Getting through the airport with a child can be a difficult task, but these simple tips can help make the trip go smoothly.
Making it to the airport, navigating the building and getting through customs – there are plenty of obstacles that can get in the way when trying to make it through the airport. This is especially true when children are involved. It's inevitable that your young one will need a potty break, forget something at home or have some sort of breakdown during the check-in process, so it's best to prepare for such hurdles in advance. Consider following some of these tips for a smooth beginning to your travels:
Allow Ample Time
Giving yourself plenty of time to deal with traffic and get through check-in is important even if you're traveling alone, but you'll need an extra cushion if you have the kids with you. In general, you should try to be at the hub about 1.5 hours before your check-in time, leaving plenty of extra time for emergencies, bathroom breaks and other unexpected issues. However, how early you need to leave for the airport can depend on a spectrum of factors, such as how far the airport is, how you're getting there and the time of your flight (early morning departures, for example, may require less time than rush-hour flights).
Those traveling during spring break or other school holidays should keep in mind that the airport will likely be filled with other families trying to get out of town for vacation. Additionally, international flights, which tend to have earlier check-in times, may require extra time, and missing these flights may mean an even lengthier wait since they tend to be less frequent.
Arrange Transportation to the Airport
Whenever possible, have a friend or family member drive you and the kids to the airport. You won't have to worry about keeping the children calm in the back seat while navigating through traffic on a deadline, and you'll save the time you would have spent searching for a parking spot. You can even offer to let the driver use your car and pay them a small amount as thanks, which is in general still cheaper than paying for parking. Those who can't arrange for a ride can hire a car service or taxi cab. If you have to drive, the driver should leave one adult at the curb with the kids and luggage before parking to speed things up.
Bring Activities and Treats
If you arrive early enough, there's a pretty good chance your kids are going to get bored while waiting to board the plane. That's where toys, books and snacks come in handy. To save yourself the hassle of carrying these items around, have your children carry their own toys – give each their own backpack and tell them they can bring whatever can fit in the bag. The children can then bring these bags with them as their carry-ons and have toys to keep them occupied during the flight. You may want to check the contents to make sure there are no liquids, which may be confiscated at security, and you may want to remove expensive items that could get lost during transit.
Know the TSA Rules
Few people realize it, but many airports have "family lanes" at the security checkpoint. These often go faster, since the TSA has more lenient rules for children. For example, those age 12 and under are not required to remove their shoes at security. Your child may even receive a sticker as they pass through the metal detector.