When booking a cross country or international flight it can be very tempting to book a connecting flight due to it usually being cheaper. If flying alone it’s something I consider depending on how large the savings are but when flying with kids unless flying non-stop will seriously break the bank I avoid connecting flights like the plague!! Here’s why:
3 Reasons to Avoid Connecting Flights With Kids
You Only Have to Board/Get Settled Once
In my opinion getting on the plane is the hardest part! You’ve lugged all your crap, got settled, your kids are entertained, behaving themselves, or even fast asleep. Things are going so smoothly but now it’s time to land because you have a connecting flight. Now you have to clean up, get all your stuff organized, God forbid wake the kids up from their sleep and then make your way to another gate to start over and hope they fall back asleep. Boarding and deboarding is my least favorite aspect of flying with kids so I try to limit this to only once.
Avoid Going Through Customs Twice
If you are flying international with a layover in a foreign country you will have to go through customs in the first country you land in and then again in the country of your final destination. Remember you will have to collect your bags* (strollers, car seats, etc. included) and get them to where your airline rechecks them which could be close to customs but it could not. If you are flying alone with your child and had help from the person who dropped you off to the airport they won’t be around to help you now so you will be responsible for all of your belongings.
*Countries apart of the EU has different rules
Avoid Getting Stuck In Your Layover City
If your 1st flight gets delayed you could miss your connecting flight. If it was the last flight of the night you could be stuck in that city. Depending on the reason for your delay the airline may or may not provide a hotel for you. If they don’t, your options are to sleep at the airport or pay for a hotel on your own, one you didn’t budget for. Even if they do provide a hotel you have to leave the airport, possibly maneuver a city you are unfamiliar with and then come back in the morning and go through security all over again.
This actually happened to us when we went to Sydney. The flight was cancelled at 12:30AM and we didn’t get to our room until 3AM. Luckily I only had Kennedy who was 8 months at the time so she slept in the carrier but imagine if I had my two year old as well.
There are many instances where flying non-stop is just not feasible, some destinations just don’t even non-stop flights. If a non-stop flight is not possible here are my tips on making a layover with kids easier.
5 Tips to Survive Connecting Flight with Kids if Unavoidable
If You Can’t Do Non-Stop At Least Do Direct
This is where you don’t change planes in the layover city, some passengers just get off and new ones get on. Southwest has a lot of these types of flights.
Have Your Connection in the US If Possible
When departing from the US: Your bags will go to your connecting flight automatically and you won’t have to collect them to go through customs.
When arriving to the US: You will clear customs in the first airport you arrive from abroad. You will collect your bags here and re-check them to your final destination. You will not have to clear customs upon arrival to your final destination.
Make Sure Your Layover is Long Enough
If you do have a layover be conscious of how much time it is. A short layover like 30 minutes will not cut it with kids. This leaves no wiggle room if your 1st flight is delayed. Even if it did land on time just imagine if your connection is in SFO or ATL and your next flight is 3 terminals away. If you gate checked your car seat or stroller and/or are not sitting in the first few rows it could take 30 minutes just to get out off the plane and get your belongings.
Even if you get off the plane with your stuff in ten minutes you still have to maneuver through potential crowds at the airport. God forbid your child is so tired and won’t walk or you have to weave your stroller in and out of people to run as fast as you can to catch your plane. Even if you’re traveling with an infant and using a carrier you still can’t run as fast with the baby strapped to your chest. Believe me I tried one time when my 1st flight was delayed 2hrs and we landed 15mins before our connection was scheduled to leave.
You May Be Interested in Reading: Tips for Surviving Long Haul Flights with Kids
Be Conscious Of When Your Connection Lands
There are many connecting flights that land at 2 or 3AM and then you have to wait 2-3hrs for your next flight. As an adult I would be grumpy as hell, just imagine adding kids to that mix- avoid this scenario at all costs. If your flight does land in the middle of the night hopefully you have a Priority Pass membership so you can wait for your next flight in comfort.
Don’t Sit Still During Your Layover
Use this time to walk around with your little ones and get all of their energy out. Before flying see if your connecting airport has a kids play area and write down the location. Eat a good meal and/or buy more snacks for your second leg if you need to or anything else you realized you may have forgotten.