5 Travel Tips To Make It Out Of The Airport Alive

I was really fearing our travel day this week. The World's Cutest Human will be two years old on Monday and I thought, "This is it." In one regard it is, being the last flight she flies for free. That's a tragic day for our family, who travels so often. Paying for three flights now? No, thanks. Not yet. She'll be grounded at her grandparents for a little while, until she's able to remember our family fun (we've established a solid enough foundation for her life as a little traveler during the first two years).

I anticipated that she would be grounded for bad behavior after this week's flight (not "go to your room" grounded, I mean "stay on the ground" grounded). I was absolutely certain it was going to be a nightmare because she's generally more active, excitable and well, loud. Yet somehow, she channeled these qualities into positive, enjoyable toddler entertainment and we had a lovely flight. She made me laugh the entire day, and made me melt with some exceptionally cute moments. She made friends with two young boys nearby and chased them back and forth in front of our gate for two hours. They even formed a family mariachi band, and she held down the castanets.

I hear two is supposed to be a nightmare, and no, the ridiculous unfounded meltdowns are not fun. But the rest really is. The interaction, the mimicking, the personality and expression; I find it amazing to watch and so much fun to be her mom these days.

While we were probably just having an "on" travel day, I like to think that this week's smooth travel had something to do with preparation and experience (look at me just tooting my horn! Toot toot! That guarantees a jinxed flight home).

Which brings us to this post. I can't help it. When I'm on the road, the travel tips just flow. I'm constantly reflecting on how to make the nomad life family friendly, or at least a tad bit easier for us. With two nomadic parents, there's a lifetime of moments on the road ahead of all of us, and my brain can't help but try to make it as easy as possible.

So, what helped us flow through a smooth day? Here are five tips I highly recommend to ease your airport woes.

  1. Pack your own food. No one likes airport/airplane food. At least, no one claims to like airport/airplane food. It's expensive beyond reason, it's almost always disgusting and nearly guaranteed to be unhealthy on a scale from not the best for you-to-you're killing yourself and your family by eating that. So pack ahead, and keep it simple with fellow passengers' noses in mind. Tuna salad? Not the nicest. A simple PB&J, turkey or veggie sandwich, some crackers and fruit, string cheese (just don't forget it in your purse!) or the like do the trick and will get you to touchdown (on the runway, not the end zone).
  2. Bring a(n empty) reuseable water bottle. I use this one, but the brand does not matter. What matters is not reusing (at least, not more than once) plastic water bottles (the chemicals seep in). Or even using them in the first place, since they're the bane of the planet. I mean, if you like paying $10 for water in the airport, don't let me hold you back. But otherwise, pack your own empty water bottle and fill it up once you clear check-in and security (water fountains are always right next to the bathrooms). Refill it right before you board the plane, as well, to get you through the flight (yes, they pass out water, but I always need more than 4 oz.).

  3. Organize your carry-on('s). This may or may not be helpful, depending on how you tend to pack (i.e. if you already have a mega-organized purse, in which case surely you are not a mom). But if you're a 'throw it all in the bag and just get there' type of person, a travel day might involve a few more headaches. Pack your carry-on bags with the day ahead in mind. Imagine yourself facing a level ten meltdown and needing something in that bag. Now organize it accordingly. Keep things in places that you can find in a hurry in the airport, from snacks to water, and toys to diapers. Use smaller bags to compartmentalize if you have to. Just make an attempt to know where things are.

  4. Re-organize your carry-on('s) just before you board. After you've made it through the tedium of waiting at the gate and once it's almost time to board, re-organize your carry-on('s). What will you want to keep out to use on the plane (choose the toys you'll start with, get a diaper and wipes ready for the first change, make sure milk and/or water are handy, plus a magazine, book or iPad for yourself. Put that stuff at the top (or most accessible place) of the bag. That way, once you board and you are attempting to put your bags above and below without your child escaping to unlock the emergency door or wander into the cockpit, you can quickly grab what you need and get settled. Sure, you can switch it all out mid-flight. This is about easing the boarding process.

  5. Tell children (especially young children) what to expect, and keep updating them. We often underestimate how much our kids understand about what's happening around them. They can read our energies, emotions and the gist of a situation. But travel, in itself, is confusing. Nothing is familiar, the scenery is always changing and it can be hard for a little mind to keep up with what it can't understand. And a little, confused mind is a ripe breeding ground for one of those aforementioned meltdowns. Simply letting them know constantly what is happening and what is going to happen next can prevent the terror. For you and for them. I find that the WCH remains calm throughout a trip the more often I explain her surroundings to her.

There is tons more to share, but we'll keep it to five tips for now and save some more goodness for later. What are your top tips for airplane travel and making it through the airport alive?