Managing young children in small spaces can be a challenge. Take that effort to 30,000 feet and, well, doing a little research before embarking on an air travel adventure is advised. 

According to a recent report, Best Airlines for Family Travel, issued by The Points Guy (TPG), some airlines are inherently more family friendly than others. 

Here are five factors to consider. 

Top Honors. 

TPG examined the ten largest US airlines, looking at ten different, equally weighted criteria relevant for traveling families. Southwest Airlines came out on top. 

Its coveted Southwest Companion Pass, no extra fees and family boarding policy nudged the airline to the top of TPG's picks for family travel. Its extensive – and expanding – domestic route and award program are an added bonus.

A Close Second. 

When considering seat comfort, snacks and entertainment, JetBlue offers a better onboard experience than Southwest and is consistently a top pick for families, the report determined. Its less than stellar on-time arrival ranking, important when traveling with youngsters,  bumped it down just shy of the top spot. Hawaiian Airlines received the best on-time score.

Early Boarding Matters 

 “While there's some logic to boarding young children on the aircraft at the absolute last second to minimize time on the plane, the reality is that if you need to install a car seat or ensure space for your carry-on bags, being onboard early is crucial, “ explains Summer Hull, the TPG family travel expert. United and JetBlue take TPGs top spot for early boarding, as they allow young families onboard early in the process. In fact, United enables families with children two and under to board even ahead of first class.

Seat Assignments are Key

Have you ever negotiated a seat trade with a perfect stranger so you could sit with your child? Securing seats together is a top priority and families don’t want to  pay extra for the privilege. According to the report, the top airlines in this category are JetBlue, Hawaiian and Alaska, which all include complimentary seat assignments for all tickets. 

Southwest's open seating policy is also a way to ensure prime seating, as children ages six and under can board after Group A.

Airline Loyalty Program for Families

Making the most of travel dollars and creative resources is key for families. Airline loyalty programs can make a difference. JetBlue offers the most family-friendly policies due to its "free family pooling of miles" option for all members.

For this report, TPG focused on the ten largest U.S. airlines — Southwest, JetBlue, Delta, Hawaiian, Alaska, United, American, Frontier, Spirit and Allegiant — as measured by their total number of domestic passengers.

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Published in Top Stories

Each time I embark on an air travel trip I am reminded of what an adventure it can be!

And I’m a grown-up! I marvel at the challenges faced by parents of young children today. Getting through the security check point with diaper bags, strollers, toys, snacks, gear can be daunting.

If boarding a flight with the kids is part of your travel plan, here are a few tips to help you avoid snags in the system: 

Be prepared.

Print boarding passes in advance. Confirm flight departure times. Remind older children to bring their IDs and have yours ready. Arrive at the airport with time to spare.

Remember 311.

TSA’s 3-1-1 program means:

  • Liquids, aerosols and gels must be in containers three ounces or less.
  • Items must be in a one quart, clear plastic zip-top bag.
  • Only one zip-top bag per traveler.

Don’t forget your passports.

Will you be spending time on the beach in Mexico or skiing Whistler in Canada? Don’t forget. Passports are required. 

Drink up.

It is important stay hydrated when traveling. But water bottles are not permitted through the security line. Rather than buy high-priced water bottles in the airline gate area, bring an empty bottle through security and fill up at the drinking fountain. It’s more eco-friendly too.  

Pack your snacks.

Airlines rarely serve complimentary food on board. So avoid expensive airport and onboard dining options by packing healthy and familiar food for the flight. By keeping everyone fed in a timely manner, you’ll avoid cranky kids and parents. 

Onboard entertainment.

Talk with your children about how you will spend your time on board. Then be sure to pack the books, art projects, ipods, games, headsets and other gear necessary for the flight. 

Stay informed.

The rules continue to evolve and seem to vary slightly by destination. So before you head to the airport check the TSA website for the latest updates. Resources:

Backpacks or roller bags for all.

Children like taking responsibility for their own gear. Ask everyone to carry as much as possible in their own backpack or carry –on. It’s good practice and lightens the load for the adults.

Stick together. 

Family members can get separated during the crazy process of going through crowded security lines. Let TSA representatives know you are traveling as a family if they try to steer you to apart. If you do lose sight of one another, plan to meet at a designated spot on the other side.

Be Polite.

Make sure the kids (and the grown-ups) are aware that while moving through the security line, it is not the time for jokes or silliness. An ill-timed, kooky comment ( no matter how innocent the intent ) can cause unexpected and unpleasant consequences.

International travel.

Different country, different rules. Shoes on? Shoes off? Computers out or in? Review country and airport guidelines before departure. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when moving through security in another country.

Have a great time!