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5 Tips To Help You Navigate The Airport With Kids

Travelling with young kids through an airport late at night can be a flipping nightmare.  Even worse if you are travelling as a solo parent and don’t have an extra pair of hands or someone to good cop/bad cop with.  You could be having the greatest airport experience, patting yourself on the back for navigating your kids successfully off the plane and the long walk to the immigration hall.  Then all hell breaks loose, your two your old throws a massive tantrum and decides to make a break for the border and run through immigration control.  Funny-ish for me, not so funny according to the immigration officers.

Don’t they look innocent

Here are 5 tips I gleaned from a recent longhaul flying experience with Madames Jetlag & Mayhem:

  • Passports are like manna for young kids.  They want to see them, touch them and play with them.  Don’t let them!!  Even if you think it will keep them quiet in their buggy for 10 minutes, I guarantee someone will be chasing after you going ‘is this your passport you’ve just dropped?’
  • Get to the airport with plenty of time so you can GO SLOW.  Kids like to walk slowly.  And stop.  And sometimes sit on the floor (or lie on the floor).  It’s not worth the constant shriek of ‘just hurry up!’.  Allow plenty of time to travel through security/immigration and crawl to your Gate.
  • Take the lift/elevator wherever possible.  Airport escalators can be lethal with buggies/suitcases and young kids in tow.  Especially the really long ones.
  • If you’re travelling with more than one child, conduct a stock take at regular intervals.  Oldest child – yes.  Youngest child – yes.  Oldest child’s wheelie suitcase – no!!  Cue frantic scramble to see where she decided to leave it behind.  The stock take is particularly important when you are getting off the plane too.  Not only do you not want to leave anything behind (ok, occasionally i want to leave the kids behind) but you also don’t want the faff of having to barge past people to get to your seat or wait around while they find your kids favourite teddy.
  • It’s all about pockets.  Travel in clothes with lots of pocket. Carry a backpack with more lovely pockets, leaving you hands free.  No point having a big Mary Poppins bag where you can’t find anything.  Compartmentalise and then remember where you’ve compartmentalised.  And if you can’t find your passport it’s because your toddler dropped it back in baggage reclaim – I told you not to give it to your toddler!!
  • Karen Dawkins


    When my boys were young, we played “mommy duck, baby ducks.” I may have looked ludicrous marching through the airport quacking at regular intervals, but my boys LOVED it! They’d quack back AND they stayed focused on getting to our gate. 🙂 QUACK! (I have met one other mom, not surprisingly she’s also a travel writer, who did the same thing when her kids were little!) It works!

  • Wendy at Tots


    Get a trunki – sit child on trunki and pull – best thing we bought… great for sitting in in queues…

  • Katie @ Pick Any Two


    I haven’t traveled with my toddler much yet, but I’m bookmarking this to return to before our summer vacation. Great tips!

    Visiting from the SITS Sharefest.

  • Rachel G


    The first time my parents took us on a long haul flight was when my family moved to SE Asia 10 years ago–there were 6 kids between the ages of 12 and 1–they definitely employed the buddy system and did a lot of counting to make sure we were all there!

  • Andrea Yancey Reyes


    When we fly throughout the States, I like to wear my youngest (age 3) on my back in my ERGO carrier. Hands free to deal with passports and older child. Security in the US will let me wear him through, I just have to go to secondary screening. If I tell them “Hey, if I let him down, he’s going to take off.” they usually let me be.

    • Nicola

      I should try using the Ergo again on my back, thanks for the suggestion

  • therealsummer2013


    Hi Nicola, that’s so funny, I just wrote a very similar post on my website. We should swap notes! The passport thing made me laugh–we didn’t travel outside the country, but my kids were obsessed with holding the tickets.

    • Nicola

      yes let’s do that! what’s the link?

  • adrianscrazylife


    It’s been a while since I traveled with little ones, but I remember it can be challenging. Definitely the backpack thing. Each kid has their own and it keeps their toys and (non-messy) snacks and I had a rule about only ONE thing out of the backpack at a time. I was also a big fan of Transformers because it was a one-piece toy – no parts to lose! I also had a little stuffed animal that they could have looking out of the backpack to enjoy the trip – they like that. I would also usually get one special “new” toy that they could only open once they were in their seats, buckled up and well behaved. It was a nice bribe item and kept them focused on you. I like the mama duck idea one of the other posters had. Ours was a Christmas tree. If their hands were messy, I would have them put their hands up over their heads like a Christmas tree as we marched off to the restroom for a tidy up. #SITSSharefest

    • Nicola

      love the Christmas tree idea!!

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