Ho-Ho-Holiday Hacks: Mastering the Airport with Kids Like a Pro this Holiday Season

Welcome aboard, fellow jet-setting families! As the holiday season approaches, the prospect of navigating bustling airports with the little ones in tow can be SO overwhelming between the crowds, long TSA lines, and potential weather delays. But we are here to help with some pro tips to set you up for success this holiday season!

While there is no way to avoid the holiday travel chaos, being prepared with our tried and true strategies can reduce everyone’s stress and make travel feel so much easier!

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Stay Upbeat

Trust me I know that staying upbeat is much easier said than done. Holiday travel can be stressful! But we do it because its supposed to be fun- we are excited to see family and friends, to eat great food, enjoy time off, enjoy the holiday season. Manage expectation for the actual travel part and keep things fun if you can. Sometimes expecting the worst then being pleasantly surprised when things go well is the best policy rather than the other way around. Even though delays are common, most flights are still leaving on time.

Keep the kids cheerful by playing little games- make up riddles or do guessing games. Get a special drink or snack. Play a game together.

If you need to speak to someone at the airline, remember that the person you are talking to is not to blame, and you’ll get a better response when you are kind and respectful.

Book Carefully

For holiday travel, we recommend booking directly with the airline, if possible. That way, if there are delays or cancellations, you can work directly with the airline to get things fixed. If you book through a booking website, like expedia.com, you’ll likely have to work with expedia.com first, which can lead to confusion, further delays, etc. and a ton of frustration! Many airlines have streamlined their rebooking process, making it easier than even to rebook flights but it really only works when you book with them direct!

Also, be sure to book your entire family on one reservation. That way, if anything goes wrong, you are all linked together. It’ll make rebooking much easier, and it’ll ensure the airline knows you all need to be in the same place.

Download the Airline App

Most airlines now have apps that make it easier to stay up to date on the status of your flight, and make it easier to communicate with the airline, or rebook if necessary. Make sure you are logged in with your frequent flyer number and have all your flight information available in the app.

Get to the airport early

Luggage drop off and security lines can be long during the busy holiday season. Plus, the airport is filled with families with children, rather than frequent flying business travelers, so security lines tend to move much slower than average. Make sure you are at the airport at least 2 hours before your flight- 3 hours would be better even for domestic travel.

Consider TSA Precheck or Clear

When security lines get long, skipping through the TSA Precheck or Clear line is a pretty satisfying experience. Even better if you have both! Both will make the security process quicker and easier but they work differently

So how does it work?

TSA Precheck allows you to go through the typically-shorter TSA Precheck line, leave your shoes and jackets on, and leave liquids and laptops in your carryon bag. To get TSA Precheck, you need to fill out an online application, and then, once it clears, you’ll need to do an in-person appointment. This process can take awhile (as long as 60 days for the application to clear, and appointments book up quickly), but it once you are cleared, it lasts for 5 years. The application fee is $78 per person. Children 12 and under can go in the TSA Precheck lane with their parents, as long as the parents have precheck.

Clear allows you to go through the Clear lane, allows you to bypass the security line and will just scan eyes or fingerprints. To begin the process by either completing the application online or at the Clear station at the airport. Either way, you will need to check biometrics at the airport to complete the process. However, you can use Clear the same day you enroll. In fact, my family first enrolled because the airport was very long, and even though we had to go through enrollment first, it was quicker to go through the Clear lane. The cost is $189/person but children under 18 do not need to enroll and can access the Clear lane with their enrolled parents.

Be Prepared

Things can be chaotic and delays and cancellations can happen around the holidays. Doing a little bit of extra preparation to make sure you are organized, and you have what you need to keep to keep everyone happy.

A few things that help us:

  • Have travel documents and photo IDs organized and easily accessible
  • Bring some fun activities for the kids to do. We love to surprise them with a new activity book or travel toy so they are excited to play
  • Wear comfortable clothing. Dress for cooler temperatures, but wear layers so you won’t get too warm
  • Bring snacks
  • For babies, bring extra diapers and formula just in case.
  • Consider bringing a comfort item for younger kids
  • Bring portable chargers and cords for electronics just in case you need them longer than expected

Know Your Rights in case of delay or cancellation

Check out the Department of Transportation’s website for up to date information on when the airline needs to give you are refund. You’ll also want to check your airlines policies as well. If your flight is cancelled for any reason, you are likely entitled to a refund.

Both Alaska Airlines and Delta have a baggage guarantee. So that means, if your bag does not arrive at the carousel within 20 minutes of the plane’s arrival, you can get free airline miles or credit. However, this will not happen automatically. For Alaska, you have to speak to someone in person at the airport within 2 hours of arrival. Delta will allow you to file a claim online within 3 days.

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