There’s no doubt about it, going to the airport is a hassle. Going to the airport with kids? That’s a whole other level! Everything from packing to boarding is a HUGE undertaking when the whole family is involved. Even so, many are washed with a false sense of security when they finally arrive at their gate. But, from the moment you enter the airport, to the moment you arrive at your final destination, there is still a lot that can go wrong!
Despite TSA’s thorough security measures, airports aren’t exempt from crime. The JFK airport alone reports over 200 baggage thefts a day and children getting separated from their parents aren’t unheard of either. In fact, there are lots of risks involved with airports. But, with a little preparation, you can feel confident, safe, and ready for whatever your air travel day brings.
In light of this, we’ve dedicated a whole post to airport safety when traveling with your children. Let’s dive right in, shall we?
13 Airport Safety Tips
Pack your essentials in your carry-on.
Even though this is an age-old piece of advice, some people still forget this essential tip. But this advice is so important! Not following this one almost always leads to unnecessary headaches or emergencies. We know that traveling with carry-on luggage plus your kids is a lot to haul, but keeping essentials with you at all times is a traveling MUST.
Keep things like medications, formula, diapers, identification, a day’s worth of clothes, and any nighttime comfort items with you at all times. There are lots of ways you can get separated from your baggage. Whether you missed your flight or the bag was simply lost, you do not want the stress of finding a pharmacy or a replacement for your child’s favorite blankey once you arrive at your destination!
But . . . don’t pack too much. (Keep it light.)
Though you should keep your essentials with you, we advise you to pack light. Between the stroller, the diaper bag, all the kids, and your carry-on (not to mention the kids’ carry-ons), you’ve got a lot to haul.
The more stuff you bring, the more stuff you’ll have to keep track of on your travel day. We recommend putting what you can in your checked bag, bringing your essentials, and keeping your shoulders light. The last thing you want is travel fatigue before you even reach your destination. And it’s much easier to wrangle up all the kids when your arms and shoulders are free.
Start planning and packing your carry-on a few days or even a week ahead. Then, each night leading up to the trip, try editing out some items. Fewer things for TSA to check and fewer things to carry, lose, and break are best when traveling with kiddos.
Remember, airports are not 100% safe, even after you pass that security checkpoint. Try to keep your phone down and stay vigilant when it comes to your items and your children. While looking away, your kids might wander into a shop or luggage might get stolen. Keeping your eyes peeled will prevent most incidents!
Take pictures that same day.
When you arrive at the airport, take pictures of everyone on your phone. This way, in the event a child does get lost, you have an updated picture (including the child’s current outfit!) to show airport security and the police. It’s a horrible thought, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Introduce your children to airport staff.
Depending on the age of your children, they may already know that police officers and firefighters are there to protect them. But, if your child has never been to the airport, they might not know who the trustworthy adults are in case of an emergency.
As you’re going through airport security and getting settled at your gate, point out the airport staff members and explain how they can help. With lots of unfamiliar people in different uniforms, it’s helpful to show your child who the friendly faces may be in case of emergency. If there’s a security officer that is out of the way and doesn’t look busy, even go up and do a formal introduction. It’ll break down any social anxiety that might come with approaching a staff member and give you great peace of mind!
Bring your car seat on the plane. (But plan it.)
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Safe in the Seat recommend that any child under 40 lbs be strapped into a car seat while on the plane. Having a child on your lap or in a regular seat belt will not provide sufficient safety in extreme turbulence or during a runway emergency. Plus, you don’t want your child jumping all over the place on your lap. You’ll both be miserable!
Additionally, airlines are notoriously hard on your baggage, so imagine what they’ll do with a checked car seat! And, renting one once you arrive at your destination will haunt you with the same uncertainty. Where has it been? Is it safe? How you use it correctly?!
To avoid these undue stressors, bring your car seat on the plane. PERIOD. We know, another thing to carry and figure out, right? But, there are plenty of options that can make lugging around a car seat much easier—like a car seat backpack, belt, or cart! If you’re a frequent traveler, you can even grab a travel-specific car seat that’s lightweight, versatile, and easy to use.
Here are some of our favorites:
- Convertible Seats: Cosco Scenera Next or Century Drive On
- Forward Facing Seats: Graco Tranzitions or Wayb Pico
- Foldable Boosters: Diono Monterey 5ist Fixsafe or Peg Perego Viaggio Flex
Because the FAA strongly recommends your children be in car seats on a flight, every domestic flight allows car seats on board. But, this is not true for everywhere in the world. International airlines have different rules. Thus, it’s important to make sure you look into these rules before flying.
Additionally, most harnessed car seats in the U.S. are FAA-approved. But there are a few exceptions. Check for the white sticker with red lettering located on your child’s car seat to confirm it’s FAA-approved.
If you’re looking for more on taking your car seat on the plane, check out this post. There, you’ll find all the information you need to be prepared for your next trip—car seat ready!
Locate amenities before arriving.
