Airlines and Airport Lounges
Experiencing a new or beloved destination is definitely a pleasure. Getting there? Isn’t always as pleasurable, though I do try to make my time in airports and on airplanes as relaxing as possible.
At this point, I’m very familiar with what amenities the airlines I fly on most often have for business or first class travelers, but when I’m flying with someone new, I like to look at what they offer and then read some reviews written by other people who’ve flown the same route. That way, I know what to expect and can adjust my expectations accordingly.
I also make a point of heading for the airport lounge instead of waiting for flights in the loud, busy terminal. It’s not just about the complimentary glass of champagne (though that’s nice, too). Whether I’m flying alone or with my daughter, it is a real blessing to be able to spend some time away from the hustle and bustle of the airport before boarding a plane.
One thing I want to mention is that some airport lounges and airlines are more child-friendly, and knowing which ones will take the best care of your kids (and of you) before you book is always a good idea.
The posts below outline some of the experiences we’ve had flying on different airlines and in different airport lounges so you can get a better idea of which ones will be a good fit for you and for your family.
Airport Lounges Aren’t Just for VIPs
Getting into most airport lounges is a matter of having a first-class or business-class ticket, but there are ways to enjoy the amenities in the lounge (which usually include wi-fi, drinks, snacks, and entertainment) without having to invest in an upgrade.
A number of domestic airlines allow passengers to buy day passes that grant lounge access, and international travelers can sometimes score lounge access via Lounge Pass. If you travel one airline frequently or you spend a lot of time in airports with alliance clubs, it can make sense to purchase an annual airline lounge membership. If not, there are third-party services like Priority Pass® that can get you into more than 1,200 airport lounges around the world.
There are also airline reward credit cards that offer lounge perks, but be sure to read the fine print so you know that you’re getting the perks you’re paying for.
What Makes an Airline Child-Friendly
Traveling with children isn’t exactly easy, but it’s also not the ordeal that some people make it out to be. With some preparation and a little practice, kids can become seasoned travelers who really enjoy flying. The excitement of the airport and of the flight itself can make a trip even more enjoyable for children because there are so many new and interesting experiences.
All airlines welcome children, of course, but not all of them have family-specific or child-specific amenities designed to make travel easier on both parents and kids. And what makes an airline child-friendly will differ depending on whether your children are infants or teens or somewhere in between, though I think we can all appreciate a track record of on time departures and arrivals.
Parents of babies should look for a smooth (and free) stroller and car seat check process and priority boarding, though I’d also suggest that when you book international flights you look for airlines that have seats facing bassinets that fold down from the bulkhead.
Some airlines offer discounted fares when you’re buying a seat for an infant or even for a child (including British Airways® and Cathay Pacific®, which gives younger fliers their own special amenities kit, too). While most don’t offer this kind of discount, it never hurts to ask.
For toddlers and older kids, look for airlines with kid-friendly food options, family-friendly mileage policies, great in-flight entertainment options that are geared toward kids, comfortable seats, and free advanced seat selection.
In all honesty, you’ll probably have the best experiences traveling as a family when you can upgrade to business class or first class. You’ll see in my airline reviews that upgrading won’t always guarantee you a luxury experience, but it will often mean your children get a bit of extra attention from the flight attendants — and that can make all of the difference.
Hitting the Airport Lounge with Kids
When it comes to child-friendliness, not all airport lounges are created equal. The best ones have special areas for kids — like play places or movie rooms — and plenty of kid-friendly snacks and drinks so parents don’t have to rush around the main concourse looking for something to fill up small stomachs.
Hub airports usually have the best and most luxurious lounges, and the most child-friendly atmospheres. Others aren’t as welcoming to families simply because the amenities are tailored to grownup travelers, but complimentary cocktails and magazines aren’t the only reasons to wait for your flight in the lounge.
Peace and quiet can be hard to find in airports, but you’ll find both here. Even though there is some disagreement out there over whether children actually belong in airport lounges at all, I think they’re a great place for families to rest and relax before a flight. In the lounge, kids can’t wander very far the way they can in a busy concourse, making it easier for parents to supervise their little ones. And for children (or parents) who are anxious about flying, the airport lounge is a quieter, less stressful environment in which to wait.
You may find that your children are more relaxed and behave better on flights when you spend your pre-flight time in the lounge versus hovering around the gate.
Need more help to get to your next travel destination with your little ones in tow? I can help. Here are my tried and true tips for flying with kids (which I’ve broken down by age group since flying with a baby is very different from flying with a big kid). Happy flying!