The airport rates as one of the most stressful parts of a trip for me as a parent because it is such a pressurized environment. I worry about:
- Lots of waiting in line that can lead to restless kids.
- Dealing with people who don't have patience for the slower pace at which a family moves.
- Many unfamiliar places to get lost.
- Luggage being stolen.
- Kids being stolen.
The Family Sandwich. Mom and Dad are the bread, and the kids are the meat, cheese and lettuce. When we go through security, or on/off a bus, etc., Dad goes first, then the kids, and then Mom. No one can wander off or get separated this way. I like this technique because I think it helps the kids to feel involve and part of the effort to get our little group where we need to go. They start talking about what kind of cheese they are, or who is actually a pickle instead of lettuce. It makes for little moments of fun.
Slip on shoes for everyone. Between security and the time on the flight, you will be doing yourself a favor by simplifying everyone's footwear as much as possible. Look at it as one less thing to manage.
Delay giving little kids luggage. When your kids are young they will tell you they are excited to carry their own backpack on the trip but don't believe them, because you will prepare them a light load with their favorite coloring books, a little play-doh and fruit snacks but then it turns out they melt down about it and you are forced to carry a pink hello kitty backpack all through the rest of the airport even though you have a full load of your own. It's not heavy but it's another item to keep track of that you weren't planning on. Not that I've had that experience or anything....
I create one backpack with in-flight entertainment for all the kids and give that to an older kid to carry on behalf of all the kids. In addition to avoiding "I don't want to carry my backpack anymore" conversation, you save yourself from having to re-pack multiple backpacks at the end of the flight.
Look for places to burn off energy. Many airports have spots for kids to play, so if you see one, take advantage of it to let them get some energy out of their systems. Otherwise your kids will become little steel coils, all wound tight with energy building and building until it has to be released. This will usually be at a time or place you wouldn't choose, followed by some annoying person in line behind you commenting loudly to their traveling companion that "That is why I couldn't imagine traveling with kids. What's the fun in that??"
When there isn't a children's area near (aka most of the time) then go for walks around the terminal, go find a bathroom for a potty break, walk to a far away shop in the terminal to buy a pack of gum or a bottle of water. Just don't go so far that you miss your flight!
Practice ahead of time. If you want your kids to listen to you at the airport, and if you want them to wait patiently in line, you have to practice it outside the airport. There's lots of opportunities in day-to-day life. When you are in a long line at the grocery store it's a good time for the kids to work on waiting patiently. If you take them to the movies, that's a good time for them to work on being mindful of staying with you instead of wandering off accidentally.
What tips do you have for kids at the airport? Please share them in the comments section!