Surviving Holiday Travel: Five Ways Families Can Fly Easier
(NEW YORK) — Moving through packed airports with heavy bags, waiting in long security lines, rushing to board a plane, all with one kid screaming and another who won’t sit still is your typical family holiday traveling nightmare.
Then, as if to add insult to injury, you go to check in and get slapped with an extra airline fee for having one too many bags or trying to find seats together so you can sit next to your children.
Amy Farley, an editor at Travel + Leisure magazine, said airlines take in an estimated $42.6 billion in ancillary revenue, which include baggage fees, premier boarding fees, ticketing fees, even a fee for making a reservation over the phone.
But Farley said there a few things families can do to make flying a little less stressful. See a few of her suggestions below, and tune into Nightline Friday night at 12:35 a.m. ET for more.
1. Go Ahead, Bring All the Baby Gear
Head to the ticket counter, Farley said, because most airlines will let you check all of that heavy baby gear for free.
“Airlines let families check their car seats for free, you can bring a stroller for free, a portable crib for free. They will let you check those things for free,” she said.
2. Purchase a Seat for Your Child, Get a Carry-On
On most airlines, every seat purchased comes with a free carry-on and some let you check the first bag for free. So Farley said if you purchased seats for your children, make it count by bringing bags for each seat.
“If your child is too young to carry on a bag or check a bag, it doesn’t matter–you can bring an extra bag and check and extra bag for them,” she said. “If you are travelling in a family of four and everyone has purchased their own seat, you actually get four carry-on bags, so you can bring a lot of stuff on the plane,”
“Of course you will have to schlep all the stuff on the plane, [and] it might be worth $25 to put it underneath the plane,” Farley added.
3. Pick an Airline That Doesn’t Charge for the First Checked Bag
Farley’s main tip for families is if you are going to carry a lot of bags, avoid baggage fees by choosing an airline that doesn’t charge for the first checked bag.
4. Build Up ‘Elite Status’
Various airlines offer elite status levels to passengers who frequently spend money on travel, earning lots of miles or points, and reaching that level can come with a few perks.
“Once you have elite status, you don’t have to pay to check your bag, you get priority boarding, and you get seat selections, all these services that most people have to pay for,” Farley said.
If you don’t reach elite status, finding seats together as a family, without paying extra fees, might be tough.
“If you don’t status, you have to pay between $20 and $50 a flight to get the seats that you want,” Farley said. “To find four seats together, it’s almost impossible because all of the windows and aisles have a charge associated with them.”
5. Ask About Priority Boarding
Several airlines now offer priority boarding to families traveling with children, but if you’re flying on an airline that doesn’t, Farley said it doesn’t hurt to ask the gate agent if you can board first anyway.
“The gate agent will take pity on you if you have a child strapped to your chest and another one screaming, they will let you get on first,” she said. “It’s human beings who are working at airlines and they will help families out.”
6. BONUS: Pack your Patience — and a Charged iPad
A mom herself, Farley said a charged iPad — and a lot of patience — is the key to surviving holiday travel with children.
“Look at traveling with children as an adventure,” she said.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio