Even the savviest travelers need to make adjustments once they become traveling dads! Traveling with kids often means learning a whole new set of rules. At the very least, it means higher costs and added stress at the airport. For traveling dads, not all frequent flyer programs are created equal. Here are some of the more family friendly airline policies out there.
Free Checked Stroller or Car Seat (or both!) – All airlines
Checked bag fees are all the rage these days. Still, airlines try to be family friendly when it comes to items like strollers and car seats. Every airline will allow you to gate check a stroller for free. Most airlines allow you to check both a car seat and a stroller in as luggage for free. For a comprehensive list of policies see my old post from 2015 here.
Traveling dad tip: a lot of times you can sneak extra items into a car seat bag for a little bit of extra storage!
Free Checked Bags – Southwest
When you travel with kids, especially young ones, it’s almost impossible not to check a bag. We managed until we had our second, since then we’ve always had to check at least one bag (though often used the carseat tip above!)
Only one airline still truly allows free checked bags: Southwest. Still, it’s possible to get a free checked bag with lots of co-branded airline credit cards. AA, Delta, Jetblue, United – pretty much every annual fee airline card offers at least one free checked bag. For some families that fly the same airline over and over, that makes the $95/year worth it. (For others, these general travel credit cards might work better). Decide what works best for you.
Family Pooling of Miles for Free – Jetblue, British Airways, and Etihad
The majority of frequent flyer programs hold the policy that you can only transfer miles to another member for a free. Jetblue and British Airways, on the other hand, have a very family friendly policy. Both allow the free pooling of miles between family members (called Family Pooling for Jetblue and Household Accounts for British Airways).
One of the most cited reasons for not using frequent flyer miles is not having enough miles to take a trip. Family Pooling solves that. You may not earn enough miles to take the whole family on a trip, but you might have enough to send mom to see her sister or for an emergency trip. Let’s say your family of four earns 5,000 miles per person on a trip. Instead of having four separate buckets of 5,000 miles (useless), you can use your 20,000 miles together all at once.
The best part? The programs are free! Family friendly frequent flying at its best. Remember that British Airways miles can be used for American Airlines flights. It often cost less miles than using AA miles, a topic worth of its own post.
Fee Free Award Cancellations – Southwest and Alaska (60 days)
Every dad knows that plans change all the time, especially with kids. Savvy travelers also know that all airlines are required by law to allow you to cancel a reservation within 24 hours for free. But two frequent flyer programs rise above the rest by allowing you to cancel award tickets for free!
The first, Alaska, allows you to cancel for free as long as you cancel more than 60 days before your travel date. After that it’ll cost you $125.
Southwest, however, takes the cake when it comes to family friendly policies. As long as you cancel a Southwest reservation anytime before 24 hours from travel, there are no change or cancellation fees! You can change to a different flight or you can outright cancel. You won’t get your cash back, but you will receive a credit for future travel. Better yet, this applies to both paid and award travel.
For more information on Southwest’s policy, check out fellow Traveling Dad Points with a Crew’s post here.
Pre-boarding for Families – More airlines than I thought!
Pre-boarding for families looked to be going the way of the dodo bird, but a lot of airlines have chosen to remain family friendly. Even United just did an about face on their policies earlier this year.
For some airlines, you have to ask, for others, families will automatically be called. While sometimes we skip pre-boarding (the kids will be spending enough time on the plane!), it’s a great option to have. See the major US airline policies here.
While I wouldn’t go so far as to say airlines are catering to families, credit must be given where it is due. Airlines are doing a better job of being family friendly and that can really help relieve stress in family travel. Know what is available and take advantage of everything the airlines give you as you plan travel for your family.
Did I miss any great family friendly policies? Let me know in the comments and happy flying!
All photos courtesy of author