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Step 4: Taking Charge at the Airport

Navigating the airport when you don’t have a kiddo in tow is hard enough, but trying to figure it out with a little jabber bot who runs towards anything sparkly or bubbly is just that much more stressful. Fear not! If you have a plan and lots of snacks, I promise, it won’t be as bad as you think.
First thing to note, is that you only have 2 hands. This is where the luggage issue comes into play. It is unreasonable to think that one person can get through to the baggage check and ticketing area with a bag for mom, a bag for baby, and a carry on, all the while carrying your child. I have considered an arm leash for my toddling little one, but I think the stroller is a better option, at least for now. I always bring a stroller and I know that some people think this is more of a pain than it’s worth, but it helps me way more than it is an inconvenience. If you don’t have a use for the stroller, strap that baby to your chest with a ring sling or a baby carrier. This will keep your arms free and keep your child from running off while you’re trying to figure out the kiosks at the airport. I like the stroller because it serves the purpose of keeping my child from running all over the place as well as allows me to put my carry on onboard so I can keep my back from giving out.

I utilize sky cap as much as I can. These are the outside check-in people and for a few bucks tip, you can avoid the long lines and lugging your luggage through to the kiosks. My husband usually drops me off with all of our luggage at the sky cap and I check in with the baby. He then parks the car and meets us at security or at the gate. Because he has checked in online he can doesn’t have to go back to the kiosks and get a ticket.

After we check in a sky cap I only have a bag and a stroller that I need to get through the airport. If I happen to forget to enter my Global Entry number when I booked the flight, I head straight for the security line to ensure I have enough time to get through. Because I only have one kid to get through, things are a bit easier but I still have a protocol for getting past security.

1.  Make sure you have the tickets and your ID in hand. You don’t need your kid’s identification, so put that away.
2. Next, I dig into the little backpack of goodies and let the goo monster pick whatever he wants to play with. Typically, this is the 100 first words book or some stickers. This should keep him quiet for a few minutes until it’s go time.
3.  Once we are through the ID check line and in the security screening line I prep myself in a certain order. First, take off your shoes and coat and put them in a bin at the front of your stuff. 
4.  Put all of your baggage on the belt and take out any food or 3oz container bags you have.
5. Take out your child and fold up your stroller. My umbrella stroller is super easy and I can do this with one hand, but if you can’t, there’s no shame in asking the people around you to help watch your little person as you fold it up. They will be happy to do so if it gets them through the process more quickly. At 18 months old, my son can stand there for a moment while I fold up the stroller as long as I’m talking to him. 
6.  Put the stroller on the belt and walk through the metal detector.

As long as you have a process that works for you, and you remember to pull the food and drink out of your bag to be tested you should be good to go. The best “liquid” items to bring through are the 3.2 oz. apple sauce packets. They don’t need to be tested so it will help speed up the process. Once you’re on the other side of security put everything back together on one of the benches near the exit and you’re on your way. Take your time and make sure you have everything packed in the right places. This will help on the plane when you need to be organized for your flight. Remember, being well organized is the key to a much less stressful travel experience.

I head straight to the gate unless we happen to see an Auntie Anne’s which ensues screaming and crying from my son because he’s apparently always starving. If you have packed snacks, this is a great time to have a snack time. I would encourage packing lots of snacks because for some reason the airport makes everyone hangry. Once you get to the gate, go up to the stand and get your luggage tag for your stroller or car seat if needed. If you have all of your ducks in a row early, you can kick back and relax until it’s time to board. I usually hit up an airport eatery like Root Down at DIA so that it eats up some time and they have highchairs and kid’s menus to draw on. Otherwise your magic backpack should be full of toys, books, and snacks to keep you occupied while you wait for your flight. Unstrap that kid from their stroller and start the process of packing away your stow-ables while they play.

Tiny people like Starbucks too!

If you a flying an airline that has assigned seats, a word to the wise is to wait to board last. Send your partner onboard to prep your seats and get organized while you play and snack a little longer. The shorter you are on board the better. If you’re traveling alone this might be a little harder if you have carry-on luggage and if you’re on Southwest absolutely ignore this advice but if you’re flying internationally especially, let everyone else get comfortable before you charge in with your little traveler. The more energy they can expel the better. And lastly don’t sweat the flight. You got this. So many of us are parents and you will be surprised how many people sympathize with you if you do have a screaming child. If they don’t, ignore them. You are doing something awesome and they likely need a chill pill.

I will write down in depth how to make it through a flight in Step 5 but if you want a quick refresher in the meantime, check out Step 2 again. 

-Lauren Browne

Mom of a Toddler  Frequent Traveler  Avid Reader  Lover of All Things  NPR Listener  Wanderlust  Dancer  ASL  Frequent Click List User  Pie Baker   Sushi Obsessed  Humanist  LGBTQ+ Supporter  Hot Air Balloon Lover 


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