Flying tips for first time family travelers

We have taken hundreds of family road trips.  We’ve covered thousands of miles in our minivan and explored the entire east coast and much of the midwest.  But in order to travel the west coast, we knew it was time to fly as a family.  If you are ready to take to the air with your family for the first time, I have some flying tips for first time family travelers.

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View from the airplane

Flying tips for first time family travelers

The idea of spending the entire summer taking a family road trip out west is something that really appeals to many of us.  But the reality is that most of only have limited time off from work, school and responsibilities.  That’s why we opted to start our road trip from the San Jose, CA airport. 

San Jose Airport - Seymour

By starting in California, we were able to take a 2400 mile road trip and see 3 new states.  But flying as a family of 5 was a new experience for us.  Here are some things that other new family flyers may want to know.   These tips are focused on US travel but some of the tips are perfect for international travel as well.  Do your own research and check the rules for traveling in other countries.

Set your budget

Not all airlines are equal when it comes to budget and amenities.  We have put off family airline travel because of the high cost associated with buying tickets for a family of five.  But when we discovered Frontier Airlines, we opened up a whole new world.  Read all about what to expect when you fly a budget airline like Frontier! 

Pack a water bottle

Remember that you can’t carry water or other drinks through security, but you can pack an empty water bottle. If you get there and you have any sort of drinks, you will be told to throw them away before going through security.  Once you get through security, you can fill up the bottle at the water fountains and bottle filling stations.

water bottle filling station

Tip: use a simple carabiner clip so you can attach your bottle to your backpack and free up your hands.

Security Tips

Some airports have relaxed the rules of having to remove your shoes, belts, and items from your carry on bags.  There are different guidelines at each airport.  Just listen as you approach the security checkpoints and follow the directions.  You will need your driver’s license and ticket in your hand when you go through the security lines.

I recommend that you always print your tickets ahead of time to avoid any technical issues on your phone or in the line as you proceed through the airport.

Carry on snacks

Airports have lots of amazing options for food! You can get your favorite coffee, sub sandwich, or eat at a sit down restaurant. After you pass through security, you can pick up lunch and eat in the airport or save it and eat on the plane.  But these restaurants are often more expensive than you expect.  Even just a candybar or drink will be probably double what you are used to paying.

If you are traveling with your family, you may want to pack your own snacks.  Many new flyers don’t realize that you can pack snacks from home. Toss in granola bars, trail mix, pretzels, grapes, or hard candy so you can snack your way across the miles.

Download Movies

If you have Amazon or Netflix, you can download movies to your device and watch them as you travel without having to use any data or internet services.

Family travel

Pack a pillow

There’s a reason you see travel pillows in every airport gift shop. The rumble of the planes engine is the perfect background noise to lull you to sleep and the last thing you want to do is have your head drop over on your seat mates shoulder. These travel pillows are easy to loop through your backpack straps or carry on handle.

If you tend to get cold, then you may want to pack a small travel blanket. You can purchase a light blanket that will easily roll up in your backpack and make your trip more comfortable.

Wear a jacket

Since each seat has its own air condition nozzle, you can typically control your own temperature. But if you are like me, and hate to be cold, pack a light jacket or sweater when you travel , even in the middle of the summer.

Be Flexible

You should plan to arrive at the airport with plenty of time for unforseen circumstances.  

Keep your chargers handy

Mist airports have charging stations in the terminal waiting areas. When you find yourself waiting between flights, charge your phone and devices. If you have a long flight, make sure you have a portable charger handy so you can keep reading or watching a movie.

Have you and your family done much air travel?  What is your best tips for first time family flyers?  I’d love to hear!

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