I had the wonderful pleasure of traveling with a child, and this time I took my niece on a trip. We ended up going to Gulf Shores, Alabama and had an amazing time. She’s now 10 and hadn’t flown in a plane since she was three. Needless to say, she was a bit nervous prior to the trip. While there aren’t many things that went wrong on our trip (thank goodness), I will admit there were many things I learned about traveling with children. I not only served as guardian to my niece, but I also became activities director, cheerleader, teacher, bathroom monitor, and track coach. While I’d love to hear your success stories while traveling with children, here’s my list of things that provided a successful time for us when flying.
Estimated reading time: 8 minutes
Prepare Your Kids for Being in an Airport
Prior to leaving for our trip, I explained standard airport procedures. I let my niece know we would have to go through security, and that meant our bags would have to be scanned. For me, I would have to remove my shoes, but because she was a minor child, she’d be able to leave her shoes on. She would still need to make sure she didn’t have anything in her pockets that was metal or could potentially set off the machines. I also explained how we had to travel with small liquids.
When we went through one security check, the TSA agent asked my niece some questions. The agent asked her name, her age, and who I was. My niece is extremely shy, so when they asked who I was, she just looked at me. I answered. It turns out, my niece thought the TSA agent asked her how old I was, and she didn’t know the answer to that. On a side note, TSA never asked, but I had a certified letter from my sister-in-law that stated I was my niece’s guardian while on our trip. This made traveling through the airport with a child much easier.
Airports could be stressful
Airports could be stressful especially when traveling with children. The one thing I forgot to mention to my niece is sometimes people are running late for their flights. She was walking in the Atlanta terminal with her carry-on bag, and a woman “yelled” at her to get out of her way. My niece was crushed and worried that she was doing something wrong. I just let her know that sometimes people are worried about their situation and don’t really consider the other person or their point of view. After she was able to get over the woman saying something to her, she was just fine.
Bring Things To Do During Down Time
I’m sure this one is obvious to every parent, and most kids are happy to have an electronic device with unlimited usage time in their possession, but I also made sure we had other activities to do. We had a very long layover, so we ended up doing other activities as well…coloring, word finds, videos, books…
Having access to the onboard entertainment, I made sure we each had our own set of comfortable headphones. I showed her how to find the games and the movies. There was also a wonderful older lady who sat by her during one flight, and she helped her find the navigation map. To say my niece was content on the plane was an understatement. She loved it.
Have Snacks Available
Airports often have many options when it comes to food. However, sometimes your layover is short, or you just don’t want to pay the prices airport restaurants charge. Obviously, bringing liquid foods isn’t the best idea (unless you are taking a baby—special process), but packing a sandwich or other snack foods is great.
When we left Kansas City, we arrived around dinner time and weren’t going to have time to stop for anything before we arrived in Florida. It was midnight before we arrived, so I made sure we had sandwiches and chips. I let the airlines provide the drink and cookies. The food was perfect for us, and we were much happier than had we not brought snacks. The other part I enjoyed was we had healthy choices. (PSA…make sure you don’t bring smelly food. I love tuna but would probably take that off my list of potential airplane snacks.)
Experience the Joy of Airports
There are many children who never have the opportunity to fly. My niece hadn’t flown in seven years, so I wanted to make sure she had a great experience. Because we had a really long layover, we were able to explore places most people rush through. In Atlanta, we walked between the terminals. There was a “rainforest”, sculptures, history lessons, and other artwork we enjoyed. We rode on the tram and the moving walkways. We practiced reading the departure board, so my niece would grow adept and comfortable navigating. She even went to the kiosk and became our official boarding pass printer. By the time we left the airport for the last time, I knew my niece would feel very confident on her next trip.
Have an Emergency Plan
You never expect you will be separated from your child. I worked really hard, so we were always very close to one another. However, sometimes your plans go awry especially with children at airports. While we never had to worry about our emergency plan, I wanted my niece to know what she needed to do if she found herself alone. Our emergency plan included me telling her what our terminals and gates were. I let her know that if something happened, she’d need to find someone in a uniform and ask them to take her to that terminal. We would repeat, repeat, repeat. I needed her to know the plan. Our layover on our way to Gulf Shores, Alabama was Atlanta huge airport, so I wanted her to know exactly where we would meet in case of separation.
Plan for the unplanned layover
This is probably good advice for everyone. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to check my carry on then have had an unplanned layover…or had my carry on that I had to check not make it. So, my niece and I made sure we put our toiletries and extra undies in the personal item. For this trip to Gulf Shores, Alabama we didn’t need the extra security, but it was nice to know we would have had them had our plans gone awry.
Enjoy your trip
Kids have such a fun and unique way of seeing things. I loved talking to her about the things we were seeing. Together we empathized with people who missed their flights, enjoyed eye shopping at the souvenir shops, and learned how to read and use the information posted throughout the airports. Travel is such an awe-inspiring event, and I hope I will always find the best parts in every situation.