Tips for Flying Domestic in the US – Virgin America and United Reviews

My great friend Sarah relocated to San Francisco from London several years ago.  She recently took several trips with her 2 young boys to Palm Springs and Fort Lauderdale.  Here are her top tips for flying domestic US:

Who:  Sarah, Chris, Oliver (3), Max (15 mths)
Where:  United Airlines San Francisco SFO – Palm Springs AND Virgin America San Francisco SFO – Fort Lauderdale

Both flights through www.expedia.com
How did you get to airport?
We drove our own car and parked at SFO long stay car park. Just in case anyone parks at long stay, in the US they are often a good few miles from the terminal so allow extra time to park and get to airport

United flight check in was terrible. The Expedia booking confirmation said Terminal 3 as the flight was operated by Delta airways but at Terminal 3 no one seemed to be able to help us or show us where to go. One policeman told us actually we needed to be in Terminal 1 even though the expedia confirmation said 3. It was one of those back and forth and because we’d booked with expedia everyone kept saying we needed to speak to them. Anyway, expedia had got it wrong so we had to run fast to Terminal 1 – just make sure you check your terminal in advance! When we eventually got there staff were rude.
Also on most internal domestic US flights you have to pay an additional $25 per bag (each way). You can check buggy and car seat in for free. However, if you are taking an internal flight but can show your international ticket and it is something like within 2 weeks of the international arrival then you don’t have to pay for bags
Virgin America check in is a much nicer experience. you still pay $25 per bag but staff are friendly, shorter queues etc.  I would definitely always try to fly domestic flights with Virgin America.
Virgin America
US tend to have a fast track lane for families with strollers and young children which helps.  They don’t make you taste anything but they take it to the side and test liquids/food pouches/yoghurts that type of thing in a machine
Domestic terminals aren’t great for food so I’d definitely always take my own with me.
Toilets/changing facilities fine.
We got priority boarding with Virgin America but not with United.
Domestic planes tend to be quite small with limited (if any) onboard entertainment and food you normally have to pay for.
As a general rule of thumb I always pack loads of food (bagels, fruit, snacks, anything to keep kids busy!) and I download entertainment onto the iPad.

For Max (15 mths) we take books with flaps to lift up which keep him busy for a bit and books, available from Amazon here
Or one where the flaps lift down and there are animals and a mirror at the back to see themselves, available from Amazon here

On internal flights they return your stroller at the Gate.
For more information on San Francisco International Airport click here
Guidelines on US Air Travel here


  1. Harrovian Mama

    Such a great blog! I recently blogged about preparing for my first solo flight with two babies http://www.samandasha2.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/flying-solo.html and how I was DESPERATE for tips. I am flying this weekend so I am so glad I found you! My husband and I used to travel all the time and continued to do so with our daughter. Now that we have two kids aged 2 and under, it involves a little more organisation.

    I just read your post about being a nervous traveller. I think since I had kids I am more nervous-afraid of something happening to them whereas before it was just me.

    Thanks so much for such a helpful blog and if you have time to head over to samandasha2.blogspot.com and leave me any more specific tips that would be great! I am worried!

    1. Nicola

      My pleasure! Where are you flying to?

      Here are some ideas on toys to take on planes


      and Jetlag tips


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