Travel like a pro: Get kids through the airport quickly and happily

Flying can be a stressful experience. It’s even tougher when you’re responsible for other people, especially if those people are small children. To help ease the stress of your travel day, here are a few useful tips.

Before travel

Reserve seats early

For large families or parties with small children, getting everyone together can be a challenge, so make sure you reserve your seats as soon as you book your flight. If you book through a third party or online travel agency, double-check that your seat requests are confirmed by navigating to, then clicking on the “Manage” tab on the homepage.

Read more: How to snag a better seat on the airplane.

If you don’t reserve your seats in advance, they will be assigned by a computer program, taking into account the many rules surrounding where children and infants are allowed to sit. On full flights, this can result in families being split up if they haven’t reserved their seats in advance.

If you can’t get all your seats together, try and seat one child with one parent, and choose good seats like aisles and windows so they’re easier for the gate agent to switch out to others.

This would also be a good time to order reusable tag holders for your print-at-home bag tags, so they arrive well in advance of your flight.

Link reservations

Sometimes you may book your family’s travel in more than one reservation. Linking reservations helps Alaska know that you’re not traveling alone, and can help reservation agents find travelers in separate reservations more quickly when you call. Link reservations here.

Check in 24 hours prior to flight departure

Checking in early online or via the Alaska Airlines mobile app just takes one more worry off your mind and gives you an additional opportunity to sort out any last-minute seating issues. You can also pre-order meals up to 12 hours before your flight – everyone plans to bring snacks for the kiddos, but in the hustle and bustle right before you leave the house, it’s easy to forget things.

Involve children in the process—maybe they can be responsible for their own carry-on bags, or help fold and attach your pre-printed checked luggage tags. This helps them be invested in the travel process.

If you’re traveling with a child under two, called a “lap infant,” make sure you enter that information at check-in. This small step can save you a world of trouble at the airport, because there are many restrictions on where an infant can be seated on an aircraft. And sometimes, if the flight has enough open seats, Alaska can reserve a seat for your lap infant free of charge. Most airplanes leave full these days, but occasionally you can get lucky—ask your gate agent if there are any seats to spare.

Pack age-appropriate entertainment and inflight necessities

Some adults are lucky enough to easily fall asleep on planes, and they always have electronics to keep them entertained. But kids get bored easily. It’s a good idea to bring entertainment—more than you think you need, and of different types (try this airplane busy bag!) to keep their attention engaged. Alaska offers entertainment players for rent on longer flights, and Disney-themed coloring books on all mainline flights.

Before you go: Download this printable airport scavenger hunt

The change in elevation can be hard, particularly for babies. There are a variety of ways to help this: a bottle or breastfeeding for the baby during takeoff and landing, earplugs or gum for bigger kids.

On the day of travel

Wear security-friendly attire

You want to be comfortable on the plane, and you also want to make it as easy as possible to get through the TSA checkpoint. Avoid metal, outerwear with lots of buttons, or other items that would slow you down at the checkpoint. Slip-on shoes are your friends!

Helpful reminder: kids under 12, as well as seniors, can leave their shoes and light jacket on when going through security screening. Some airports offer family lines at security checkpoints.

Additionally, children 12 and under can use the TSA Precheck line when traveling with a parent who has a TSA Precheck indicator on their boarding pass.

Arrive at the airport early

Summertime, school breaks and holidays are notoriously busy times at airports – and unfortunately, they happen to be some of the easiest times for families to travel. Lobbies are more crowded and security lines are longer. It’s always stressful to arrive at the airport with what you thought was enough time, only to get caught up in long queues and end up missing your flight. It’s even worse when traveling with children.

Alaska recommends arriving at the airport two hours prior to departure for domestic flights, and three hours for international flights. Take your time through the airport and save yourself some stress.

Check your child’s equipment

Alaska Airlines allows you to check strollers and car seats at no charge. Take advantage by checking these items at the ticket counter so you don’t have to lug them to the gate.

If you’ve arrived early and would like to use your stroller at the airport, you can wait to check it at your departure gate and ask for it to be brought up to the aircraft door upon arrival. Alaska also recommends that your child use an approved car seat on board the aircraft—see this car Seats page for more information.

What are your favorite tips for traveling with family?


  1. I have a 9 year old and a 11 year do they need Washington state IDs going to California? My 11 year old needs to bring his Claritin his epi pen and Benadryl what is the best way to carry all this? Can I bring his nebulizer?

    1. Hi Prudencia. Have you reached out to Customer Care? They are best equipped to answer your questions. Just call 1-800-654-5669.

  2. Welllll….. It’s happened a few times most recently last month. Where we had a multi-leg trip all set with our 3-year old granddaughter in the middle seat with my wife and I on either side. All set….. Until that morning when we checked in and we were scattered all over the plane with the child by herself. The person at the desk eventually fixed it but it was very tough as the flights were completely full. They thought planes had been switched out and that might have caused it so something needs to be tweaked in the system to avoid this.

    Carrying along emergency meds like Tylenol is also a good suggestion for unexpected illnesses.

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