Flying with kids: 5 smart family boarding strategies

Has family air travel gotten more difficult in recent years?

I recently took a flight in which you had to pay extra for "preferred" aisle or window seating, another in which there were fees for both checked and carry-on baggage, and another where the only complimentary beverage was water.

Fees for carry-on? Seriously?

A few airlines have even done away with early boarding; reserving it for Platinum Super Diamond members traveling solo with tiny laptop bags, not people traveling with squirmy kids, car seats, and massive diaper bags.

I now live in the blissful land of Travel With Older Children, but I remember what it was like to fly when they were little. We were once the people with that kid.

Given all the changes in recent years, I figured it was time to revisit the topic of flying with kids.

Here are some ideas for streamlining the boarding process, but I hope you’ll chime in, especially if you’ve recently flown with your kids.

There’s tension between buying your flight reservations early (so you have flexibility in seating choices) and waiting for a good fare.

I’m a dealhoud, so it pains me to spend more money on a flight than I have to. But when you’re flying with little kids, in my opinion, it’s worth paying more for comfort.

Jet With Kids posted a great strategy for maximizing the chances you’ll have an empty middle seat.

Seriousy, do it. You will be so much happier spending an extra 30 minutes at the gate than you will rushing your family through the airport. (As if rushing throught the airport with kids is even possible.)

Getting to the airport early…

You already know you can’t take liquids through security. Fill cups or mix formula at the gate using bottled water or the drinking fountain. (Airplane water can be nasty and may not be available when you need it.)

Most airlines let you gate-check luggage for free. This includes the umbrella stroller (bring a soft carrier on the flight). The less you have to wrestle with on the plane, the better.

I lament the loss of early family boarding more on principle than in fact, because, really, why get your kids on the plane any earlier than you have to?

If family boarding’s a thing and you’re traveling with another parent, send one adult ahead to get the seats buckled in and the bags situated. The second grownup + kids can board right at the end, after everyone else is seated and the aisle has cleared.

If you’re traveling alone, just board at the end and ignore any dirty looks while you get your kids settled. Those people are jerks.

Others have written great posts on this topic as well:

OK, folks, what did I miss? Share your flight boarding tips (or links) in the comments.

Photo Credit: Ma1974 via Compfight cc