Flying with children is a fantastic alternative to driving as it cuts down the travel time by quite a bit. But it’s not always smooth sailing. And a lot of those hiccups happen before even boarding the plane! So from personal experience, I’ll be sharing a few of my airport hacks in hopes to make the airport portion of traveling a little less stressful.
Getting from your car to the ticket counter is pretty simple for people traveling without kids. But with kids...there's parking, then folding up the stroller, and loading the whole family, car seats, and luggage into a shuttle. All of that became way too much for my husband and I to handle so early on in our traveling.
So now, we do the following: my husband drops me off at Passenger Drop Off along with both of my kids in their stroller, one car seat, the diaper bag, and one suitcase. He then goes and parks the car and brings the remaining luggage and the other car seat on the shuttle back to us.
I’ll be honest, the walk from the drop off station, across the street, into the airport and to the correct airline’s waiting area is a doozy. I’m pushing a full and heavy stroller while towing a large piece of luggage and carrying a car seat. I’m sure I’m quite the sight. Half the time, I’m hoping nobody is watching me and the other half, I’m hoping someone comes to my rescue and helps me carry something! But this quick walk on my own is well worth the stress and chaos saved from not opting to take the shuttle.
We then wait near the line to check into our airline for Daddy to meet back up with us, which usually takes about fifteen minutes. Once we’re reunited, we take all of our stuff up to the counter and check in, receive our boarding passes, and (the very best part) hand off the vast majority of our stuff to be checked. Even though it’s definitely a possibility, we’ve never flown with our babies or kids in car seats--I don’t think they’d be thrilled about it. In our many times checking car seats, we’ve never had any issues with damage or lost items.
Now this is the beast. The security line is not a kid-friendly line, and nobody wants to deal with loose and crazy kids running all around. So depending on the wait time, I tend to bust out the big guns and give the kids a video on the phone to watch while they sit quietly and peacefully in the stroller.
I should’ve put an organization portion at the VERY FIRST of this article. Because it is crucial to know where every single thing is in order to have the smoothest possible airport experience. The last thing you need is to be stopped in security because you forgot to pull out the Baby Tylenol (a liquid) from your carry-on bag. Knowing where everything is at in every carry-on may seem excessive, but it’ll save you a lot of time in the long run.
Anyway, after handing the security line worker our boarding passes, we get into another line. We then have to pull out everything from our bags and put it all in a security bin so it can go through the x-ray machine.
When flying, inside of my diaper bag, I keep two zip lock bags: one for travel-sized liquids normally in my bag such as hand sanitizer, lotion, and Baby Tylenol (which I recommend bringing, by the way), and the other bag for liquid foods like apple sauce pouches and baby food. I pull these two baggies out of my bag and I know it’s good to go. My husband is in charge of emptying his backpack of any electronics. (They recently made a new rule that all electronics, not just laptops, need to be put directly into the screening bins.)
Once all of our things are on the belt as they’re supposed to be, we take the kids out of the stroller. We have a City Select, too big to fold up and put through the machine. So we take off both seats and send them through, and a TSA agent takes the empty frame of the stroller around the machine and does a quick check. I’m always SO amazed at these big tough men that are able to assemble and disassemble strollers in a heartbeat. Super impressive.
I’m undecided about how strict they are about toddlers who are able to walk walking through the metal detector. When my son was about 18 months, I was about to walk through when they asked me if he could walk. I said yes and they made me walk through without him and had him walk through on his own to me. However, when holding my now 18-month-old daughter, they let us walk through together. Maybe it’s because I’m already talking an older sibling through what to do and my husband is over at the other, bigger, fancier machine, so they have pity for me and don’t force me to have to chase after two toddlers at once? Or maybe it really is just fine to carry someone through? Undetermined. One thing I do know is that children don’t have to remove their shoes.
WaitingOnce my shoes are back on my feet, the kids are back in the stroller, all of our stuff is in place, and we’re on our way to the gate is when I take a deep breath. Not much time has passed, but the most stressful part is over! After reaching the gate and getting over the initial excitement of all of the huge airplanes out the window, the waiting game begins. A few things we make sure to do in this time frame are:
- Get a claim ticket to put on the stroller
- Fill up the empty sippy cups or water bottles from our bags (at the drinking fountain or with something tasty from a store)
- Take the toddler to the potty
- Change the baby’s diaper
- Take turns walking the kids around and around to get their wiggles out
- Eat lunch/dinner/breakfast if hungry
What we really try to avoid at this point are electronics. I want them to remain in the bags until the flight, that way they don’t lose their novelty before they’re actually needed. Once boarding begins, since we’re a family traveling with kids 6-years-old and under, we get decent priority in being able to get on the plane sooner rather than later. Right before boarding, we fold up our stroller into it's handy dandy carrying bag to eliminate any damage to the actual stroller. At the end of the tunnel, we drop our stroller in its bag so they take it underneath the plane and give it back to us when we land. And then we get on the plane!