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How to Navigate the Airport with Kids

Traveling with your children, whether you’re heading overseas or keeping your journey domestic, can be an exciting and rewarding chance to make memories that you’ll all cherish for a lifetime. It can also be a nightmare of epic proportions, however, with the most grisly bits of the journey taking place in the airport. Before you embark on your jaunt to more exciting places, it’s best to be as prepared as possible so you make it through the airport without any incidents or mishaps.

Talk About Airport Security

In this sense, the term “airport security” is a double-sided coin. You should definitely talk to your child about what to expect at security checkpoints and from the TSA so that they’re not overwhelmed or frightened by the process. More importantly, perhaps, is the discussion you need to have about the potential dangers of people in the airport your child does not know. Without inspiring unnecessary fear or anxiety, explain to your child that the airport is filled with lots of people, and that it’s important for him to stay right next to a grown-up in the family, no matter what. Even if you’re not wild about the idea of talking about “stranger danger” with your children, you should take the time to talk about the possibility of becoming lost in the airport and explain that some grown-ups aren’t always safe

Get to the Airport Early

To you, the airport is a series of retail outlets filled with extremely overpriced items and a crush of disgruntled travelers. To your child, it’s an uncharted territory of wonder and excitement. If you arrive at the airport well before you’re scheduled to board, you’ll have enough time to do a bit of exploring that will hopefully get out some of his inquisitive energy without being forced to rush to your gate.

Keep Layovers to a Minimum

It may go without saying, but layovers are not your friend when you have small children in tow. If at all possible, opt for non-stop flights or connecting flights that don’t have long layovers, so that your child doesn’t have a meltdown at a mid-point in your journey. By the time you reach a layover point, most children will be tired, cranky and out of sorts due to the disruption in his routine. By forking over the extra cash for a direct flight, you may be lucky enough that he falls asleep mid-flight and actually gets some rest. You also won’t be forced to navigate a series of gates and pathways to your connecting flight, which is significantly harder when you’re handling kids along with your carry-on.

Hit the Runway

You may not think of your infant or toddler as the season’s hottest fashion accessory, but it may be a good idea to treat her as if she were while you’re making your way through the airport. Harnesses and slings that attach to your body and keep your child snug against you will not only keep your hands free to tote around your luggage, but it also eliminates the need to gate-check a stroller. For older kids, you may want to consider tethered bracelets. They look like leashes and you could get a few raised eyebrows from disapproving parents, but at least you’ll be assured that your child can’t dart away and become lost in the crush of people in a crowded airport.

Pare Down Your Packing List

If you’re trying to handle mountains of luggage, more than one child, a stroller to gate-check and carry-on bags for everyone in the family, you’re literally going to have your hands full. In the days leading up to your trip, try to pare your packing list down as far as possible, eliminating anything from your bags that isn’t strictly necessary. You may have to sacrifice a favorite dress or fourth pair of shoes, but you won’t be overwhelmed with trying to handle everything you have while keeping tabs on an excited, rambunctious little one.

It’s not abnormal for parents to slyly suggest using over-the-counter medications like diphenhydramine to one another as a method of controlling unruly kids in the airport and inducing slumber on the plane. Aside from the questionable ethics of treating symptoms that your child isn’t exhibiting and running the risk of inadvertent over-dosage, you’re also taking the chance of causing the exact opposite response from the one you’re looking for. In some children, diphenhydramine use can cause hyperactivity, rather than drowsiness. It’s best to think twice before dosing your child in preparation for the airport.

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