost totally give up on traveling when they become parents. Due to our love of travel, we refused to choose that route. We, instead, decided that the hell of traveling with kids is more than worth the experience that follows when we reach our destination. In this 3 part blog series, I reveal all of my tips and tricks to surviving the horror of traveling with children and how to do it for little to no cost. Today, we start in the airport.
Small Stroller, No Bags
With 3 kids and two adults, we are already set up to be on the losing team. They outnumber us physically and emotionally. Therefore, we need all of our hands to be free holding onto their hands, retrieving snacks or wiping at all the surfaces and cracks on their bodies. Knowing that, we intentionally carry credit cards that offer free check-in bags as a benefit. Who wants to pay $25 a bag? When we travel, we have, at least, 2 bags, so it would cost us $50 each way if we didn’t have these cards. In our case, we are base out of Seattle, so the Alaska Airlines Card is a must have. Not only does the card offer free checked bags, it also provides an annual companion pass and a generous bonus of extremely valuable Alaska Miles.
To get through the airport at a pace faster than a grandma with a walker, we always use a light weight umbrella stroller. I personally recommend the gb Pockit stroller. Not only is the stroller light weight and travel friendly, it also folds down to an extremely small 12x7x13. The biggest inconvenience with larger strollers is trying to get them through security. When folded, if the stroller does not fit through the x-ray machine, the stroller needs to then be personally inspected by a TSA agent “through the backdoor,” which will just cause you to be in the security line longer than necessary.
With the gb Pockit, the stroller will simply fold down and easily fit into the x-ray machine eliminating the need for personal one-on-one time with a TSA agent. In addition, since the collapsed stroller is so small, it can also be brought onto the plane and stored in the overhead luggage bin. This will keep you from needing to worry about gate checking and risking damage or possibly losing your precious stroller during your much needed vacation.
Shorter security lines with TSA Precheck and CLEAR
Kids do not like to wait in lines. Even at Disneyland, the happiest place on Earth, my kids will complain, whine and/or cry while waiting in a line for a ride. Waiting in the line to get through security at an airport is no better and probably much worse. At least at Disneyland, pretty much everyone is in a good mood due to the magic of the park, at the airport you’ll be lucky to get a smile from your another traveler. One way to reduce your time in lines at the airport is to get TSA Precheck.
The cost is $85 per adult for 5 years, however, if every adult on the itinerary has TSA precheck, the kids automatically qualify also. With TSA precheck, I have found that my wait time in the security line is at least cut in half. This reduction is a godsend for my family, especially when a missed flight means a huge setback for my pocketbook and my good standing in the family. The less we are in line the more the kids can run around and get their pent up energy out before we stuff them in a tiny seat for multiple hours.
Clear is another necessity. While Precheck is great, the ability to have PreCheck AND Clear is a no brainer. There are varying discounts available, but this referral link gets you two months for free. Simple scan your two fingers or your eyes and pass right in front of all those other people making the line. Today, we were through security in only 7 minutes after parking our car. Ridiculous!
To cover the cost of the TSA Precheck fee, my wife and I have the Chase Sapphire Reserve . Every 5 years, this credit card will reimburse the cost of TSA Precheck or Global Entry. This plus the multitude of other benefits makes getting this card a no-brainer for family travel. The less time you spend in the line, the more time the family can spend in . . .
Waiting at the gate is almost never a pleasant experience. It’s usually very crowded and the restaurants nearby are mediocre at best and way overpriced. When you have lounge access all those problems just simply disappear.
Lounges are less crowded, have food, drinks and even alcoholic beverages for absolutely free! When you are hauling kids around, its always better to travel very light, but that’s easier said then done because they always need their milk and snacks to keep them content. However, when you can get all those things for free in a lounge, packing light is easier because we, shhh, stock up in the lounge before boarding.
Now you are probably thinking lounge access is only for first class passengers or very expensive. Well, you are right, but if you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you will get a Priority Pass for absolutely free. With the Priority Pass you have access to hundreds of lounges all over the world and with the Priority Pass issued by most credit cards, you are allowed a certain number of guests, usually 2, and kids under a certain age do not count and are free. S
o by just carrying the Chase Sapphire Reserve or anyone of those cards listed, you get free access to fruit, snacks and drinks to keep your kids happy. Why wait by the gate where the food is expensive and there is no place to sit, when you can relax in your big comfy chair and sip on your free cocktail while your kids enjoy their complimentary snacks.
This article was written by guest writer Joseph Bui. Joseph is a father of three lovely girls and a lover of travel. When not galavanting around with his lovely wife and kids he calls Seattle home and is always on the lookout for the next points and miles deal.