Flying with little ones can result in some serious nervous-sweats and anxiousness long before takeoff. Considering that waiting at the airport as a solo adult traveller can be stressful enough, adding children and babies into the mix can definitely complicate matters.
No one wants a meltdown in the middle of a busy airport, let alone exhausted parents.
Thankfully, with a little planning and some helpful tips, dragging your kids to and through the airport doesn't have to be the worst thing ever — dare I say, it can even be fun?
Before you head off for the friendly skies with your family, check out these 18 hacks for kicking-butt at the airport.
1. Get pre-check for the entire family
Children are not known for being patient individuals, so waiting in a long line surrounded by strangers is one of the most stressful aspects of travelling with young ones. Getting TSA pre-check will save you valuable time and lessen the chances of an epic freakout.
2. Carry only backpacks
I know you want to show off your amazing Scrunchie bag, but backpacks are definitely the way to go when travelling. Besides the fact that it'll make going down the plane aisle so much easier, backpacks give you a hands-free experience in the airport, so you can chase after your kid without abandoning your stuff.
3. Bring the car seat on wheels
Since you can bring a car seat on the plane, it's worth investing in a rolling-rack that it can rest on, essentially doubling as a stroller in the airport. Mind blown!
4. Bring all the snacks
Sure, they sell food at the airport, but if your kid is anything like mine, they're going to want snacks that are comforting and familiar. A well-fed baby and child reduces the risk of a hangry kid who wants to scream at the ticket counter.
5. Have small new presents to unwrap
Well before your flight go to the Dollar Store, or grab some forgotten about toys and wrap them individually. These fun little presents are perfect to pull out in times of emergency. Task them with unwrap them, and once they are done, they'll have something new to play with.
6. Bring gel-clings to decorate the airport windows
Gel-clings are an easy and cheap way to keep little ones entertained at the airport, and with those giant windows overlooking the tarmac, you'll have plenty of space to temporarily decorate.
7. Bring the stroller that can be gate checked
Running around an airport can be pretty exhausting, so having a stroller nearby can help give both children and you a much needed rest is really a must. Just make sure your travel stroller is TSA-approved to be checked at the gate.
8. Know the rules about bringing breastmilk and formula
No mother who has spent hours of her life pumping breastmilk wants to see it get tossed at security. Know the rules around bringing liquids and breastmilk on the flight ahead of time and, if needed, have the list ready to be pulled up on your phone.
9. Ask if there is a family line at security
Some airports have special lines for those travelling with families to expedite getting through security. It's worth checking if your airport has this.
10. Carefully schedule the time of your flight
If your child is a good sleeper, you might want to consider a red-eye or scheduling the flight during nap time. If your children sleep on the plane, it will give you a chance to relax as well, making everyone happier once you land.
11. Keep their clothing simple
Even though young children don't have to remove shoes or light jackets when going through airport security, make sure their clothing is easy to get on and off. Spills and accidents, especially with children near the age of potty-training, can happen and you don't want to be cursing at a difficult toggle-button as you're trying to get them dry.
12. Bring more for them than you think you need
Accidents happen, and even if you think you've packed everything you could possibly need, pack a little more. If your flight gets delayed, it's better to be over prepared than under.
13. Keep what they need easy to reach
Just like you should make sure your wallet and passport are easy to reach, your children's toys and other necessities should be easy to locate. When a baby is screaming in the security line, it'll be a lot better if you know where their special lovey is being housed.
14. Know the rules ahead of time
When planning your airport experience, know what your airline, TSA, and airport allow in terms of accommodations, things you can bring on, and whether or not they let families board first. This will save you time and a potential headache down the line.
15. Check your bags
Whether you're willing to pay the exorbitant fees to check the bags in the airport, or if you volunteer your bags at the gate, it's worth it to not have to negotiate car seats, strollers, children, backpacks, and suitcases down that narrow aisle of a plane.
16. Think of no-mess activities
Sure, maybe your kid is a mini-Picasso, but the airport is probably not the time to bust out the paints. Think of low mess activities like books, blocks, dolls, and trains to keep them entertained.
17. Give yourself more time than you think you need
Pre-child I was a fan of planning for as little airport-time as possible. While this worked for me then, with a kid it's always better to give yourself more time than you think you'll need. There is nothing in life that goes as smoothly as you're hoping when you have a kid.
18. Check your airports for the family stations
Many airports have nursing stations and family rest-stations. See if your airport has them and know where they're located, especially if you need to pump at the airport instead of scheduling it for the plane.