I don’t like layovers or any type of long wait anywhere. Unfortunately, waiting is inevitable when traveling, as is hearing kids' tantrums. When you think of flying with a baby you probably cringe. Once you are stuck with a baby at the airport for a few hours, you, like many parents, may consider changing, canceling, or not even planning your vacation. Its a problem!
Or not! Here are a few usually bullet proof solutions of how to manage your screaming toddler (ooops I mean your precious little munchkin) in a confined space for at least a few hours straight. Our kid is now a bit older, heavier, hungrier, and overall more difficult to travel with than mentioned in my previous post (13 Tips For Surviving Travel with an Infant Lap Child) with but we are still going strong.
It goes without saying to make sure baby is fed, dry, and getting sleep. The key strategy to prevent tantrums and meltdowns is to occupy and distract. The less screaming, the better for everyone.
1. The Lounge
We did a bit of research ahead of time: the terminal we depart from and which lounge can we use there. Lets see what credit card benefits we have: multiple Priority Passes, Amex Centurion, United Club. Sometimes the fee to enter is worth the money – for example when you desperately need to shower or have a 12 hours layover. We have never paid yet, but the Turkish Airlines lounge is one we would pay for without flinching. To pass the time, we first hang out munching on some snacks, running around, flipping (or just straight up tearing the pages of) free magazines and watching TV.
This is a great time to change a diaper as there are usually no lines for the bathrooms… and sometimes the floors actually get mopped. We improvised both in Milan and in Madrid using parts of the sink or any flat-ish surface that wasn't the floor. Luckily, there were no huge blowouts (yea, diapers, not fun).
I have a very fond memory of the Turkish Airlines lounge in Istanbul a few years back where you could get a massage, play Wii, use the library or even watch a movie in a small movie theater. The food there was just amazing given it was still at the airport. Highly recommend to visit! So… hopefully you can at least spend a few hours in the lounge and your kiddo can move on to the next adventure…which is children playroom.
2. The Playroom
Yes, these playrooms exist and will help ease your kids tantrums! Give them some space to run and play! We were at the airport in Madrid and it was probably our first time seeing one of those. Maybe we just did not pay attention in the past because we did not need to. But now it was amazing! The spacious room was full of toys and looked like a replica of a Gymboree class. For the older kids there were teachers/instructors provided! Our son was just thrilled to run around with no shoes on and explore different toys.
3. The Restaurant
We still had a few hours ahead of us so we headed to a restaurant. We went on a small expedition around the terminal, mostly to look for a dinner option. There are always interesting stops along the way like stairs (to climb) or a giant puppy mascot installed by Sixt Car Rental. This may be more challenging with older kids but I would still opt for a walk. You never know what you can find out there. On one of the domestic flights I recently observed the service dogs at the airport that had the time of their lives with teen travelers. So get moving!
Once you find the dinner place that you hate the least and take your sweet time there as well. Forget the rushed meals you usually have while out with children and apologetic eyes when a tantrum is thrown. It is already noisy and loud at the airport so chances are your child's ear piercing squeak will be forgiven (but unfortunately still heard by everyone). Just breathe and eat, eat and breathe.
4. The Last Resort
You can amuse your children by using your imagination and making up games (I Spy or Scavenger Hunt). Bring some travel friendly board games (for example a magnetic chess set, travel bingo cards or a deck of cards). A traveler's notebook to record memories from their trip or a travel stub diary to organize all things travel are great ideas for older kiddos. “Anywhere Travel Guide” is a set of cards where you complete the task to discover the unexpected path in your journey (literally and metaphorically).
Maybe there is some exhibition worth to check out? Many airports have sponsored art shows that otherwise you would have missed. Download a movie they begged you to rent. Bring a new book, coloring, stickers or any activity book to keep them occupied during the wait. Heck, let them even use your smart phone. It is you who dragged them across the country so they deserve it, too!
5. Oh and bring enough diapers!
If you have a layover, make sure you plan for enough diapers in case of extra delays. Diapers aren't easy to find at airports and sometimes they just need to be changed several times per hour. Running out will not be fun for baby which in turn will ruin any chance you had for a few minutes of