In the summertime, when flight delays seem to happen more frequently than not, flying with young children can be more challenging than ever. Adding even another hour to the travel day can really wreak havoc on a toddler’s schedule, especially if your young child is just waiting for the airplane seat in order to take a nap. In the last four weeks we have flown two round trip flights, New York to Texas. The first flight was from New York was delayed an hour and the second time we flew from New York, it was a 3 hour delay.
Here are some of the things that helped keep us sane during the delays:
Buy a Day Pass to the Airline Lounge
Since my husband travels so frequently for his work, he pays for a yearly membership to the Airline Lounge. That means when we are traveling with him we have access. A few weeks ago we traveled with my husband, but last week I was on my own with the kids. The airline posted a three hour delay on the flight because of an out-of-service aircraft. Knowing I had time to make it worthwhile, I went ahead and bought a day pass to the Airline Lounge. Best money ever spent!
Many airline lounges sell day passes for as little as $50. If you are delayed at least an hour, this can be a great retreat for you and your kids. Just getting away from the crowded gate area can give everyone a more relaxed approach to the day. The lounges usually have light snacks (we had yogurt covered pretzels, Chex party mix, and fresh apples) and they often have a small restaurant where you can purchase food that is at least as good as anything else you could find in the airport. Many also have a kids room so your kids can really feel comfortable playing with toys, watching kid shows, even sometimes playing on kids computer games. We were able to set up at a dining table, enjoy a good (and relatively quiet) meal, and had access to nice, clean, spacious restrooms.
Now I don’t mean to let your kid run wild, but giving your children a chance to move their legs to keep them from feeling trapped can help the time pass by. Check to see if your airport has a play area for kids. These can be a really great spot to spend some time and give the kids some freedom. If space is limited you can lead them in some stand-in-place exercises like jumping, marching in place, jumping jacks, and squats.
Use the Toys Meant for the Plane
Normally you might want to save those special new toys for the airplane, but if your child is becoming fussy and difficult before hand, you might as well try to keep him happy while you can. Who knows, maybe you’ll get lucky and he’ll actually sleep on the airplane. Just focus on the minute at hand and worry about the airplane later. Check back with me next week and I’ll post some ideas of ways to keep a child occupied in flight if you have gone through all your own toys and activities.
Many airports have some great art displays throughout the terminal. Even if your home airport doesn’t have pieces of art such as this one, your child will enjoy looking at billboards, light fixtures, signs, etc., throughout the airport. Remember these things are fairly new to your child and children are really good at having a sense of wonder about everything. See things through their eyes and enjoy something you would normally overlook.
Not every child is outgoing, but if your children are like my two, they will enjoy walking around and saying “hi” to people. This really seems to brighten the day for other travelers as well, especially when little John, at age 1.5, looks right into someone’s eyes, smiles, and says, “HI!” Last week in the lounge he asked the ladies working at the check-in desk for high-fives. He walked up to them and said, “Five!” It actually took me a moment to figure what he wanted. He made all the ladies laugh.
Take a “Train” Ride
Some larger airports have a train that connects terminals. DFW, for instance, has a SkyLink train that is inside security and has two stops in each terminal in the airport. This can be a really fun excursion for young kids. Ella used to love standing at the front of the train and pretending to be the engineer. Enthusiastically steering with her invisible steering wheel, she had a great time! If you have a posted delay with plenty of time to leave the gate area, this can be a fun addition to your travel day.
Enjoy Plane Watching
Try to find a window where you can view planes taking off and landing or even taxiing in and out of the gate. Depending on your child, this could be so fascinating that you could stand there for an hour without a peep.
Are there other activities you do with your children when waiting for a delayed flight? Share your ideas in the comments to help other parents!