Stress-Free Airport Hacks for Parents: Tips to Prepare, Navigate the Airport and Thrive on the Flight

Let’s do some Mad Libs. You ready?

Flying with kids is [adjective].

No matter what adjective you chose, flying with kids is probably that, because it can run the gamut from terrible to transcendental.

You obviously want to keep things on the positive end of the spectrum, so good news! There are some strategies you can use to help increase your chances of having a family flight go swimmingly.

These hacks can help before you fly, when you’re at the airport, and when you’re on the plane.

See Why You Should Buy Travel Protection for Your Kids


Prep in advance

If your kids have never flown, talk to them about the process. Let them know it’s not as easy as just walking onto a plane. Help them understand there may be lots of waiting involved.

Reading books on air travel with your younger kids can be helpful.

For older kids who think they’re too cool to prep for a flight, involve them in the master plan and give them a role.

There’s no guarantee with kids, but if everyone knows what’s expected of them, things should (emphasis: should) go smoother.

Also read: Traveling With Kids? Don't Forget the Documents

It’s a sprint, not a marathon

Time spent in the airport are your golden hours. Why? Because that’s when you engage in your most important activity as a parent: Tuckering out your kids.

The longer the flight, the more important it will be for you to have your kids sleep for part of it. And those adorable little packets of adrenaline aren’t going to nod off without help.

It’s up to you to keep them moving while waiting for your flight. In some airports, that’s going to mean taking them the long way to the kids’ play area, playing with them, having them run back, organizing impromptu Junior Airport Olympics, and then running with them some more.

In smaller airports your activities may be a little more ad-hoc but the objective is the same: have them get their giggles out, run off energy, and get them ready for some down time on the plane.

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Stay away from screens

The flip side of exercise is you want to minimize your kids’ screen time while they’re waiting in the airport. Save the screens for the flight.

Fill them up with good stuff

Have a healthy meal before boarding. Make it substantial enough to keep tummies from growling at least until the plane is at cruising altitude, but keep it light enough to stave off innumerable airborne potty breaks.

Also read: Why Travel is so Important for Families, Especially Kids

Hit the restroom

Along with making sure tummies are full before departure, make sure everything else is empty.

Wipe down everything

Many of these tips are geared toward traveling with younger children, because many older children are good with earbuds and a phone.

However, no matter what age your children happen to be, it’s a good idea to take along sanitizing wipes and wipe down airport seats, toys, and just about anything else your kids encounter.

Video: Tips to Avoid Germs and Not Get Sick Before a Vacation

Split up boarding

If two parents are traveling with a baby, a good strategy is to send one parent ahead with the strollers, car seats and baby bag, have them get everything situated, and then have the other parent board towards the end with the baby.

Many airlines offer early boarding for families with young children, so take advantage of this perk so one of you can get everything settled before the general boarding process.

The idea is to minimize the time a baby spends in the confines of an airplane cabin.

Airline perks for families with kids

Airlines often provide several useful perks for families traveling with kids, including:

  • Early boarding – As we mentioned, many airlines allow families with young children to board the plane first, giving them extra time to get settled before general boarding.

  • Free checked strollers and car seats - Most major airlines allow you to check strollers and car seats for free, in addition to your standard baggage allowance.

  • Free/discounted lap infant fares - For babies under 2 years old, airlines typically charge nothing or a small amount of taxes/fees for them to be a lap child, which can save a lot versus buying a separate seat.

  • Kids' meals/snacks - Many flights offer special child-friendly meal and snack options for kids.

  • In-flight entertainment - An increasing number of flights have dedicated kids' programming and movies in their in-flight entertainment.

Find your next trip: Best Places to Vacation with Kids in the U.S.

On the plane

Again, many of these tips are geared toward parents with younger children, because with older children, a book, iPad or phone is going to be sufficient entertainment.

Pack surprises

Bring along some activities your kids don’t know about and dole them out while they’re on the plane. These could be books, coloring or activity books, stuffed animals, or other simple toys.

Be judicious about handing out these surprises. Save a couple for mayday situations when you’re throwing everything you have at a category-five tantrum.

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Go with a rotation

Have a rotation of books and activities for your kids. Hopefully you can go through the rotation once, have them nap, and then when they wake up go through the rotation again.

Leverage the fun times

While no one likes a screaming baby on an airplane, a cooing, smiling baby on an airplane is usually a welcome distraction.

Use the times when your baby is happy to walk around the cabin and make friends. That will buy you some good-will gift cards to be used when your baby is at the other end of the spectrum.

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Limit the sugar in snacks

Pretty self-explanatory, and as all parents know, pre-packing pre-portioned snacks is the way to go.

However, make more bags for the flight with slightly smaller portions. It’s better to delight your child with more smaller servings than to give them one big serving and then be tapped out for the rest of the flight.

Do not strive for perfection

Kids are rowdy. Babies spit up and scream. It happens to the best kids, which means it will likely happen to your kids. You’re going to do your best to mitigate it, so don’t feel ashamed, and don’t feel you have to constantly apologize for your kids’ behavior.

Kids (and parents) are wonderfully imperfect, so go with it. And your kids have to experience flying a couple of times before they can become great fliers.

No matter where your family flight takes you, Generali Global Assistance is there with travel insurance and assistance services to help bring peace of mind to your travels.

Get a quote today – because what family couldn’t use some extra peace of mind when they travel?


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