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We’ve all been there. You plan the perfect trip, you pack the most well-organized suitcase, and you somehow get your toddler through the airport with all their stuff. But before you board the plane, you see the dreaded word “delayed”. (Or worse “cancelled”.) Suddenly, you’re faced with an eternity trapped in an airport with the tiny, uncontrollable ball of energy you call your child. But don’t panic! Even parents of young kids can survive spending a few extra hours in an airport with some simple steps.
Your kids will freak out if you freak out. They are always watching you to see how they should react so try to stay positive about your flight delay. It isn’t easy, and I can’t always do it myself, but try your best.
When you’re traveling with young kids, make sure to bring extra diapers, wipes, and snacks in your carry-on. Plus, download a few episodes of some mind-numbing kid’s TV show on your phone or tablet. Then you’ll be ready for any delay. As I’ve said before, plane travel is no ordinary time so make it fun for your kids by letting them have more snacks and more screen time than they might normally have at home. Also, don’t forget the back-up battery!
When your flight is delayed, make sure to ask for meal vouchers. Even the stingiest airline will be sympathetic to a parent with young kids. You don’t want to use all the snacks you packed for the plane while you’re waiting in the airport. But snacks are essential during a flight delay. If the airline does provide meal vouchers, let your kids have a little fun and pick out their own snacks on someone else’s dollar.
Check for a Kid’s Play Area
Some airports have special play areas for little travelers. We found one at Dallas Love Field in Texas so be aware that they do exist! Don’t be afraid to ask a staff member if you can’t find one on the terminal map. This is a great place for your kid to run out extra energy before a flight even without a delay. I highly recommend you check for one anytime you travel.
Walk, Walk, and Walk Some More
Little kids love to walk around. Whether they’re toddling or running, airports are a great place to let them move their feet. There’s lots of space and lots of things to see. Try to find a secluded but open area where your kid can run around without bothering anyone else. Closed gates are usually a great place for this. A space with large windows where kids can watch planes take off and land is a big bonus. Plus, walking is free!
Create Fun Games
If you’re tired of walking around the airport, think up a game to play with your kid. It can be as simple as connect the dots, tic-tac-toe, or hangman scribbled on the inside of a magazine cover. Airports are also great for guessing games like “I spy…” or 20 questions.
Or make a scavenger hunt where you give your kid a list of 5 or 10 things to find. Be creative and incorporate your location into the game! For example, if you’re stuck in Texas, have your kid find the biggest cowboy hat in the airport. They will have a lot to choose from. Or if you have a few extra dollars to spend, see if they can find Mommy the biggest Diet Pepsi in the airport. Mommy can be more positive if she has her medicine.
Find a Quiet Corner for a Nap
With all the hustle and bustle going on around an airport, it can be difficult to get your little one to sleep. Again, find an area with closed gates to set up a quiet corner. You can make a fort out of a blanket and a stroller or a couple of chairs. If you need a blanket, ask a gate attendant for an extra one. A nap is usually an instant mood booster for young kids so do what you can to get them to sleep.
A flight delay can happen anytime not just during bad weather. Mechanical delays, overworked flight crews, involuntary/voluntary bumps, and missed connections are just a few reasons you can be stranded in an airport longer than expected. As frustrating as it may be, try to stay positive and make it fun for your kid and for yourself.
Make sure to check out my 10 Hotel Hacks to Get Your Toddler to Sleep (and Keep Everyone Happy) for when you finally arrive at your destination. Everyone will need some sleep! (Also, you can just avoid the stress by Traveling Without Your Kids.)
Do you have some tricks to keep kids entertained when a flight is delayed? Share them with me in the comments!