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Top tips for navigating an airport with kids

By: Nicola Burke of Jetlag & Mayhem

Navigating through an airport can be tough, even for the most seasoned of travellers. Throw young kids into the mix and you can almost certainly guarantee a tantrum.

The trick (as always when traveling with kids) is to be prepared. We ask Nicola of Jetlag & Mayhem for some tips to ease the stress:

Take the sting out of travelling with kids with these tips!
Take the sting out of travelling with kids with these tips!


  1. This may sound a bit nerdy but research the airport in advance.  What food options do they have and what time do they close?  Is there a free kids play area?  Are there feeding rooms?  Does the airport allow strollers?  Can you pre-order liquids (e.g. baby milk) for purchase after you head through security?
  2. Don’t overload yourself with hand luggage, especially if you are traveling as a solo parent. Avoid carting your entire house through the airport by printing off a hand luggage packing checklist and working your way through it.  I always favour a backpack as it’s easier on the back and useful to be hands free.
  3. Divide your hand luggage into easy to navigate compartments.  You don’t want to have the extra hassle of struggling to locate all your liquids at security or desperately searching the bottom of the bag for that snack!  I also have a handy pouch which contains nappies, wipes and nappy sacks that I take separately for toilet visits.
  4. Choose your children’s hand luggage with great care. I guarantee you will end up carrying it. If you must let them wheel a suitcase, choose one with an adult arm strap.  For the under 4 brigade, my vote generally goes for a backpack.
  5. Arrive at the airport with plenty of time.  If you’re traveling with an infant, it’s likely you won’t have been able to check in online.
  6. Don’t check your stroller in, keep it with you till you get to the gate.  Where possible, don’t bring that enormous stroller/travel system as you might have to disassemble it to go through security.  It’s worth investing in a cheaper, lightweight stroller for your travels, Maclaren do some good ones.  If you’ve got the cash to splash, the Babyzen Yoyo is the one of the few you can actually take onboard as hand luggage.. genius!  If you’ve handed your stroller in at that gate, double check there and onboard, where it will be handed back to you, once you land.  There’s nothing worse than trekking to the luggage carousel only to find your stroller was at the aircraft door…
  7. Always bring your baby carrier.  I loved my Ergo and used it to carry my kids till they were two.  They are also useful for jiggling baby to sleep on the plane.
  8. Look harassed (easy to pretend!) at every opportunity.  You’ll get waved through immigration queues and kind people will help you with your luggage.  It’s worth keeping an eye peeled for the ‘Family Queues’ although from experience, these aren’t always the fastest.
  9. Have all the family do a toilet trip before you get onboard.  If you’re in the midst of potty training or have a child prone to accidents, best put them in a pull-up.
  10. Don’t rush to get on the plane.  You’re going to be stuck on there for a long time, why not let the kids burn off energy at the gate.  Hong Kong Airport has several children’s play areas and TV lounges.

If reading those tips has left you harassed, let me leave you with a bonus one. Fill your pockets and bag with snacks!  These are great for bribery. I guarantee you will have at least one meltdown en route to your gate but there’s nothing a lollipop can’t fix.

Nicola Burke is author of the award winning family travel blog Jetlag & Mayhem.  Follow her on Facebook and Twitter for more tips on travel with kids.