You've been talking about it for months - but finally the big day is here. You're headed to the airport! Traveling with kids can be tough - it's an exciting and nerve-racking day for parents and children. Here are a few tips to help keep the airport time as happy and fun as possible. Many of these points will seem like common sense, but study up anyway. You never know which one of these tips might relieve your stress, or save you from an unexpected tantrum.
Before you Leave
1. Pack empty water bottles
Because of the security restrictions in today's airports, you can't bring liquids through security. They do have exceptions to allow for baby formula, and even juice for toddlers, but if your children are older, they won't be able to bring through any liquids. You can always buy $4 bottles of water on the other side of the security checkpoint, but if you want to avoid that (and add a little fun into the proceedings), bring some empty water bottles and some powdered flavor mix-ins. Most are packaged to add to a 16 or 20 ounce bottle of water. Once you've passed security, find the nearest water fountain and fill those bottles up. Let the kids dump in some flavor and then (after making sure the lid is on tight), shake it up!
2. Bring special snacks
There are no such restrictions on non-liquid or gel snacks, so feel free to pack plenty. This is a good time to buy those "special" snacks, the ones they beg for at the grocery store. This helps make the trip feel special, plus even if you are shelling out more for the fancier snacks, you can be sure that they are much cheaper than the food being offered after the security check-in.
3. Give each child a bag
Each seat on the airplane is allowed a carry-on bag, so why not take advantage of that by letting each child bring a backpack or bag, filled with toys, games, or snacks? Your discretion will be required to know what is reasonable for each child to carry. Especially with smaller children, it should consist of things that could be lost without any great concern. Maybe the littlest one will just get an old backpack with a few snacks and a toy. But it is a fun way to let the kids feel like they are responsible for something, just like the adults. Here are a few items you could stash inside a kid's bag: [amazon:B001MY20X8] [amazon:1605531278] [amazon:B00X0PO6WA]
4. Get acquainted with the rules
Make sure you know about the rules that affect you and your children. The FAA and TSA have webpages with instructions, information and requirements for children of various ages. Important information includes special instructions for screening children and their items, child safety seats, and more. TSA: https://www.tsa.gov/travel/special-procedures/traveling-children FAA: http://www.faa.gov/passengers/fly_children/
As you Arrive
5. Point out interesting sights
Especially if your children have never been to the airport (or haven't been for a while), it is a wonderous place, with all sorts of interesting things happening. Be sure to direct your kids' attention to anything fun that you see. The last time we were in an airport, a young woman was bringing her cat through the security checkout. That was quite a sight!
6. Create games for waiting in line
Lines can get long and boring at the airport. Be prepared with games the kids can play while waiting in line. Have them count how many people in the line are wearing a red shirt. Have them look for words on signs that begin with each letter of the alphabet. See if they can spot any other children and guess their ages.
7. Explain the process to them beforehand
As you get close to the security areas, explain to the children what is happening, so they will be prepared. Explain that you'll have to put all your items on the conveyor belt, or that mommy and daddy have to take off their shoes but the kids don't. Tell them to watch all the people walking through the metal detector or scanner and explain that this is how to get to the airplane. Clear and understandable explanations will help to make the airport process interesting and fun, rather than strange and scary.
Waiting in the Boarding Area
8. Look for open spaces
The area near the counter and gate is generally crowded. There are often lots of chairs, and any open spaces are likely filled with impatient and restless people. Some kids can handle sitting in a small space, but it's more likely that your child will do better in open space. Luckily, most airports have good public address systems, so you can move away from the gate and still hear the pertinent updates. Look down the halls or find a side area with some nice open space, even if you have to move away from the gate. You'll be surprised how far away you can get and still hear announcements. If you are nervous about missing boarding announcements, ask the airline employees at the gate - they will be happy to let you know if their announcements are audible in that open space down the hallway. Here are some fun things you could spread out for the kids to do: [amazon:B000SZW3Y8] [amazon:B00EX5JAAO] [amazon:1589473876]
9. Expect delays
No one likes delays, but real problems can happen when you plan for one hour at the terminal, but end up there for three hours. Delays happen often enough, and for such varied reasons, that you may as well just plan on it (and be pleasantly surprised if everything happens on time). Save some snacks or activities away in your bag. Then, when the delay announcement comes, you can bring something out as a fun surprise. These mesh bags are great for keeping your bag organized: [amazon:B001CDD0X8:inline] Try to keep a positive outlook as well. If you go in expecting delays, you'll be able to react positively to them, and the kids will feed off of your positive energy.
10. Use the bathroom 10 minutes before boarding begins
This should be presented as a required thing. Don't ask if they need to go - just take a trip to the bathroom before you get on the plane. You won't regret it.
Above all, try to stay calm and enjoy yourself. Traveling with kids can be succesful and enjoyable. The old saying, "Getting there is half the fun" is almost never true, but with proper planning and attitude, hopefully getting there will be at least a bit of the fun!
Submitted by JChan on