Parents’ Airport Survival Guide – 10 Steps to Sanity!
So here you are at the airport – Vacation is planned, flight tickets in hand, itinerary is set, bags are packed and you are ready to go. And then BAM! Right between security and immigration, a surprise mayhem pops up like a scary clown jumping out of a cake! Yikes! Even though most parents these days are quite savvy at planning vacations with their little globe trotters; many ignore how tiresome airports can be with babies or toddlers. After taking my 2-year old to 10 countries and a lot of trial and error; I have compiled a parents’ airport survival guide that I hope will come in handy the next time you take off for a holiday with your tots in tow. Oh and if you’re traveling solo with your kids, then please read this.
Parents’ Airport Survival Guide
1. Get Out Check List
Make a check list a few days before of all items (not just bags) you need to carry when you finally leave home for your vacation. The reason I say items and not bags is because you might count 3 bags and in the hurry of leaving, forget your baby carrier or the kids’ food or something else. Therefore, make a list on your phone that includes your luggage, small bags or anything you or your kids wanna carry, all documentation like passports, tickets and tick things off the list as you leave the house. We actually forgot our folded GB Pockit Stroller on the side of the road in Amsterdam as we were loading our bags into a cab to get to the train station in record time. And it was only two days old! It still pinches.
2. Plan Hand Luggage
Other than your laptop or tablets, you will probably also carry some baby food, munchies or medicines in your hand luggage when you are traveling with kids. Even though food and liquids above 100 ml are not allowed for adults, airlines give leeway for small kids and you can carry bigger quantities. However, all these will have to be taken out for checking at security. To avoid wasting time hunting for where everything is, keep it all together in one handbag, diaper bag or lunch bag. I swear by zip locks and use them to organise medicine and lotion bottles. And I keep Karma’s milk, medicines and any other liquids in one bag that I just open up and pack before and after security. It’ll save you tons of time and peace of mind.
3. Go Early
The most important rule of parents’ airport survival guide – Get there early! I cannot stress this enough. It’s way easier to kill extra time at the airport with small kids than it is to rush through check-in, security (and immigration). A diaper accident or a meltdown can throw your entire timing into a whirlwind and you’ll be panting your brains out trying to make the flight on time. Instead, picture this – You arrive early. Long check-in line? No problem. Longer security line? Done. Hungry Toddler? Take a food break. Pee pee time? Let’s all go! Mom wants a coffee? Sure. Oh look, we reached our boarding gate… Not time yet? Let’s watch aeroplanes! Doesn’t that sound blissful? 😉
4. Pre-Divided Duties
Divide what your husband is in charge of and what will you manage. For example, once out of the cab, I handle Karma, diaper bag, stroller and maybe an extra hand luggage if there is one. Karan pushes the big suitcases, one hand luggage and laptop bag that also has all our passports, IDs and any other documentation in one pouch. At security, he takes the laptop bags and other hand luggage while I take Karma, diaper bag and stroller. When Karma was a baby, then I would hold Karma and Karan would take the stroller through security as well. Now, she’s older and knows the drill well, so I can manage the stroller too. That way neither of us is frazzled and we know exactly what we are in charge of.
5. Child Gear
Every worthwhile parents’ airport survival guide will tell you to take your stroller, car seat or your travel cot with you. Most airlines across the world allow you to check-in any 2 out of these 3 items free of cost and their weight is not included in your check-in weight allowance. So feel free to bring them. We always carry our stroller along with us and strollers can be taken up till the flight entrance. Just let the staff at check-in know and they will give you a tag for it if needed. This brings me to my next point.
Put your child in a stroller or baby carrier while manoeuvring through the airport so you have your hands-free for other things. Like I mentioned earlier, stroller can be taken till the flight. However, they do have to go through security machines so I recommend using an umbrella stroller. On our last trip, we took Joovy Groove Ultralight that has a compact umbrella fold. You can get the stroller back immediately after exiting the aeroplane at most airports across the world. However, at Mumbai airports, you can only get them back at baggage claim. I’ve not faced this problem at any other airport but in such cases, ask for a lift in a buggy if needed.
