To carry on or not to carry on when flying with kids? That is the question. The truth is, there is no one answer that will work for every family. Here are six factors to consider when planning air travel with little ones in tow.
- Carry on: Avoid lost luggage. In reality, airlines do an increasingly good job of getting bags to their final destination, but that’s no consolation when yours goes missing. It’s particularly frustrating when your itinerary makes you a moving target — a cruise, say, or a multi-destination tour — so that being reunited with your luggage before you get home is almost impossible. Add to that the cost of replacing items you need now at resort prices for all the members of your family, and you have a recipe for an annoying and expensive vacation.
- Carry on: quicker transfers, especially on international travel. Yes, running from one gate to another encumbered by a wheelie bag isn’t fun, but it sure beats just barely making your flight only to discover your bags didn’t. And, if your first point of entry in the United States from overseas isn’t your final destination, you have to wait for your luggage at the carousel, then recheck it for your next flight — a time-consuming and stress-filled process if your connection is tight.
- Carry on: Most airlines will let you bring one checked bag for free on international and long-haul routes, but double check before you book and make sure not to go over the weight allowance, as overweight charges can be hefty. Domestic carriers, on the other hand, have become draconian about charging fees, even for one bag, so know before you go. Even a $35 fee per bag adds up for a family of five traveling round-trip.
- Check that bag: We trained our three children to carry their own wheelies practically from the time they could walk. What I failed to realize until the first time I traveled alone with them; however, was I would be the one placing the carry-ons on and off the security conveyer belt and in and out of the overhead bin by myself until they were tall enough to lift their own. Not only did the people behind me in line not help, but they were barely polite about having to wait a few extra minutes for me to complete my heavy lifting. Oh well.
- Check that bag: Space restrictions when limiting yourself to one carry-on per person are obvious — your favorite shoes are among the first to go — but the need to cram your tiny liquids into a quart-sized bag can be a real hassle, as well. Special shampoos, enough sunscreen and insect repellent to last a whole week and even that bottle of wine Mom and Dad wanted to bring home won’t make the cut in a carry-on.
- Check that bag: If you’re flying on an airline that boards in groups, be aware overhead space often runs out before the later boarding groups. There are few travel-related indignities more annoying that having to gate-check your regulation-sized bag, even after you left those shoes, sunscreen and wine at home.
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