Lyn writes about Southwest for her GotoTravelGal.com blog and offers a free guide for how to earn the Southwest Companion Pass. Emily and I believe the Southwest Companion Pass is the best deal in travel, because it lets 1 person fly nearly free with you for up to 2 years.
Because she’s the mother of 2 school-age boys, I asked Lyn to share her tips on flying the airline with kids in tow!
Lyn: My family LOVES to fly Southwest. And within the US, we fly Southwest almost exclusively. Southwest is a family-friendly airline, though the inability to choose seats in advance can be a challenge when traveling with kids.
I’ve got some tips on how we manage – and how you can, too!
Tips for Flying With Kids on Southwest
Flying with kids on Southwest can be easy! Our kids, though school age, have become proficient flyers, able to board by themselves, help check-in, and stay entertained throughout the flight.
1. Save Money Before You Even Fly
One of the biggest reasons I love to fly Southwest with my family is its affordability. We fly the airline almost entirely using Southwest points – and this summer we took 8 nearly-free flights, many on Southwest!
With the Southwest Companion Pass, which you can easily earn by signing-up for 2 of the Chase Southwest credit cards to help accumulate 110,000 Southwest points in a calendar year, 1 person always flies free with you (aside from taxes and fees). So you NEVER have to use points or cash for them. This really helps stretch Southwest points!
Because Southwest frequently has sales, you can purchase tickets at lower prices, in both cash or points, which also helps save. As well as cancel and re-book if you find a lower price, because they do not charge a cancellation or change fee. Plus, they let every traveler check 2 bags free, which is helpful for families.
Here are more reasons why I love to fly Southwest.
2. Great Infant and Child Fares
Babies between 14 days old and age 2 can travel FREE with an adult, so long as they are NOT occupying a seat. You will need a Boarding Verification Document for the child, which you can get at the ticket counter on the day of travel by showing your child’s birth certificate.
You can purchase an infant or child fare to make sure your child her or his own seat, though you can only purchase these by phone. Infant fares have no restrictions and are refundable.
If your child is between ages 2 and 11, you can purchase a child fare, but your child will need to be “age verified.” To do this, bring your child’s birth certificate with you on the day of flight to check them in.
Or you can mail a copy of a valid picture ID or birth certificate proving age ahead of time to:
Southwest Airlines Customer Relations
P.O. Box 36662
Dallas, TX 75235
This option will allow your child to check-in online. Once they are “age verified,” you can check them in online going forward.
3. How to Handle Seating
The biggest gripe for families about Southwest is the inability to book your seats in advance. This can cause anxiety for parents who are worried they won’t be able to sit with their kids. Southwest assigns boarding order based on your fare type (Business Select and Anytime fares board first), elite status (they also board first), and then in the order you checked-in.
While our kids are school-age and would survive if they needed to sit alone, we have NEVER had to do that. We’ve always been able to seat 1 parent with 1 child, even when I forgot to check-in on time and we were relegated to the back of the boarding order!
If you have at least 1 child age 6 or younger, you can take advantage of Southwest Family Boarding. These families board between the A and B boarding zones, and you are allowed to have 1 adult per child board.
The key to sitting together is to check-in right at the 24-hour mark ahead of your departure time. This allows you to get the best possible boarding position, and therefore, the best seat selection.
Alternately, you can choose to purchase Early Bird Check-In for $15 per person each way, which checks you in AFTER flyers with elite status and Business or Anytime fares, but BEFORE everyone else.
We usually purchase Early Bird for my husband, who is tall and wants to have a seat to stretch his legs. He is then usually able to hold the middle seat (which is the least popular) for 1 of my sons, while my other son and I usually find a seat together toward the back of the plane.
If you forget to check-in and end up in the C (worst) boarding zone, you can sometimes upgrade to A1 through A15 at the gate for $40 per person. Look for a sign or ask the gate agent.
Here are more tips for checking-in on Southwest.
4. Entertain the Family
Southwest does a good job with entertainment for kids, though we are disappointed Cartoon Network is no longer a TV option. 🙁
Southwest offers a free entertainment network on its Wi-Fi enabled planes (here’s how to see if your plane has Wi-Fi), which you can access on your personal device. Here is the complete list of supported devices. This lets kids to watch live TV, including Disney and ESPN, or purchase movies for $5.
We use Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime at home, so our kids download movies from these services to their devices (for no additional fees!) and watch those while we are traveling.
Southwest is a great family-friendly option if you plan ahead and check-in exactly 24 hours ahead of your flight. For the best possible family flight, take advantage of:
- Fare sales
- Southwest Companion Pass
- No change or cancellation fees
- 2 free checked bags
- Free in-flight entertainment
These are also reasons I love to fly Southwest. Happy travels!