Family journeys through airports

 wooden plane

Find out what Mumsnetters recommend for keeping track of children and chattels in busy airports, filling the time before the flight and generally avoiding the airport leg of your journey being so stressful that everyone's cross even before the inevitable bickering starts about who gets the window seat on the plane.

Setting off for the airport

So, first things first...

  • Find out in advance if the airport has a children's play area. EauRouge
  • Leave home earlier than you think you need to - there's nothing worse than being in a traffic jam and worrying that you'll miss your flight. As dull as airports are, it's better to be there early and be the first to check in than screeching up to parking like a bat out of hell and trying to drag small children at Usain-Bolt-speed through the terminal. Sidge

Bags and baggage

Travelling light? Not bloomin' likely with children in tow. But you can still travel smart. And if you're trying to travel with hand luggage only, check out our guide

  • Make your child take responsibility for their own toys and tat by carrying it in a rucksack. TastyMuffins
  • Get a backpack to use as your carry-on instead of a little wheely case, it's one less thing to carry. EauRouge
  • A Trunki is a must. When DD was smaller it was a godsend when she was tired or we needed to move fast. She sat on it and got pulled along. CoffeeIsMyFriend
  • You will end up carrying said Trunki and small child, instead of small child looking cute excitedly pulling Trunki. If they do pull it, they will take out plenty of other travellers' kneecaps/toes. cherub59
"Little backpack each, much better." strandednomore

"Take only what you can carry yourselves in case you have to walk to the airport, take a train or bus, or something unexpected happens." LeMousquetaireAnonyme

Clothing and clobber

Mumsnetters won't leave home without...

  • Small blankets to sit on or wrap around. wigglesrock
  • Take twice as many nappies as you think you'll need. kittensliveupstairs
  • Keep spare clothes for the DC in a ziplock bag, that way the soiled/vomited on clothes can go in there after changing. mousymous
  • I don't trust car-hire child seats and like to bring my own, but if you haven't got a spare one just turn up at the airport with a strong binbag and a roll of parcel tape, and package up the car seat your child arrived in when you get to check in. CointreauVersial
  • Dress your children in a similar colour - easy to spot in the crowd (bright peach is unusual and very 'spotable'). LeMousquetaireAnonyme
  • Calpol sachets are a mega-must. MissBetsyTrotwood
  • Dress small kids in pyjamas before overnight long-haul flights. TastyMuffins
"Pack a favourite teddy - airports can be a bit scary for toddlers, so a little bit of home can help." EauRouge

"Always shove a tutu, princess shoes and a fairy wand in the outside pocket of your suitcase. Invaluable when you're stuck for eight hours at an airport because of a hurricane and they've lost your other bags. Might not work if you have teenage boys." strandednomore

Pushchairs and slings

Distances inside terminals can seem interminable, so Mumsnetters say...

  • Airlines will now either let you take your pram to the gate and then unload it again at the arrival gate or have airport prams. Do check and take advantage of this, as babies get heavy being carried with so much walking around. ComradeJing
  • Take a baby in a baby carrier rather than a buggy. This can allow the baby to sleep as well as allowing you to negotiate steps and around other people if required. You can take it on the plane and won't have to worry about whether the buggy will be at  the gate at the other end. Spoo
  • Try to make sure the kids aren't wearing anything with metal, unless you like the idea of a two-year-old sparking off a security alert. ilovemydogandMrObama
"Get a sling or carrier for kids under two, as at some airports the pushchair is only returned with the luggage after you had to queue at immigration for an hour." mousymouse

Food and drink

Hungry, thirsty (or bored) little travellers? Mumsnetters recommend...

  • Take a picnic, and then more snacks for the plane. Remember you can't take much in the way of drinks through security, but take bottles to drink prior to security, then empty them and buy fluids airside if you need refills. Sidge
  • Get small, fiddly snacks to keep 'em occupied. mousymouse
  • Another vote for fiddly snacks - raisins kept DS amused for ages! Slugsandsnails
  • High-status snacks. Crisps less likely to send mine hyper. MissBetsyTrotwood
  • Reserve cartons of formula for the flight beforehand at the airside Boots, if there is one, pack sterile bottles, collect once past security. fraktious

Distraction and letting off steam

The waiting-for-your-gate part of the airport experience can drag on (and on, if your flight is delayed) so be prepared...

"A portable DVD player is a godsend." MrsChemist

"I take a netbook and headphones instead of portable DVD, as they can also play games, draw, feed Moshi Monsters when in range at the airport/hotel etc." befuzzled
  • Have a stack of pound coins for the 'machines' in the airport, eg the ones that sell the bouncy balls and Barbie tat. wigglesrock
  • I always take Crayola Colour Wonder pens and pads, they don't go on clothes just the paper - it is a brilliant invention. CoffeeIsMyFriend
  • Wrap any bribery-type stuff in wrapping paper with loads of sellotape to make it more exciting - and the whole fix last longer. MissBetsyTrotwood
  • Spend more on sticker books than you did on your entire holiday, it will make your journey easier! Eaurouge
"Beach ball. Invaluable for tiring out kids at airport departure lounges so they'll sleep on long-haul flights. If everyone waiting to board your flight sees you exercising your kids they'll appreciate your efforts even if they don't sleep. But obviously not for use at the crowded departure gate or in the quiet corners where people are sleeping." TastyMuffins
  • Let the children run and unload their steam in the airport, not on the plane. LeMousquetaireAnonyme
  • Being willing to walk around for as long as their little legs will let them works well - hopefully, they will be tired out when they get on the plane and sleep! Sirzy

At last! Your gate is called

Cue mad scramble, but seasoned travellers say...

  • Don't head for your departure gate too early - there's naff-all to do and they can be quite a distance from toilets. But, conversely, don't leave it until they are calling for you by name to board as you won't be overly popular with the flight crew. Sidge
  • Board the plane last! There are no prizes for getting on first, all that happens is you are stuck in a confined space for an extra 30 minutes, when you could be at the gate letting them have that final run round. Georgieminx
  • Make a loo stop the last thing you do before boarding. StarlightMcKenzie
"Remember some airports are massive, and you may need to get a bus to the plane. We stayed in the main departure area until the final call, only to find we were miles from the gate and ended up being driven out to the plane. Cue planeload of not-very-impressed passengers." northernruth

And finally...

"Pack the children into the suitcases and just wear eight changes of clothes. It's a bit uncomfortable, but you don't notice so much after your fifth G&T. The rest of your stuff can fit into your hand luggage." babyheave

Last updated: 09-Dec-2013 at 11:17 AM