Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Flying with kids: handling long lineups at the airport

These days, traveling anywhere by plane often involves a lot of standing around in long lineups waiting for various things at the airport. There's the lineup at check-in, the screening of the hand luggage (which can occur more than once), the individual security check when you walk through the metal detector (or other device), and there are passport and immigration checkpoints for international travel.
Once you're at the gate, things are easy.

Most kids aren't too happy about having to stand in line for long periods of time, but then neither are adults. At an airport, there's the added difficulty of being in a place with lots of security and no-go areas: having your kids running around to blow off some steam isn't always a great option there.

So what to do? Here are some strategies I've used when traveling with my own children over the years:
  • Explain to the children ahead of time what is going to happen. This includes telling them that they will have to give up their hand luggage for a moment to put it through the x-ray machine. They should also be ready to take off their coats and their shoes: not all security checkpoints do that, but if your kids know it's happening, they might put up less of a fight about it.
  • Bring out the snacks. Drinking some juice, chewing on a granola bar, or sucking on a lollipop can take the sting out of the wait. Have a bottle ready for a fussy infant too.
  • Use the toys. Just like on board the airplane, a puppet can do wonders: goofing around with the kids and making them laugh instead of pout.
  • Reinforce that there are areas in an airport where you are not allowed to go. For example, it is not allowed to push ahead in a lineup and run through the metal detector before it's your turn. Even if you're really, really tired of waiting. Not even if you're 3 years old. If you're lucky, the airport will make a special lineup for families with children. This happened to us at Sea-Tac airport for example, and was hugely appreciated.
  • At passport and immigration, show the kids their passports and your own. Laughing at goofy passport  pictures (or passport photos taken a few years back when your kids were babies) can hold their interest for a bit.
  • Split up for a while. If the lineup is really long, and you're traveling with more than one adult, let one adult stay in line while the other takes the kids away for a bit. Going to the washroom or looking out the window can help pass a few minutes, and can be enough to help kids get out of the lineup funk.
Once your kids have gone through a few security checkpoints, they'll be acting like pros. After a few connecting flights, my children were removing shoes (and often their socks too), getting plastic bins for their jackets, and placing their carry-ons on the conveyor belt at the security checkpoints.

1 comment:

  1. Parents flying with kids should check out gogobabyz.com. The Travelmate was a life saver for us. Helped keep the kids comfy & content in their own car seats.


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