So you are flying with little ones. You’ve probably already read a hundred tips for the flight but what about the airport. Here I’ve put together six airport tips and tricks to help get the first part of your trip off to the best possible start.
As soon as your little one turns two and you need to start paying for their own seat, they also get their own hand luggage allowance. Some airlines even give this for babies travelling on your lap. Initially this sounds great. All that extra space and weight can be really useful but just remember that every item of hand luggage you take, you are going to need to cart through the entire airport whilst also managing you little one and possible a pushchair too.
Be realistic about what you can actually carry. If your child/children are going to be in a pushchair you can probably manage two wheeled carry cases and then a backpack each as a maximum. If you can travel with less, then do. Also try to organise the content of your bags. One could be changing stuff, another just heavy items you couldn’t get into your hold luggage and one should be a designated entertainment bag for easy access on the plane.
Up to two years, you can take your child’s drink through security. You may be asked to taste it and they may need to check it’s what you say it is but you don’t need to dump it like other containers of +100ml. After two, this no longer applies. However, I’d still advise taking your child’s own bottle. This can be filled after security from a water fountain and means you can easily keep your little ones hydrated.
Ideally, you don’t want to whip out your bag of flight tricks before the flight. I’ve written a post about what to pack in a toddler’s flight bag here. Try as much as you can to avoid using these things until the actual flight especially if it’s a long one. Instead try playing a few waiting games. These are also great wherever you need to wait with your little one. Doctors surgery’s, in line at the supermarket or even when waiting to collect other children. These games are also great for improving concentration and teach self regulation.
- Eye-Spy (or variation) – With very little ones, find something beginning with the letter P is probably going to be too tricky. Instead say ‘Eye-Spy with my little eye something red’ ‘something square’.
- I’m thinking of… – Describe an animal, a vehicle or a person. In fact describe anything your little one will know. Keep giving them clues until they guess correctly.
- Disappearing object – Place some objects in front of them. Depending on the age of your child’s 6-8 objects works well for preschoolers. These can be anything…a set of keys, a bracelet, a pack of tissues. Whatever you can find handy. Ask them to look carefully and then whilst they look away, remove an item. See if they can remember what has disappeared.
Hopefully you will have thought to pack snacks for the flight but don’t forget the airport too. Think ahead and decide how hungry your child is likely to be when waiting around. If you are going to be eating a meal in flight, you may just need to have a few snacks to tide them over. Alternatively lunch time may fall right into this slot and something more substantial will be needed.
Even when children are not hungry, little snacks are a great way to pass the time. Packed snacks like raisins or mini biscuits take a little longer to eat so I always have some of these. Don’t forget a little snack treat for Mummy and Daddy too.
Keep them active
As much as we’d love to be able to sit and relax waiting for our flight, children will quickly get restless. The airport is the time to burn off as much energy as you can. Let them explore. At almost all airports there are gates that are pretty much deserted. One tip is to pack an inflatable ball. These pack down really small and in an open space, children can run around and have some fun.
Often there are also small soft play areas which are perfect for letting them move around and have the added benefit of letting you sit down and take a break too. Let small ones crawl about. They may get a bit dirty but transferring a toddler from a car seat to pushchair to plane seat without letting them free is a sure way to head for an in flight meltdown.
Avoid unnecessary queuing
It’s a very British thing to see a queue and instantly feel the urge to join it. When your gate is called, don’t rush there. Remember for every minute you are queuing, you are going to need to occupy your little ones in a confined space. Instead, stay nearby and wait until the queue is moving swiftly and almost disappeared. The goal here is to be the last on the plane not the first.
How do you keep little ones entertained at the airport? I’d love to hear if you have any other tips or tricks.