Today’s post comes from Ross Loehr, a traveling father of two.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Besides being a quote from the famous Charles Dickens novel, it often sums up the travel experience with children in tow. When flying with kids you hope to use JUST the first half of the quote to describe your experience. Southwest Airlines does this for families in multiple ways and I’ll share my top 7.
Companion Pass and Earning Points
This awesome benefit allows you to book Buy One, Get One flights with a travel partner for 2 calendar years. Once you earn the pass, you can book a flight with points (plus taxes and fees starting at $5.60 each way) and then add your companion at no charge besides the taxes and fees. The companion pass can be achieved by earning 110,000 Rapid Rewards points in a calendar year.
(SEE ALSO: This is why the Southwest Companion pass is worthless (for me))
Once you reach this goal, you are eligible for BOGO flights for the remainder of the calendar year in which you earned the pass, as well as the entire following year. The quickest way for most people is to apply for both a Southwest Business and Personal credit card when the sign-up bonus for each is at least 50k miles since these sign-up bonuses will count towards the 110k milestone. The bonus generally reaches 60k points a few times a year, so it pays to keep an eye out for this offer as well. If you hit the 110k threshold, you are looking at a travel credit of approximately $1,650 (Rapid Rewards points are worth about 1.5 cents each). Using these points in conjunction with the companion pass will equate to approximately $3300 in fare savings. If you don’t qualify for a Southwest business card, it is still worth signing up for a personal version of the Chase Southwest credit card to earn $700 or more in Southwest credit. This will cut down on the cost of family flying in a big way.
Easy to Book Using Points
The Rapid Rewards website is easy to use after a few minutes of navigation. The Low Fare Calendar by month does a great job of showing the range of prices which can cut down on search times. Once you find your flight, you don’t have to worry about availability. Every flight on Southwest can be booked with Rapid Rewards Points with no restrictions. Also, you can book reservations worry free knowing that if your plans change it’s not a big deal because…
This is one of my all-time favorite airline policies. When booking with points, you can cancel your flight up to 10 minutes before departure for no fee. All the points will go right back into your account. For paid fares, Business Select and Anytime fares are fully changeable or refundable. Wanna Get Away fares may be cancelled for a credit that can be used at any time for one year from issue date. You never know if the kids will get sick or plans will change, and Southwest gives you maximum flexibility to adjust your flights easily without hefty fees if this happens. The policy also allows you to lock in fares and if the price of your trip drops you can cancel and rebook your reservation and be refunded the difference.
Two Free Checked Bags
This is unheard of nowadays. As a parent packing toys, clothes, snacks and other toddler gear, it is nice to know that you won’t have baggage charges piling up with Southwest.
(SEE ALSO: 6 packing mistakes people make – don’t let this happen to you!)
(SEE ALSO: 5 packing tips for a surprise vacation)
With Southwest flights you can check in 24 hours prior to takeoff and it pays to do so as soon as possible to get the best boarding position. However, when you travel with a child under 6, two adults can board with the child and any other siblings after Group A. This means about 60 people are ahead of you, but your family will almost certainly get a full row to yourselves and at worst will insure that the child can sit with one of the parents.
Most airlines provide 29-33 inches of pitch in economy and the average width is somewhere around 17 inches. Southwest is on the higher end with pitch in the 31-33-inch range and is right at the average for its seat width. The extra pitch is beneficial for parents as it helps when you are holding an infant in your lap or digging for a snack or coloring book from your carry-on bag under the seat in front of you.
The free live TV and radio are a nice touch. While you do have to bring your own device, this is generally easier for smaller children anyway. Wi-Fi can be added for $8 and movies for $5 so there are plenty of options to keep the crew occupied.
The next time you are traveling with the family and want the overall travel experience to set the stage for your trip to be “the best of times,” make sure you look to book with Southwest Airlines! Leave a comment and let me know what your favorite airline is for family travel.
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Never let your child fly unaccompanied with them, though. I watched incredulously a few months ago as they completely seemed to forget about an unaccompanied boy when the plane had to return to the gate and we all had to exit. I even reminded the flight attendant that he was alone (it was apparent they had no clue because they kept giving instructions to the lady seated next to him, as if she were in charge !!). Still, he went on his own back to the waiting area and wandered around a bit until I again had to point out the issue. Nightmare scenario for most parents and really shameful.