Tips for Flying through Birmingham’s Shuttlesworth Airport

If you’re gearing up for holiday or vacation travel, here are some essential Birmingham Mom tips for flying through our Shuttlesworth International Airport. We’re lucky to have an airport that connects us to the world but is completely manageable in size and layout.

Parking Option A: Curbside Service. Air Valet is a traveling mom’s lifesaver! Instead of pulling into the parking deck and winding around ramps to find a vacant spot, you can drive up to the Air Valet station at the end of the passenger drop-off lane. They will take your car and park it in their lot, setting you on your way with hardly a backward glance.

The charge is $13.95 per day, an easy call when regular long-term parking is $12 per day. Now you can pull out your strollers and luggage and plod over to baggage claim with the parking hurdle handled. If you really want the treatment, have them clean your car while you’re gone.

Program Air Valet’s number(205-599-9036) into your phone as soon as you leave your car with them. On your return flight, call them up as soon as your plane taxis to the bay and that seat belt sign goes off. Air Valet will have your car waiting for you at its kiosk. No remembering where you parked! A valet to assist you with loading your gear into the trunk! And if it’s cold, there’s nothing like the luxury of having the first crank and warm-up already done. Have $1 per bag ready to tip, plus extra if weather is inclement.

Parking Option B: Deck. If you decide to park in the deck’s long-term parking, Section C (yellow) is your safest bet, especially if you’re flying Soutwest, Delta, or United. Since you’ll most likely have rolling luggage or strollers, skip the 3rd level crosswalk as there are still 10 or so steps to maneuver. Instead, go all the way down to the first floor and cross at street level, then go back up to check-in via the inside elevator. There is an elevator near the center of the main terminal entrance and it is right next to a restroom.

If you’re flying American, Continental, or US Airways, you can also park in Section B (Green) and cross over to an elevator and restrooms that are a bit nearer to those airlines.

(Of course, you could take the cross walk and check in using the sky cap service. However, those 10 steps in the cross walk are a big price to pay, whether you are carrying kids and luggage or they are rolling their own suitcases behind them. The only time the crosswalk is advised is if you’re all carrying on your luggage and can go straight through check-in and security.)

Leave your parking deck ticket tucked above your visor in the car so you don’t have any chance of losing it on your trip. Be sure to grab a card near the elevator which is color-coded and shows your parking section. Your parking section is also good information to program into your phone right away.

Food: It’s best to eat before you arrive, because there aren’t many dining options and hours are limited. However, Charley’s Steakery is good for breakfast and there is Golden Rule or Pizza Hut Express for a lunchtime meal. Sadly, there is no Starbucks, but if you do grab a latte on your way in, you’ll have to finish it before going through security.

The price of bottled water at any airport is outrageous, though it will be easier to purchase and handle once you’re on the concourse. If you’re traveling with a baby, don’t worry about being THAT PERSON who brought the screaming kid on board as it only adds to your anxiety. Most of us have dealt with seat mates who are more annoying than a crying baby.

With a little preparation, the trip from the airport to home can be a pleasant return instead of a bitter – and exhausting – end.