Checking In

While almost all airlines require a look at the passengers when you are checking in, your whole family does not need to stand in line. We put the suitcases down near the check-in counter and then appoint one parent to stand in line while the other sits nearby with the kids. At the moment I get to the counter, the rest of the family slides up. It works for us.

The lines for economy class are always much, much longer than for business class. Sometimes folks have been cooperative and allowed us to check-in at the shorter line. Usually not, but it can save a lot of stress if it works. You must believe that the airline staff are your allies, ‘cause they usually are. You want a peaceful flight for your own sanity, they want a peaceful flight for the other customers. Not everyone has the same willingness to be helpful, but do try and enlist the airline folks as helpers (most really will, I've seen it). It's amazing what a difference a smile and a good attitude can make.

Have everything you'll need to check in handy. We use a large manila envelope with a string closure, which allows me to open and close it many times. We label the envelope “Boarding” and stuff the tickets, passports and frequent flyer club ID cards inside. That way everything we need for check in is handy.

Most airlines will do it automatically, but if not be sure to request that your luggage be checked through to your final destination and that you get boarding passes and seat assignments all the way through as well. This saves you from joining another line at the next airport if you have to change planes.

More and more airlines will now allow you to check-in online. Especially if you have kids, this can be a lifesaver. Most airlines will let you check in exactly 24 hours before your flight. You don't have to go overboard with it, but it's good to check in as close to that time as possible to have the widest selection of seats. Even if you're checking bags, you can frequently check in online. When you get to the airport, you can either take your bags to a skycap (it's usually worth the $2) or go to a special line just to check your bags.

If you want to find places to park your car during your trip, check out this guide to airport parking.

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