I’ve had some questions come out about our travel plans. In the last post I mentioned that we’re driving two hours even though we have an airport practically in our backyard. Why would I do that? The simple answer is it’s a huge cost savings.
We live in the Cleveland area and flying through Cleveland Hopkins International Aiport (CLE) is really easy, but unfortunately, we don’t get the best deals all of the time. While Frontier has been known to offer fantastic deals ($19, $20, $29 each way fares and some higher but still very much value fares) I can’t fly to Disney with as a family of four for a week once I include the price of the seat and bags for the same price that I can fly on Southwest Airlines. I do dream one day of taking advantage of Frontier’s ultra-low fares and taking a quick trip with a backpack stuffed full.
But that’s a dream… back to reality.
We fly Southwest for a variety of reasons.
- They were highly recommended when planning our first trip and did not disappoint whatsoever. Even when we were the second to last group of passengers to board a flight they weren’t going to our children sit apart from us. (Though the family had to split up.)
- The price was right and the flight (there) was direct and had an early arrival time.
- Bags fly free! Duh. The first time I went I had a toddler in diapers! Toddlers automatically mean extra packing. In general, kids mean extra packing. And we were going to Disney. All I was thinking is hot Florida = sweat. Wet swimwear. Food accidents. We’ll talk about packing some more soon.
While Southwest has become our preferred airline, in recent years also had good experiences with Delta while traveling with the kids and Frontier for an adults only trip. Ultimately we are looking for the best value and flight schedule for our trip. Southwest has been the winner each time for our trips to Disney.
How Far We’ll Go
Saving money is good, but the savings has to be worth the time and effort. Plus we need to consider the additional cost that gas and even a rental might take away from that savings. Two hours is basically the limit. That puts us in Columbus, Pittsburgh, or Detroit. There’s a slim possibility of flying out of a smaller airport like Akron/Canton.
We flew in and out of John Glenn International Airport in Columbus (CMH) last year saving over $500 after paying for parking. We used an airport parking lot and shuttled over to the airport. One of the kids left something in the car and luckily we had a lot of time so the shuttle driver drove us right back get it. When we returned the car it had a dead battery and the parking staff jumped the car at no charge. We aren’t pros at airport parking by any means but were very pleased with the pleasantness and service available at CMH!
This year, we have a perfectly timed 9AM flight out of CLE. Grumpy is happy to not be dragged out of bed before dawn and I’m happy to arrive early enough to enjoy some time at Magic Kingdom on our arrival day. Flying back though we are heading through Pittsburg and figuring in a rental car still saves around $400.
Navigating the Airports
My kids have become great air travelers over the years. Diva took her first flight at just 8 months old and Peanut had just turned 3 prior the flight. I found this TSA Kids video on YouTube and my kids have watched it before every flight we’ve taken since then. It’s very well done and really got the message about security screenings to them. Peanut’s Blanket still goes everywhere with him. We were afraid that would be an issue letting of it at the checkpoints but he picked up his own bin (he still does this) and dropped Blanket right in. TSA success! If you are flying with kids under five watch the video!!
Although it’s not required we always have identification with us for the kids. They both have a valid passport. (Peanut just renewed his and no longer has the most adorable baby passport ever. –>) TSA’s website confirms no official requirement to produce an ID for a child under 18 but does suggest checking with the airline to confirm their rules. While a passport is expensive there are alternatives. Most states offer child ID cards at a reasonable cost. Personally, I feel safer with the photo ID.
We do not take strollers in through the airport. Well, we did it on the first flight but never wanted to do it again. It’s not incredibly hard, but it’s not fun either. By the time we flew to Disney both kids were capable of walking in the airport. That’s exactly what we had them do. Grumpy did have to carry Diva when we had a connecting flight that we were literally racing to make it aboard. Outside of that single instance, the kids are responsible for their suitcases while we manage our own carry-ons.
We always arrive at the suggested two hours before departure. It gives us time to navigate security, hopefully grab a snack, and take at least one potty break before boarding in hopes that we don’t have to squeeze inside the tiny airport bathroom with a kid. The airport is one of few places that the kids seem to have little trouble with waiting. There’s so much going on. They are constantly gazing at moving aircraft and giving reports as to arriving and departing plans.
Orlando International Aiport (MCO)
Our flights arrive at Orlando’s main airport, MCO. It’s so fun to be greeted by Mickey upon arrival!
May this year they’ll give a good picture with both of them looking and neither touching Mickey’s nose!
MCO is much larger than the kids are used to and it’s fun for them to take the tram through terminals.
Once the tram drops us off we’re finally on our way to the Magical Express.
That’s our path to Disney! Tell me about your path!