Getting through the airport formalities with kids is the hardest, most draining part of travel from my expereince. If you get the jitters from the check-in queues, break in a cold sweat from the thought of getting all the kids and hand luggage through security check then here are some tried and tested ways to make it easier.
When you do “have your hands full” it’s best to be prepared for a trip with the kids.
Preparation, preparation, preparation
Then on the day, hopefully, things will flow easier. Here are my tricks that have worked time and again for passing through an airport at each step with least glitches:
BC (before kids) I was the one arriving to the airport lastminute, just in time to dash through the airport and slot in my seat puffing. Now, I try to leave ample time and factor in all sorts of mishaps, toilet breaks, tantrums, the need to run around a little.
Have fun in the queues!
Argh! The most boring thing ever about airports: Queuing!…again and again. I hate it, the kids hate it. As a kid you look at the same backside forever. We all need distracting from this fact and not by a misbehaving child.
1, At the check in queue
Explain the process to the little ones. Talk about the plane, the seating, what your crew are probably doing at that point (…getting their briefing or flying in from somewhere), where the luggage goes and so on. Explain each of the steps you are going to go through at the airport and why. (This is where a map or a scavenger hunt can come in handy.)
2, At the immigration queue
Carry on discussing the process and play games like I spy, finish the sentence and others. I often have story cubes in my pocket or handbag and whip out one for inspiration for something to talk about.
3, At the security queue
Have the kids help you with handing up their own bags.
The kids need to pass through on their own- make a big deal, cheer them on, that they are like adults, walking slowly through. I tend to go last.
Ask them to sit on the chairs provided or on the floor while you put all the things back into the bag. Have them help you put things back into their own bags, put on shoes and sweaters.
This is perhaps the most stressful part…try to relax and not get flustered from unpacking, undressing, repacking, redressing.
If all else fails have some smarties at hand!
4. In the lounge
Once through security, check where your boarding gate is and how long getting there is likely to take… Add at least another 10 minutes for a tantrum, toilet break, distraction looking at shops, etc.
… take the opportunity (if you have time) for a toilet break. I use the disabled toilets and ask all the kids to try to go. I always have to plead with Angelina, who hates public toilets. Usually I leave her last and by then she has conjured up inspiration for relief.
Playtime….this is also the time to let them run around a little. (Some airports have play areas… check it out in advance if the ones you are flying from have them. London Heathrow, for example, has them at all terminals.)
Recently we’ve travelled with a microscooter for the littlest and found a quieter corridor for them to race up and down and get rid of some energy and excitement.
5. At the boarding gate take out one toy if you have 5 minutes or more.
If boarding is imminent distract them with a video clip or a short game on your phone, further word games, chatting… whatever, just not a whole Sylvanian Family. (You are bound to loose one as it comes to packing up quickly when you are called to the gate.)
6. Queueing at the boarding gate
Make sure all luggage- trunkis- and transport gear- scooters or buggies- are ready to be carried on. Shoulder straps attached to the bags, buggies folded, scooters dissembled and so on. This is the time you are most distracted so make sure kids are holding onto each other. This is also the time, as the plane is in sight and excitement mounts, that mine fight the most and we have rolling eyes around us from those travelling without kids. They are thinking:
Oh I hope they aren’t sitting behind me/beside me/ anywhere near me!
…We usually are and then get compliments at the end of the flight on how amazingly good the kids have been and how well I’m doing despite having “my hand full”.
Have I missed anything? What are your tips for saving your sanity at the airport?