In the first blog post of our series about traveling with kids, we have purchased tickets, packed our bags, and overcome the fear of traveling with little ones. Now, we can move on to further preparations. We hope that our post has encouraged some parents to make the decision to buy tickets and embark on a family trip. For those who missed it, in the first post, we provided some tips on how to purchase plane tickets and how to pack to make the journey with our little ones more enjoyable and painless.
Although planning the travel itinerary should logically come before packing, we intentionally provided packing tips first to help you make decisions about ticket purchases and determine what you need to bring and how much luggage you'll require. Since you're traveling with children and need to adapt your journey to their abilities and needs, we suggest creating a brief plan of your daily activities and deciding on the type of accommodation you'll stay in. You know your children best and are aware of how long they can ride in strollers or cars, how long they can walk, and when they need breaks for rest, play, or meals.
In my case, on all our previous trips, we have avoided guided tours and planned our daily activities ourselves. We would find a few itineraries from local and foreign travel agencies for a specific destination and try to find a combination of activities suitable for children. Be sure that the day trips are not too long, and the attractions are kid friendly. Avoid long walks or difficult terrains that could be problematic for both you and the children. This doesn't mean your vacation will be limited to staying in the hotel or apartment, but all activities should be well planned and adapted.
If possible, we strongly recommend renting a car at the destination as it will make the journey easier for both you and the children. You won't depend on public transportation schedules and crowded vehicles. Children will have a familiar environment, and you'll have the flexibility to rest whenever and for however long you want. You can return when the kids become too tired or stop at an unexpected attraction that you didn't plan but is fascinating for your little ones.
Even though we love treating ourselves to fancy hotel breakfasts and dinners, we've realized that staying in apartments is easier when traveling with kids. Children are often picky eaters, they need their familiar environment and peace, they often get hungry, and most of them are accustomed to their mom's cooking 😊 As appealing as hotels may be, they often dictate schedules that need to be adhered to for children, causing more problems than benefits. Hotels, as tempting as they may seem, often have strict schedules for children, which can create more issues than advantages.
We have chosen our accommodation, made a plan for daily activities and sightseeing, packed our bags, and now we can finally head to the airport. The airports can be crowded at certain times of the year and depending on where you're flying from. Whether you're traveling by yourself or with children, you have to go through the standard procedure.
Once you're inside the airport, the next step is the check-in process. How children are treated during this process depends on the airport, the airline you're flying with, and the type of tickets purchased. Airport staff often accommodate families with children and allow them to proceed to check-in and security checks ahead of other passengers, but this is not always the case, especially when flying with low-cost airlines that require an additional fee for priority boarding. As we explained in our first blog post, if you're traveling with a stroller or a car seat, make sure to mention it during check-in to receive instructions and properly label the items. During check-in, children can stay in their strollers, and if they are sleeping, there's no need to wake them up during the procedure. After check-in, a slightly more stressful situation for children awaits: the security check. Unfortunately, you will need to bother your little ones at this point, as all bags you carry, baby carriers, and strollers must go through a security scan. It's a good idea to pack liquids in a clear zip bag so that you can easily hand them over for inspection. Place jackets, clothing, and toys that children have with them in a separate bag that you can easily recognize after passing through the scanner. Put children's belongings and strollers on the conveyor belt first, so you can retrieve them quickly after passing the metal detector and scanner. If your child is walking independently, they will have to go through the metal detector themselves, which can be a big problem because they might feel insecure at that moment and think that the airport staff wants to separate them from their parents 😊 Try to pass through the security check as quickly as possible, go through the metal detector ahead of your child, immediately turn around with a smile and call them to come to you. If you're traveling as a couple, one parent can go ahead, and the other can stay behind with the children. As soon as the staff allows you to pick up your belongings, hurry and proceed with the children towards the departure gates, as that environment is more comfortable and children feel safer there.
Often, you will wait for hours for your flight, so during this period, engage your children, give them the toys you brought with you, and let them play and run around the airport. Larger airports often have specially designed playgrounds for children where they can spend hours in a natural and entertaining environment. If they're hungry, feed them, take them to a restaurant, buy them water or juice, make them feel happy, and make the waiting time for the flight enjoyable. This is important because it will make them tired for the actual flight, and they will often sleep during the flight and the journey itself.
Next comes the boarding of the airplane. When the staff opens the gate, you should assess whether they will prioritize letting you and your children go ahead of other passengers and if you can enter the airplane before others. As we mentioned before, this depends on the airport, airline, and the type of tickets you purchased. If that's not the case, we recommend that you approach the gate with your children and keep them entertained until the queue gets shorter. Waiting in queue with children doesn't make sense, and they won't stay calm or stand in queue with you and other passengers for long. The plane won't depart without you, so just take a seat, relax, and entertain your children. If needed, you can be the last one to pass through the gate. If you checked in at the gate and brought a stroller with you, be prepared to hand it over to the staff before entering the plane. You won't have much time to wake up your children, lift them out of the stroller, and fold it in front of the plane, so it's recommended to prepare everything just before passing through the gate.
Step by step, you have reached the entrance of the airplane. You have survived the airport crowds, security checks, and now you can finally take off to your dream destination. In the next blog post, we will be on the plane, flying with children to the desired destination, and providing new tips on how to make the flight as smooth as possible. I hope that so far, you haven't regretted your decision to take a family flight by plane 😊