With plane fares at an all-time high and flights getting canceled left and right (plus, the whole pandemic thing), flying with your family takes a little more planning and forethought these days. After taking dozens of flights over the past few months with kids from toddlers to teens, our editors have tips to share so that your family isn’t left stranded.
Travel Tip 1
Get everyone signed up with TSA PreCheck, Global Entry and/or Clear. Lines at the airports are long and you don’t want the stress of possibly missing your flight. Utilizing these services can make your TSA experience much more smooth.
- Global Entry is helpful if you plan to fly internationally a lot because it allows expedited customs screening upon return to the U.S. in addition to TSA PreCheck benefits. It requires an in-person interview to get you approved and those are difficult to schedule these days. There is no minimum age for Global Entry so you’ll need to get everyone in your family signed up if you want to use it. Cost: $100 for 5 years (check your credit cards for rebates)
- In the alternative, we suggest signing up everyone over age 12 for TSA PreCheck. This will allow you to use the much-shorter lines at the airport when flying domestically (and bonus, you don’t need to remove your shoes or electronics). Kids 12 and under can use the PreCheck line with an enrolled adult on the same reservation. Cost: $85 for 5 years (check your credit cards for rebates)
- Clear is another option but at $189/year it is the most expensive. Clear customers skip right to the ID/boarding pass check station which can definitely save time. Then they go to the regular TSA screening line unless they also have TSA PreCheck.
Travel Tip 2
Invest in some AirTags for checked luggage. While carry-on only is definitely preferred as you can keep your luggage with you, if you are packing for kids you often need to check a suitcase or two. We suggest purchasing some AirTags for your family. Drop one in each checked bag and then if your luggage goes missing en route, you can easily find out where it is to speed up the reunification process. We also love AirTags for peace of mind when traveling in big cities. You can keep one in each kid’s backpack or use these wristbands in case someone (god, forbid) gets separated from the group.
Travel Tip 3
Book your airport transfers in advance. There’s nothing worse than arriving at your destination, tired, and having to wait in a massive line for a taxi. Travelers have been reporting issues with being able to snag an Uber or taxi at the airport this summer so we definitely suggest you look into what alternative airport transfer services are available at your destination. We’ve used G7 in Paris (they can even provide car seats!), and Booking.com in Bordeaux, both with great success.
Travel Tip 4
Get a direct flight or plan extra time for stopovers. If you’ve ever been on a flight that is delayed and you know you are going to miss your connection, you know how stressful that can be. If you aren’t able to book a direct flight, allow for extra time for delays as a cushion since this seems to be happening more and more frequently. This is especially true if you are going to have to go through customs during your layover. Who knows how long that will take (see #9 for our tip to speed up this process!)?
Travel Tip 5
Consider travel insurance. Check with your travel credit cards to see if they offer things like trip interruption or lost luggage coverage. If not, you might want to consider purchasing your own insurance to cover you. Providers like Safety Wing offer trip-specific coverage for a very reasonable fee. Or, you can go for a year-long plan through Allianz or the like. Just confirm their COVID coverage terms before you buy.
Travel Tip 6
Confirm COVID testing requirements where you are going and plan for “just in case” scenarios. Yes, this is the world we live in. Make sure you pay extra attention to COVID testing requirements when traveling internationally. If you are in need of proctored test results, we recommend the Abbott tests sold on eMed. They are $25 each and include a telehealth visit to satisfy proctoring requirements. Health insurance should reimburse for these as well. Also, check if your flight requires a mask and come prepared.
Travel Tip 7
Pack an extra outfit in your carry-on for the whole family. This also falls into those “just-in-case” scenarios but it definitely gives you some peace of mind to travel with an extra outfit for everyone in your family. Whether you have a baby blowout or a spilled drink incident, you’ll be covered. It also helps in case your checked luggage is lost.
Travel Tip 8
At the airport and your flight is canceled? Phone it in. Your instinct might be to wait for assistance from the gate agent, but often times you’ll get faster service by calling the airline directly to rebook your flight. Or better yet, call the airline while you wait in line for the gate agent and go for the one that is available the quickest.
Travel Tip 9
Traveling internationally? Download the Mobile Passport app for when you return. When you return to the U.S. from another country, you’re going to have to go through customs. You can circumvent the long lines here by either signing up the whole family for Global Entry (see above) or using the Mobile Passport app. Many U.S. airports allow you to upload your family’s passports and answer the screening questions when you land via the app. Once you’ve done this, head to the Mobile Passport line. It saved us over two hours on a recent trip!