Even under the best of circumstances, navigating an airport can seem like a chore. Still, it’s a price that’s often worth it when you consider the alternative of driving across the country, and a necessity if you’re planning to travel to locales inaccessible by car. The thought of traversing an airport with kids in tow, however, can be downright harrowing. While many parents will go to great lengths to avoid the perils of an airport with their brood in tow, it doesn’t have to be a miserable experience. With the right preparation and planning, navigating the airport with kids can be as easy as managing a trip to the grocery store.
More than anything else, being well ahead of schedule will reduce the likelihood of a meltdown or miserable airport experience with your children. When you’re pressed for time, tempers run short and everything seems much more frantic than it would under better scheduled circumstances. Arriving at the airport well in advance of your scheduled departure time can make all the difference in your experience, especially during peak travel times when the airport is likely to be crowded with other vacationers.
Arrange Suitable Transportation
Long-term parking at airports allows you to leave your family vehicle at the airport, but often involves a long trek to the terminal, either on foot or by shuttle. While including an extra person in your trip may seem like a headache, the convenience of being dropped off at the curb with your bags and brood ready to board will trump the discomfort that can come with dependence on an outside party. If at all possible, make arrangements with a friend or family member for a drop-off and a pick-up, and skip the headache of parking altogether.
Take Advantage of Technology
In the age of the Internet, checking in at the airport is no longer a necessity. You can check in online, get seating assignments that ensure you’ll all be sitting together and take advantage of porters if you have a lot of luggage. You’ll be out-of-pocket for a tip, but your ability to move through the airport with relative ease makes the investment a worthy one.
Pare Down Your Carry-On
While you’ll want to have the necessities on hand during the flight, managing a delicate juggling act with too much carry-on luggage or facing the possibility of having your carry-on turned away due to its size is not worth the headache. Keep your carry-on bag manageable for smoother sailing through the terminal, and a better experience on the plane altogether.
Understand Security Guidelines
One of the biggest time-sinks in an airport can be security checkpoints, especially if you’re traveling with little ones and aren’t prepared. Take the time to apprise yourself of any changes in the guidelines and help kids understand what to expect and how they should behave themselves at the gate. Strollers and car seats will have to pass through an x-ray machine, infant carriers and backpacks will have to be removed and checked, and kids will have to remove their shoes to go through screening just like adults. This is a great time to break out the Velcro shoes and skip the fancy kicks, because you’ll need to save time and effort going through the checkpoint wherever you can.
Manage the Terminal Like a Pro
Once you’ve made it through the gate, you’ll probably have time to spare before boarding. This is a great opportunity to let little ones expend a bit of energy, so keep the books and tablets in your bag until you board. Walk around the terminal together, check out the restaurants, look for airport lounges and grab a bit of a breather before the hectic business of boarding begins.