What To Do With a Baby at the Airport, Prevent Tantrums and Meltdowns

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.

what to do with baby kids airport prevent tantrums

 

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.

what to do with baby kids airport prevent tantrums

 

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.

what to do with baby kids airport prevent tantrums

 

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.

Airport Lounge baby seat-2 what to do with a baby at airport, prevent tantrums and meltdowns

Chillin at the lounge (quietly)

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 quiet.

 

What do you do with your kid at the airport? Did we miss anything that works?

Comments

  1. Good post, but oh God for spending more than 3 hours at an airport. Please tell me you have learned better by now with your toddler (we have a 3 year old one) that you should avoid at all costs longer than 3 hour layovers. If the alternative flights cost too much, fly another time, and if that doesn’t work, you shouldn’t put your toddler through that… Lounges work, but only for a little breather, not more than that.

    • Agreed. We are trying to avoid any connections where possible. On our recent trip we needed to get to Poland in the summer and the best we could find was Biz to Milan which was booked in far in advance. The next step to Poland wasn’t great… change airports and fly directly to our destination city on a low cost carrier (grrrr) and loooong layer or short layover and fly to Warsaw + 5 hour train ride. It wasn’t great and wasn’t horrible, but not my first choice.

      • Yeah I guess in the points and miles game you kinda have to make “great spontaneous” award travel your final destination so your don’t have a separate itinerary to go to another destination. At least that’s what we do. We still use points and miles to go to Europe to visit family and those won’t always be “great” redemptions, but at least they’re free, and then there are the non-required spontaneous and incredibly great redemptions (yay on being self employed and wife stay at home mom so we can travel whenever). That way we always stick to one itinerary. Unless of course you go with United’s new award travel and pretty much have 3 individual flights that you’ll have to piece together somehow, but that’s another story.

        • Yep. This past itinerary was built around some family events and then we usually add on some just for us (a new country perhaps). We used to willingly hop around more to see as much as possible but now with the kid, that’s not really possible and tiring. Hiking with the kid on my back in a carrier is even more tiring – we did a major hike which was amazing but a lot of work. In many cases I’ve been extending stays to get the 5th night free so we can really get to relax a bit.

  2. I had two perfect toddlers and one spawned by the devil himself. My go to cure for the devil tantrum was to hug him as tightly as I could so that he literally couldn’t move all the while whispering into his ear. After I discovered this, the tantrums went away after a few weeks never to return.

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