My number one rule has always been: when travelling with children always book direct flights. I know how much I dislike layovers as an adult, so I’ve always been dreading having a layover with my little Alfie who has much less patience than I have (and I set the bar quite low). However, there are some times when you can’t avoid layovers, even more, if you are flying long distances and on a budget.
I often travel for business with Aviation Spares and Repairs, a ground support equipment supplier, and from time to time I take Alfie with me, but they are always short haul flights which are perfect for both of us. It does help that he loves all things aviation related, so my extra knowledge about airports, aviation and ground support equipment helps keep him entertained.
I’ve always wanted to take him to Australia to visit my sister who moved there a few years ago. But when I was looking at flights, I couldn’t find any direct flights – I started to panic. How will we both survive an airport layover? Should I pick the cheapest ticket from Jettly and wait for more than 10 hours at the airport? All these questions started to make me overthink. I took a deep breath and thought how on earth we were going to do this without any of us ending up screaming or crying. I might be a bit over dramatic – bear with me.
You might be in the same situation as I was, overthinking, over worrying, over everything. Don’t worry anymore, I’m writing this article because I was actually able to survive it with Alfie and it all worked well(ish). If I can do it, so can you! Keep on reading for some tips on how to survive an airport layover with children.P
Consider long layovers.
Layovers might not be the worst thing to consider. An article on the Mirror mentions that “having a stopover might break up the boredom and give the kids the chance to burn off some energy.”
After my own experience, I believe that having a layover is not the end of the world and sometimes the longer the better – it will give you plenty of time to rest, refresh and explore the airport, instead of having to run around trying to find the gate in a short period of time.
Research, research and a bit more research.
Before travelling, make sure you research about your layover airport: where are the changing rooms, play areas, charging stations, lounges and your gate location. Researching about these areas will not only save you time but will also prevent you from wandering around the airport clueless.
Stretch your legs.
After a short or long flight, I always feel like I need to walk around for a bit. Nobody likes being sat down for too long and a good stretch around the airport once you’ve landed will do wonders for everyone.
If you need a bit of a rest at the airport or time for yourselves, try to find an empty gate. This will give the little ones space to run around and play without disturbing anyone. An article on Skyscannerrecommends finding the airport chapel to get some quiet time or visiting the lounge to have some extra perks, such as food, snacks and sometimes shower facilities.
Make time for fun time.
Giving your children time to play will make this whole experience a lot more pleasant for all members of the family. Some airports have various play areas to keep the little ones entertained. For example, the Calgary International Airport has a pre-security and post-security play areas suitable for children up to 12 years old. While other airports have golf courses and IMAX theatres, such as the Hong Kong International airport.
Remember that technology is your friend. I always try to keep screen time to a minimum, however, when all else fails it’s okay to break the rules – don’t forget to download their favourite shows on your tablet, so they can watch it offline, as some airports only let you use free wi-fi for a short amount of time.
Keep your tummies happy.
Children and adults can get hangry and cranky whentheir tummies start rumbling. Prevent all the growl noises by being prepared with lots and lots of snacks. Try to have a good selection of food for everyone as it will be cheaper than airport food or in-flight food. However, if you feel like you want to sit down for a good meal, maybe check if there are any restaurants near the airport that you can walk to or take public transports to.
Pack all the essentials.
Besides snacks and games, some other essentials that you should pack in your carry-on should be wipes, change of clothing, toiletries, changing mat, their favourite cuddly toy and a first aid kit (with tablets for upset stomachs, plasters, antiseptic, etc).
A change of clothing is my favourite thing after flying. It’s perfect to freshen up and to recharge your batteries. Just clean your face, maybe splash some water and change into some fresh clothes – you’ll feel brand-new.
Explore the city.
If you have a long layover, why not enjoy a short tour around the city? Of course, you’ll have to do your research to figure out how far away the airport is from the city and how long it would take you to go there and come back.
Some airports offer free tours to passengers who have long layovers. For instance, Changi Airport Singapore offers free Singapore tours to passengers who have at least 5.5 hours to 24 hours to spare until connecting to their flight.
In case you have a long layover and just want to take some time to rest and for the little one to nap, I’d recommend booking a hotel room in the airport or at a nearby hotel. This will give you the opportunity to take a shower and close your eyes worry-free.
Try to not let this experience stress you out as it won’t make any of it easier. Just relax and make the most of it. Being prepared and planning things ahead is my best advice. What are your own tips to get through an airport layover? Do you have any special games you play with your children at the airport?
This article was written by Hannah Tolson, a part-time freelance blogger, who enjoys writing about all things aviation and travel related. You’ll find her and Alfie strolling around airports naming different types ofground support equipment or at the beach enjoying a sunny day.