Last Updated on September 17, 2022 by Celeste.
Tips for airport survival, based on my personal experience of traveling by airplane with the kids
If you are traveling by plane this summer, you cannot have missed the chaos at several European (and international destinations). Like the tens of thousands of pieces of luggage stranded across European airports, flight cancellations have piled up everywhere. Several airlines made plans to mitigate summer travel chaos, including schedule changes and cancellations.
The kids and I flew from Amsterdam to Athens during the busiest time of the summer. Our initial flight (from Greece to The Netherlands had already been re-directed from Amsterdam airport to Eindhoven airport. We did not lose our luggage, and we did make it on time for our flight. That is why I decided to update our post about surviving the airport and share some valuable tips for navigating the airline chaos this year. So unless you are a VIP traveler or have your own private jet, you may find our experience useful. With the right preparation AND a bit of good luck, you may have the same experience!
12 Tips for airport survival amidst the 2022 summer chaos
This is what we did for our European flight from Amsterdam airport to Athens airport in the summer of 2022:
- We booked morning flights
- We downloaded the airline app and added our boarding passes
- We checked with both the airline and airport on the advised time to come to the airport for check-in (4 hours at Amsterdam airport)
- We checked on social media for last-minute updates
- We checked the traffic situation at the airport before leaving home (with Google Maps)
- We invested in an easy-to-roll quality cabin suitcase for my youngest child
- We only packed carry-on luggage and traveled light
- We rested well on the day before our flight and ate a healthy meal
- We did not drink too much (there was no chance to visit the bathroom in the waiting line)
- We were prepared for the security check: easy shoes, no belts, and no jacket
- We used the elevators wherever we could
- We expected the worst, brought music, and stayed calm and relaxed
General tips for airport survival with young kids
Below is my personal experience and advice from the time that my children were much younger. I hope that you will find it helpful.
So, you have booked your tickets, packed your bags, and arrived at your departure airport. Before you actually get on that plane, you still need to navigate the airport and pass the airport security check.
Tell your children what is expected from them at the security. For instance, someone may need to check them at security), and tell them to follow the orders by you and the security staff. Tell them in advance (at home) about security procedures: e.g. that you will leave all your items on the belt for scanning, your valuables last, so you can keep an eye on them whilst you also pass the metal detector (kids go first!). If your child is in a stroller, you will need to carry it and fold your stroller to pass from the scanner.
When your bags passed the scanner, push all the baskets and kids towards the end of the table, where there is more space and fewer people. I open the stroller and put the child back in. Furthermore, I make my children wait for me whilst I collect the other items. My children cooperate well in these kinds of situations, but if your kids find it more challenging, you need to go over these things at home before your flight. If this is the first time that you are going to fly with your children; talk about it at home, buy a book, show them the procedures, visit an airport, and so on! Make sure that you check with your airport if there is a children’s corner.
The airplane: booking your seats
If you can choose your seats when you make your online booking, choose the closest to the front of the plane as possible. The biggest challenge of the plane trip is getting on—and off-board. You want to be as close as possible to the exits to avoid wasting time and impatient kids.
Further, traveling in the back part of the aircraft is bumpier and therefore less pleasant for your children (and yourself!). Ask the airline staff at the check-in desk, and/or onboard the aircraft, if there are any empty seats in front of the plane. Keep in mind that the safest place on a plane is in the seat in the seatbelt. This can be challenging for toddlers because it is difficult for them to sit still. Try to keep your child entertained and do not start walking up and down the aisle.
If your child is being potty-trained, you may want to consider putting on a nappy during the flight. Changes are that you cannot make it on time to the toilets. Changing a diaper on a baby is not difficult in the airplane WC.
There is a foldable changing table above the toilet. But for older kids, this changing table is too small, so you will need to do this standing up. When it is snack time onboard, I never order hot drinks. In need of caffeine; choose coke or iced coffee instead. For your children, ask the flight attendant to fill the cub halfway.
Eating onboard can be a challenge; the food is usually very hot, so be careful when you have a baby on your lap. I used to wait until my baby slept or asked the flight attendant to bring my food later, so I could help my children first.
If you are traveling with another adult, consider booking two or more seats in front or back of each other. Some airplanes do not have 4 or more seats next to each other, the advantage is that the most active children can sit behind their family members and do not bother the seat of another passenger. Finally, my best advice would be to enjoy the trip and relax.
Arrival at the destination airport
For me personally, the hardest part starts now: tired kids, leaving the aircraft, finding my stroller, and claiming our luggage. Here is where I need help and where there is usually no help offered by the airline unless previously booked (and paid). Someone needs to stay with my children whilst I am pushing myself through the crowds to find our bags. I need to lift them from the belt (remember traveling light!) and store them in the luggage cart. I also need to push the luggage cart AND the stroller with children towards the exit.
Sometimes people offer help. Sometimes no one seemed to bother. I guess, the hardest part was when the baby was too heavy for the baby carrier and my oldest was not able to push the stroller for me. But I managed, and we did travel, and we did arrive. I still use the stroller for the 3-year-old, and she is being pushed by her older sister. PS. Always check what type of stroller is accepted by your airline. You need one that goes all the way up to the plane door. For this purpose, the airlines usually accept the lightweight umbrella-style stroller.
Finally, remember that airplane travel is the safest way of transportation, your child cannot get lost on board, and we parents do not get to sit down very often in our daily lives. Things will get easier when the little ones grow older, and you will be enjoying the airport and airplane with kids!
Celeste was born and raised in the Netherlands but lives in Greece for 25 years. She studied at the Dutch Institute of Athens underneath the Acropolis and currently lives with her family in an Athenian suburb. Celeste is the founder of Family Experiences Blog. Whether you and your family live in Greece or are visiting, this blog will show you the very best ways in which to celebrate family life here.