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Getting To & From the Airport with Children

One of the biggest logistical decisions to make when planning to travel with kids is how to get to and from the airport in your hometown.  With kids, you have the added concern about needing a carseat, and some of the transportation options don’t make that easy.  The right answer depends on a lot of variables: the cost of parking at your local airport, the number of kids you have and the amount of luggage you are bringing, the duration of your trip, and whether you need a carseat at your destination as well.  Here are the various options you may want to consider for your next trip, as well as the pros and cons of each choice:

Drive your own car & park at an airport lot:

  • Pros: You have your own car seat already installed; you can depart your home at times that are convenient to you.
  • Cons: Can be expensive (particularly for long trips and in big cities); carrying your kid and your luggage to catch a parking shuttle can be frustrating (this option works better if one spouse can drop the other at the curb with the luggage and kids while the other handles parking).

Drive your own car & park at an off-airport location:

  • Pros: You have your own car seat already installed; you can depart your home at times that are convenient to you.
  • Cons: Although a savings over an airport lot, it can still be expensive (particularly for long trips and in big cities); wait times for shuttles can be long; carrying your kid and your luggage to catch a parking shuttle can be frustrating (this option works better if one spouse can drop the other at the curb with the luggage and kids while the other handles parking).

Take an airporter or shuttle service from your home:

  • Pros: Often a better value than a taxi; being dropped curbside at the airport is logistically easier.
  • Cons: If traveling with more than 2 people, often isn’t a cost-savings over a taxi or car service; having to depart earlier than you otherwise would need to pick up other passengers; having to supply your own carseat.

Taking a taxi or car service:

  • Pros: You can depart at times that are convenient to you; being dropped curbside at the airport is logistically easier.
  • Cons: Can be expensive; most taxis don’t offer carseats (although many specialized car and limo services do if you simply do your research); taxi lines at airports on the return trip can sometimes be long at peak periods.

Public Transit:

  • Pros: Usually the cheapest option.
  • Cons: May not be convenient to your home or to the airport; may take longer if you have to make connections to get to the airport; difficult to manage a small child and luggage on many forms of public transit; may not be open in early morning or late night hours depending on your city.

Rental Car (rent a car when you arrive back home and return it at a local location near your house the next day):

  • Pros: You can easily rent a carseat; a one day rental (even with a drop fee) may be much cheaper than taxi fare in some big cities.
  • Cons: You have the added headache of returning the rental car the next day to some location near your house; waiting in (sometimes very long) car rental counter lines during peak periods.

Thanks to my friend Danielle for giving me the idea for this post and for sharing her tip about a rental car, which she has used successfully in San Francisco.

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