Why You Should Consider Boarding Your Flight Last When Traveling With Kids

Air travel isn't the luxury it once was and, for many frequent flyers, it's actually something to be endured rather than enjoyed. That can all change when you're flying with young children, who are more open to the magic and excitement and less judgemental about cramped conditions in coach, poor in-flight meals, or annoying fellow passengers. Even so, the prospect of flying with little ones is enough to raise the stress levels of even the most seasoned traveler. 

The added logistics mount up quickly; making sure you've packed enough spares, favorite toys, and snacks for the trip; the worry about losing a child while navigating a busy airport; and dealing with impromptu potty breaks at the most inconvenient moments, like when you're stuck in a long queue waiting to go through security. Of course, that's all child's play compared to what many of us fear most about flying with kids: Keeping them entertained and well-behaved on the plane. 

We've all experienced the nightmare of getting stuck near someone else's screaming toddler during a long-haul flight, and the idea of our own offspring putting other people through the same ordeal is something most of us would do anything to avoid. To reduce the chances of embarrassing meltdowns, you should definitely ask yourself whether boarding early is a good idea.

Is priority boarding a good idea with children?

Most, if not all, commercial airlines offer you the chance to upgrade to priority boarding for a few extra bucks these days. Many regular flyers suggest taking up this option for two very simple reasons. First, it allows you to stash your in-cabin luggage in the locker directly above your seat without having to fight for space later on, perhaps even in another part of the plane. 

It also vastly reduces the slim possibility that you'll get bumped from the flight if the airline needs to remove passengers for any reason (in that eventuality, they typically take off the people who boarded last). The pros and cons of priority boarding versus a last-minute dash onto the plane are even more acute when traveling with kids. Some parents reason that priority boarding, or even pre-boarding for children, gives them a chance to settle down before everyone else piles on. 

The flip side is that they can end up confined to the aircraft for 30 minutes or more before takeoff and, as any parent knows, the clock is ticking before boredom and its cousin, naughty behavior, comes calling. One clever strategy is for one grown-up, who can go ahead and stash onboard luggage, to use priority boarding before the other parent joins them later with the children.

The argument to avoid boarding with children first

Priority boarding can mean a lengthy wait before the plane taxis for takeoff, and even the coveted window seat isn't much of a distraction for kids while the plane is sitting on the runway. Keeping them occupied during this time can prove difficult, especially in such a confined space while all the other passengers are squeezing into their seats and competing for the overhead luggage bins. It can turn into a tense and angry process, which isn't the best thing for little ones to witness, especially if they are sensitive or shy about other people.

Another concern is bathroom breaks. Even if you visit the WC just before going through the gate, there is still a good chance that your child will need to go again while you're waiting to take off. Cabin crews will generally use their discretion when it comes to allowing passengers to use the onboard toilets when the plane is stationary, it isn't always possible if the aisle is crowded with dozens of people finding their seats or stowing their bags. 

This can raise the prospect of a scenario even worse than a little one having a public meltdown: An accident in their pants. So, while the airline often makes the option of pre-boarding with kids sound attractive and stress-free, it is definitely a luxury you should think twice about — especially before rushing into upgrading.