Tips to survive airports with children

During the festive season, people travel to all corners of the earth to spend their Christmas with family and friends. With transport at an all time high the closer it get to Christmas, airports are packed to capacity and the crowds, delayed flights and stress of travelling with young children can be tough.

by Colleen Reid, Mindful Mum, 21st November 2011

So for those families leaving on a jet plane with little ones, we’ve compiled some of our top tips to ensure your day in the airport is stress free, calm and fun.

  1. Know the guidelines
  2. Leave in plenty of time
  3. Think carefully about carry on luggage
  4. Bring along a baby sling
  5. Give everyone an itinerary and contact numbers
  6. Arrange a meeting point
  7. Wrap tiny presents
  8. Dress in pyjamas for overnight flights
  9. Explain what to expect
  10. Healthy snacks and plenty of fluids

Know the guidelines

Before leaving to catch your flight, know the guidelines for your airline inside out. No two airlines are the same and the last thing you need to know once you’re in the airport is that your child needs their own car seat and yours is at home! From when you can fly when pregnant to formula milk restrictions, you’ll save yourself plenty of time and stress if you arrive prepared and know what to expect.

Leave in plenty of time

When traveling with children, leaving early is always the best option. Getting to the airport in plenty of time is important for keeping the rest of your time there calm and stress free. Keep this in mind when planning connecting flights and transfers. Although selecting a connecting flight with four hours in between with three kids under 5 to entertain sounds like a nightmare, imagine getting those same kids to the other side of an airport with no buggies in 20 minutes flat. Now that is a nightmare. Plan carefully. If you’re unsure if you’ll have far to run with babies for your next flight or to catch your transfer before it leaves, phone ahead and ask.

Think carefully about carry on luggage

Carry on luggage is a debatable topic with mums. Some love the idea of their little ones taking responsibility of their own belongings as a distraction tool for the flight but others have experiences of little back packs not making it through security, tantrums at having to carry them, crayons and balls rolling up and down the plane aisle and lost belongings. Pull along baggage such as Trunki’s might seem like a great idea as little legs can sit and be pulled along but the reality is, little clingy tots want to be carried in new places and short of tying Trunki leads to your belt loops, you’ll have your hands full keeping them all together. Opt for very small, light backpacks for older children, 3-5 years and only pack them with lightweight activities to keep them occupied.

Bring along a baby sling

All strollers and pushchairs need to be screened at security and children, no matter what age, need to walk through the metal detectors, even if they’re sleeping. Especially for night flights, bring along a cloth baby sling to keep little ones sleeping through the security process. It’ll keep your hands free for luggage and other items after you’ve checked in your stroller.

Give everyone an itinerary and contact numbers

Print off enough copies of phone numbers, flight numbers, gates and times for all of the family. If your five year old goes wandering and lands with a member of airport staff, a quick search through the bag and they will have all the details they need to reunite you two back together. Think about dressing your children in similar bright colours, like a purple t-shirt, to make sure they’re easy to spot in crowds in case of emergency.

Arrange a meeting point

Arrange a meeting point that’s easy to spot and easy to find for everyone (Think favourite food or shopping concession!). All children should know where it is and what to do when they get there if they get lost, i.e. not to talk to strangers, to find the shop assistant and wait with them.

Wrap tiny presents

Distraction has been a key tool of parenting since the beginning of time. Distract your child to avoid tantrums, restlessness and boredom. When in the airport, or on the flight, give your little one a small wrapped present to open at different times of the journey. Gifts such as colouring books, dried fruits, small toys or paperback books make good gifts. This will make little ones feel special and easily distract them to keep them occupied through long waits and scary turbulence.

Dress in pyjamas for overnight flights

Dressing appropriately for long waits in airports or flights is important for little ones so they remain comfortable. For overnight flights, dress your children in their pyjamas. By sticking to their bedtime routines as much as possible, including pyjamas and ‘bedtime’ stories, they’re more likely to drift off despite the excitement of going on a plane.

Explain what to expect

Flying can be scary for some adult first time flyers, never mind children! Before setting off, sit down and explain all of the processes to them. Explain why you are packing them a carry on bag, what happens in security, what the scanners are for and why they have to wait until the plane is ready. Be as creative as you like but make sure you can remind them why their beloved teddy has to go through a big scary machine when they are starting to have a meltdown. This is the perfect time to explain what a meeting point is and talk to them about why not to talk to strangers.

Healthy snacks and plenty of fluids

Find out about what you can take through in hand luggage food and drink wise before leaving. Airlines have differing policies on if they can heat milk, if you can take your own or if you can buy some on board. Find out if you can take snacks from home like raisins along with you. If you can’t, find out what shops are available to make healthy choices. Giving in to chocolate and sugary snacks will only spell big problems later on with hyperactivity and then the obvious sugar come down that will see screaming, crying and tiredness coming your way. Picking healthy snacks and making sure everyone is hydrated will keep sugar levels steady for a calm trip.

Remember, your attitude as Mum and Dad will set the mood for the whole trip. If you’re stressed, your children will be to be so keep calm and enjoy stress free travel.

Source: Eli Duke @Flickr

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