Baby or toddler carriers are a blessing on late night flights. Karan or I just hang Karma on ourselves and our hands are free to push luggage. We use Soul Slings full buckle toddler carrier which fits both of us easily and folds up quite small for storage. However, at security, you’ll have to take your carrier off too.
7. Pack a Play Bag
Just pack a few of your kids’ favourite small toys into their own backpacks and they’ll entertain themselves. Carrying their own bags makes kids feel as if they are a part of the whole experience (and they are!). Especially when they see people moving around carrying luggage. And with their favourite toys within reach, it’ll take pressure off you to entertain them. It’s really handy in flights too. That’s how a parents’ airport survival tip turns into a toddlers’ survival guide. 😉 We load Karma’s favourite dinky cars, mini dinos and Sophia The First figurines into her Babymel and Zip & Zoe Dylan The Dino backpack. It comes with a detachable safety leash so she doesn’t wander too far in a crowd. For international flights, we also pack Karma’s Fisher-price Doodle-pro. It’s easy in-flight entertainment and I don’t have to worry about locating fallen crayons.
8. Essentials at Hand
Keep your basic essentials like wipes and even an extra set of clothes for your kids in your diaper bag. In case of food spill or any other accident, you can do a quick change on the spot without opening up your cabin bag. In the flight, my Vilah Bloom Cafe Crossover diaper bag was at my feet the whole time and contained wipes, enough diapers, few munchies, feeding cape and change of clothes for Karma. All other extra essentials went in the cabin luggage which was stored in the overhead compartment in case I needed it. But we didn’t have to open a big bag every time I needed to wipe Karma’s hands or change a diaper.
9. Ask For Stuff
If you are traveling with a baby, most airlines provide free baby food jars but you have to ask for those when you make your bookings. You can also book bassinet seats that have more leg space and a bassinet is attached for your baby to sleep. Lot of international flights have some play-kits for kids so if you haven’t received one, just ask the crew. Honestly, I have stopped taking crayons for Karma. She always returns from a holiday with a big load of free crayons from flights. If your kids loved the small snack biscuits, just ask the crew to give you more. If the flight isn’t full, ask the crew to be on a lookout for empty seats together. We once managed to get 4 empty seats together. Karma sprawled and slept in the centre two. So remember this point from parents’ airport survival guide – If you need anything, just ask.
10. Feed While Take-Off & Landing
If you have a baby, then breast or bottle feed your baby during take-off and landing to save them from painful ear-popping. If you have a toddler or older child, then give them water or milk or even lollipops or biscuits so they keep swallowing and their ears don’t hurt. But here’s another important note from the parents’ airport survival guide – Don’t make the rookie mistake of bringing out the bottle as soon as the plane starts moving. We have all done it and before you know it, it’s another 20 mins before actual take off and tummy is full! :p Wait till the plane is racing down the runway and pop that bottle in!
No Rules, No Stress
So there you have it! My 10 tips for parents’ airport survival. Honestly, throw your rule book out the window and let your kids get into vacation mode too. If they wanna eat a packet of chips, just hand them a bottle of water too so that the excess salt intake gets balanced and they don’t throw up. But airports are the last place to impose the ‘eat your veggies’ rule. Or find some vegetable chips or quinoa puffs. If they wanna plaster their faces to the glass wall and watch aeroplanes, let them! Use a million wipes later to clean germs. It’s also okay to let them run around the airport. That’s why you should get there early. They’ll get the excitement out of their system and probably be tired and sleepy on the flight. Bingo!
Before I go, I will give you a last piece of advice that a very wise parent once shared with me – Don’t panic until there’s blood… And keep a packet of chips at hand! If you follow nothing else out of my parents’ airport survival guide, then just follow this. 😉 Bon Voyage!