Getting through the airport is one of the experiences that give parents the greatest aversion to traveling with their kids. They perceive it as a terrible hassle and it’s hard to overcome the dread. As with most things, know what to expect and a bit of planning will make it go as smoothly as it’s going to be. It’s an adventure for your kids so take it on with that spirit and they will go with the flow. Discuss the process with your children several days before your departure and remind them again what’s going to happen. Make it as easy as 1-2-3. One is getting the baggage checked in. Two is getting through security. Three is waiting to board. We’ll discuss all of those in this section. First we’ll deal with your belongings on this page.

  • Checking In

    Get to the airport early! Have your luggage tags with your contact information already completed and attached to all baggage. That will make check-in much less stressful and it will go smoothly. Boarding passes can be printed 24 hours before departure so try to do that. That procedure will ask how many bags are being checked-in.

    If you can use curbside check-in, that’s the best. If it’s not available, it’s likely you will still need to go to the counter.   If you have a lot of baggage or one parent is parking the car, pay a porter to help you.

    If someone is parking the car, they should carry their own documents.  They can go through Security on their own and meet you at the Gate.

    Have one parent responsible for the documents at the counter. Have passports and boarding passes organized so you are not fishing around for them.   Be prepared to move right along. One parent manages the counter while the other puts the luggage on the scale or parks the car if required.

  • Baggage

    Airlines flying internationally are fairly consistent with baggage allowances. You are allowed one free bag plus one free carry-on. For most any airline, individual bags have a weight limit of 50 pounds. They must also have linear dimensions not exceeding 62 inches. What this means is if you have some odd shaped item (e.g. surfboard), it likely would have additional fees attached to it even if it weighed less than 50 pounds. A 50 pound suitcase is very heavy. I hope you don’t pack that much but if your bag is difficult to lift, you should weigh it at home before you leave for the airport. If the bag’s weight and size exceeds limitations, you can be charged hefty excess baggage charges. You also clearly want to avoid getting sent to the back of the line and have to open your bag and take out shoes or other items to reduce the weight. Bad Bad Bad. Especially with children. Don’t let this happen. You can find a good luggage scale in our Marketplace. That said, go to your airline’s website and confirm their baggage allowances for international flights. You class of service may affect your allowance (1st Class likely gets more!). If you are holding an infant in your lap, you may not get a baggage allowance for them.

    Tip #1: You are only allowed to take limited liquids and creams in carry-on so put all those items in your checked luggage. Sometimes your kids have lighter bags than parents and you can put items in their bags.

    Tip #2:  Be sure to hold on to your baggage claim ticket. You may need it to claim your bag upon arrival.

    Tip #3:  Most checked bags are black. Distinguish your bags clearly with colorful luggage tags and luggage straps. You’ll be able to spot your bags quickly and easily and this also discourages thieves from selecting your bag to steal!

    Tip# 4: Keep all valuables and medicines with you.

    Tip #5: Do not let your children climb on the baggage claim. They should stand back for their safety.

  • Strollers & Gear

    Having your stroller with you in the airport will be a real asset. Carrying a child down long hallways will be tortuous for you and your child. They will like the comfort of snoozing if they are tired. You can keep your stroller and check it at the gate. It’s no big deal. . Many airlines allow you to gate check your stroller and bring on a diaper bag keeping your other carry-on limits intact and they are exempt from any extra baggage charges.

    Below are a few guidelines you should keep in mind. Always call your airline if you are not clear on *your* airlines policies as different airlines have different policies.

    Prereq #1: Some airlines may accept only a light umbrella stroller. Some don’t care if it’s a full size. Your stroller must fold in any case.

    Prereq #2: Tell the agent at the counter you want to gate check the stroller and they will give you a tag or sticker. They may put it on themselves or ask you to do it. When boarding, leave it outside the aircraft door with tags visible. That’s where you will find it when you depart the aircraft upon arrival.

    Prereq #3: Have in your carry-on a small pump and patch kit …just in case.

    Prereq #4: Empty any stroller storage. Detach cup holders and keep them with you. Fasten the straps closed.

  • Carry-On Luggage

    Some airlines are very strict about carry-on baggage. Be sure to look up dimensions. They may have a “sizing box” that you need to put your carry-on in to before allowing you to go through Security . Wheels and handles must fit inside the box. If your bag doesn’t fit, they will send you back to (That would be a real bummer!!).   Generally you are allowed one personal item (purse) plus one carry-on.

    Maximum size for most airlines is 45 linear inches, including length plus width plus height.  Back packs need to follow these size limits but can be very handy keeping you “hands free”.  Children should carry their own bags when age appropriate.

  • Personal Items Defined

    A “personal item” can be purses, briefcases, camera cases, diaper bags, laptop computers and other items similar to this size.  I would try to consolidate items as best you can into a single carry-on piece. It’s much easier.

  • “Other” Items Defined

    The following items generally are allowed and do not count toward your one bag and one personal item limit:

    —  Jacket or umbrella
    —  FAA approved child restraint seat
    —  Diaper bag
    —  Food or merchandise purchased in the airport
    —  Reading material
    —  Pet carrier (may incur service charges)
    —  Assistive devices (umbrella stroller, collapsible wheelchair, cane, one set of crutches, medical devices).