How to survive airport delays with young children

Half term is almost upon us, and many of you will be getting away for some winter sun. However, before you arrive to your destination, there is the journey there to contend with – starting with the airport. Air travel can be stressful enough; throw in young children and an unexpected delay and your stress levels will be sent through the roof. But armed a little know-how, you can swerve the meltdowns as much as possible – we’ve rounded up the best tips to help your trip get off to the best start – even with unavoidable delays.


Update your details
Make sure the airline you’re travelling with has your correct mobile number and email address so they can easily reach you. If you’re travelling with your partner or another adult, add their details as a back-up.


Download the app
These days, most airlines have their own app which makes keeping up-to-date with any delays much easier. Make sure you have notifications switched on to save you from constantly checking the airport website – or not checking at all.


Keep up with the news
It’s worth being aware of what’s going on in the news both at home and in your destination country in the weeks leading up to your holiday. Staff strikes, storms and runway closures can lead to delays or cancellations so prepare yourself if you think they might be likely.


Advance warning
If your child is a little older, explain to them in advance that delays sometimes do happen. Giving them prior warning helps them practically prepare for the scenario be it with extra games or snacks to bring, and also avoids landing them with unpleasant surprises, which are often the source of tantrums.



Stay calm
This is easier said than done, but once it has become apparent you’ll be stuck at the airport for the next few hours, it’s important to stay as calm as possible. There’s nothing you can do so you might as well stay light hearted – it’ll rub off on the rest of the family.


Make a plan
In the event of a cancellation, missed flight or very long delay, keep the kids busy as you figure out what to do next. Dish out the toys, treats or iPad while you speak to airline staff. If there’s a long queue at the desk or it’s a long way to drag your children, try phoning the airline – it’s sometimes quicker and you won’t have to traipse around the departure lounge with a whining toddler.


Look for distractions
Explore the airport and look for kids’ play areas, somewhere to watch the planes take off, an empty space to run around in, or get creative with a scavenger hunt – create a list of items for your child to find in the surrounding area. An activity the whole family can do together will make the time go a little quicker.


Screen time
You might put restrictions on tablet use on an average day but this isn’t an average day. If it will keep your child happy and calm, let them half unfettered access and don’t feel bad about it. They’ll come to look forward to long days of travel if it means binge watching Paw Patrol to their heart’s content!


Make an upgrade
Some airlines will allow you to buy a day pass for their airport lounges which can be a godsend for weary travellers, particularly when other areas of the airport are very crowded and you need somewhere to relax. A lot of the time there are free drinks and light snacks on offer, as well as a viewing gallery and kids’ play area. So, if your budget allows, it’s definitely worth asking at the desk for access.