Let’s face it: For families traveling with young kids, the days of breezing through the airport with only a carry-on bag are dead and gone. Even if you do manage to pack your family’s clothes in carry-on bags, there are all those extra accessories to contend with—among them, unwieldy car seats, Pack ‘N Plays and oversized strollers that have to be checked—and, of course, your kids themselves.
Enter curbside check-in—those drop, pay and go check-in areas located just outside the terminal doors. This is where you can save tons of time and hassle.
How Curbside Check-In Works
“When the airline you’re flying doesn’t have a designated family check-in line—a great perk when it’s available—curbside check-in can be a huge time saver for familiestraveling with car seats, strollers and a small village’s worth of luggage,” says Stirling Neff of , a frequent flier and mother of two.
Note that not all airlines offer curbside check-in at all airports; check the airport website in advance.
When it’s available, you’ll need to look for the curbside check-in that’s specific to the airline you’re flying. And do be aware that while most U.S. airlines don’t charge to check bags curbside (JetBlue, an exception, charges $3 per bag), tipping the skycaps (baggage handlers) is most definitely expected.
Have small bills handy and plan to tip at least $2 per bag. And while cash is what you’ll need to tip, any baggage fees at curbside check-in need to be paid with a credit card. The curbside agent can print out your boarding passes for you if you don’t have them downloaded to your phone already. That leaves you to find your way through security and out to the gate for boarding.
“Not only are lines typically shorter at curbside check-in, but it’s also literally curbside,” says Neff. “And every step counts when you’re carrying enough luggage for a small army.”
Want to make it even easier? Get dropped off right at the terminal doors when arriving at the airport, as opposed to taking a shuttle from a remote parking lot with all of your bags and kids.
If you’re driving yourself to the airport, some airports even offer the option to valet your car right at the terminal to leave it at the onsite parking lot, says Neff. “It’s a big splurge in my book, but that way your children arrive in your car with their car seats and you don’t have to deal with taking a shuttle system from your parking spot.”