There’s no denying that one of the most stressful aspects of traveling is trying to navigate the airport. On your own, it’s still pretty stressful. You have to check-in, dump your luggage, go through security, find your gate, and do all of this while getting to your flight on time so it doesn’t leave without you.
As just stated, doing this alone is hard enough. But, imagine the stress of doing this with a family! Most of you don’t have to picture this; you’ve been through it all many times. Some of you might have missed flights because you’ve not managed to get through the airport with your kids, or you’ve barely made it while everyone is sweating from running to the gate.
So, here are some tips that will help you banish the airport demons and deal with the stress when traveling with your family:
1. Being too early is better than being late
When you book a flight, most airlines tell you to arrive 2 hours before the flight is due to depart. Indeed, many check-in desks or baggage drop places won’t open until 2 hours before the departure time. However, you can save yourself so much stress if you arrive before the 2-hour mark. If you’re lucky, they might let you check in and drop your bags off early. If not, at least you should be near the front of the line, so you won’t be waiting for a long time.
The trouble a lot of families have is they arrive around 2 hours before the flight, but so does everyone else. So, you’re already stuck in a big queue trying to get your bags dropped off! It is always better to arrive early and wait around for 30-60 minutes than it is to arrive late.
(We roll in 60 to 50 minutes before our flights but we never check a bag and we’ve always already checked in online and have mobile boarding passes.)
Here are some things you can do to pass the time while you wait for your flight: 7 Airport Activities for Families.
2. Check-in online and avoid checking a bag
Where possible, try to check in online instead of in person. This makes life easier as you have one less thing to queue for. In many cases, airlines have self-drop luggage areas where you can weigh your bags and drop them off without needing to speak to another human. This is only available if you have already checked in, so make sure you do this online before the day of your flight – it removes so much stress as you can drop your bags and go through security.
Or, even better, try to avoid bringing any checked luggage whatsoever. This means you can check-in online and literally just walk straight to the airport security section. You have no bags to drop, and you are already checked in, so you can stroll through without this stress. Obviously, this isn’t always possible, but try your best to pack everything into small hand luggage bags or suitcases.
3. Read the security rules
Before you go to the airport, look up the security rules. They should be the same for every airport as there are only certain things you’re allowed to bring onto flights. Be sure you understand exactly what you can and cannot bring with you when flying.
Honestly, a lot of stress comes from your bag being detained in security and having to wait ages for it to be released. You can go a long way to avoiding this by packing your bag while adhering to the rules. Don’t put liquids over a certain quantity in your bag, don’t pack aerosols or sharp objects; read all of the security rules and ensure that your bags are packed accordingly. Don’t give them a reason to detain your bag, and you can ease through security without any problems.
The same goes for what you wear through the airport; take off any jewelry and avoid wearing metal things where possible. If you choose to wear them, don’t forget to remove them before going through the scanner. So much time is wasted by the scanner going off, you getting a pat-down, then you needing to take something off and go through again – it’s so stressful.
4. Pack your kid’s bags for them
Following on from the previous point, make sure you pack your kid’s bags for them. They aren’t capable of following rules, let’s be honest! You could let them do an original packing, then go through and remove things that are likely to get pinged by security.
Also, always do a last-minute check of their bags before you leave the house to be sure they haven’t tried to slip something in there. Many times, you get to security and your kid’s bag has been pinged because they stuck something in there without you realizing it, and it sets off the scanner. Avoid this stress; always do a last-minute check.
5. Get fast passes for everything
There will usually be a variety of passes you can buy that streamline the airport experience for you. Many airlines will offer passes that give you priority boarding and checking in. This means you get to enter a separate line from the normal customers, meaning you wait for less time when dropping your bags and checking in. It also means you can board first, so you don’t have the stress of waiting at the back of the line and finding that all the overhead compartments have been taken, so you have to put your hand luggage in the hold.
Similarly, you can get passes from the airport that let you zoom through security. They’re normally called fast track passes – or something similar – and you can go to your own section to get through the security terminal. Again, it means you don’t have to stand in line, and if your bag needs to be checked you don’t have to wait for someone to check dozens of other bags before looking at yours. Yes, these passes cost more money, but they streamline the airport experience and make it far less stressful when traveling as a family.
If you have the right travel credit card you will have access to many of these benefits without having to pay for it.
6. Try eating before you arrive
Where possible, try eating before you arrive at the airport. Also, bring as many snacks as you can – you are allowed to bring things like sandwiches through airport security.
The reason for this is it stops instances where you or your kids are starving and you need something to eat. So, you’re running around the airport terminal rushing to buy and eat food before getting on your flight. It causes so much stress, which can be avoided if you just ate before you came and had some snacks handy when you need them.
7. Consider chartering a private jet
If you can afford it, this is a clever idea to completely eradicate the stressful airport scenes. When people charter a private jet, they get to go to a private terminal that’s separate from the one that commercial flights fly from. It means you don’t have to worry about the luggage drop lines, you don’t go through the same airport security, and you can literally turn up 15 minutes before your flight.
There is, of course, a pretty large elephant in the room. Most of you are probably wondering how to charter a private jet, seeing as it’s not something you have ever done before. The good news is that it’s relatively straightforward; just find a chartered jet company and book your flight. You then arrange when to fly, and turn up on the day. Yes, it can be very expensive, but it might be worth it if you really hate the stress that airports bring your family.
With these tips, your airport experiences will improve dramatically. It’s all about finding ways to avoid the common stressors when traveling, ensuring you make it onto your flight with time to spare and not a bead of sweat in sight.