When you get to the airport, you’ll want to do as little aimless wandering as possible. Before you leave, check the airport maps for important amenities like a play area, nursing room, family bathroom, or favorite fast foot joint. Knowing exactly where these things are located will help you better plan your journey once you arrive at the airport.
Think about containment.
Even if you only have one kid, they’re not always easy to control. All kids are prone to wander in new places. And some airports are packed with kid-appealing signage and lights! Who knows when your kiddo will be dashing toward a giant-sized candy shop or veering toward a flashy electronics storefront? The key is to plan how you’ll contain them ahead of time! Here are a few ideas depending on the ages:
If you’re traveling with a little one, babywearing is a great choice. You stay hands-free to roll luggage or hold hands of older kiddos all while baby stays cozy. You can use a soft structured carrier that provides a little more support or a wrap that is easy to stow away in a carry-on bag for the flight.
Now more than ever, parents are switching to wagons over strollers, especially when they have children of different ages. Wagons can stow all the kiddos comfortably, and can also carry some belongings. They’re super versatile and a total mom favorite! Before you board your flight, check the wagon at the gate. No problem! Just check with your airline first to confirm that your wagon adheres to weight limits and foldability requirements.
Just like a wagon, a stroller can be checked at the gate. These tried-and-true beasts will get you where you need to be and keep the kiddos contained. And they’re less cumbersome than a wagon if you’re packing light. Plus there are tons of options to choose from, big and small, for whatever your needs may be.
If you’re traveling with independent-minded toddlers, there is no shame in a cute backpack leash. Your children can hold their own things like snacks, toys, and comfort items, while you hold the reins! When you get to the gate and sit down, you can wrap that leash around your wrist and give them a little space to move without them leaving your side.
Make sure you have enough power.
Is it just us? Or is there something about an airport that drains your phone battery faster? It’s so frustrating! And running out of juice can be a big problem on travel days. You might not receive important flight alerts or phone calls from TSA. This is especially important in case a bag gets misplaced or a child gets lost.
Make sure you bring extra power in the form of a battery pack when traveling. Airport outlets are not always available or reliable, and it’s even more hit-or-miss on the plane. So pack a few power banks to give you much-needed peace of mind! (And so you can recharge that tablet before “Baby Shark” turns off.)
Create a behavioral backup plan.
Airports are stressful environments for kids. And airplanes are worse! No matter how even-tempered your child usually is, make sure you have a backup plan for meltdowns. Your back-up could be their favorite snack, a new toy, their favorite movie, or a comforting sensory item . . . whatever it is, plan it and bring it!
No shame on travel days, either. If you need candy, movies, and gifts to get through the day stress-free, you go for it! We’ve got a whole list of great toys and activities to bring on the plane that won’t make a mess. And, even better, they’ll keep your children entertained for hours. Try grabbing a few of these and surprising your children before any outbursts!
Label everything important and expensive.
Things get lost, and there are lots of good people at the airport eager to return things that don’t belong to them. It’s a good idea to label anything you have of monetary, emotional, or medical value. Mark tablets, comfort items, pill sorters, and anything else of the sort with your name and phone number! Give yourself the best chance of success if something is misplaced by labeling almost everything.
Bring your children to the bathroom.
This one might sound strange, but you’d be surprised how many times we see a group of seemingly abandoned children standing outside a restroom. This is usually the case when a single parent is inside using the facilities. It is, of course, never a good idea to leave your child alone in the airport.
Instead, when you’re traveling alone with your kids, bring them into the bathroom with you. While it’s important to be considerate of others and we wouldn’t normally recommend taking up a handicap stall that may be needed by a disabled patron, navigating an airport alone with young children just might be an exception — you can bring your kids right along with you and maybe even fit your stroller in the stall while you take care of business.
If this isn’t possible due to the opposite gender or space concerns, find a family bathroom to use. Family bathrooms are very common in airports, although you may have to search a bit. That’s when planning ahead and double-checking the airport map can really come in handy. All in all, just remember to keep your children close, even while using the restroom.
Keep “track” of your kiddos.
Again, we want to plan for the worst-case scenario. In the event your child gets separated from you, create an easy way for them to find their way back. Simply placing an identification bracelet goes a long way, especially if the child cannot speak. But, you can also use an Air Tag or special tracker to keep tabs on your kids right from your phone – 24/7. No baby left behind!
Taking the proper precautions while in airports will give you peace of mind and ensure a fun and safe trip for everyone.
Traveling with children can be incredibly rewarding, and we love to see brave parents tackling new places and new experiences with the whole family in tow. But we can all agree it doesn’t come without any headaches. We hope this post on airport safety tips will help you better prepare for your next trip and help keep it totally stress-free! If your head is still spinning, don’t worry! We’ve got more content for you. Check out our Wheels Up: Airplane Travel Course that will take you from ticket purchase to take off and everything in between. It’s our goal to make your travel safe and full of great, stress-free memories. Until next time, good luck on your next adventure! Or, should we say, bon voyage?
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