Travelling with children – surviving an airport

Travelling with children – surviving an airport

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By Hayley Spurway
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Single-handed, with a rambunctious toddler and six-month old baby, the airport is no longer a simple limbo-land between home and holiday. Since her first trip with two tots, Hayley Spurway has learnt some valuable lessons about surviving the airport. 

On my first solo trip with babe and toddler, I hadn’t really throughout about the portion of the journey up to boarding the plane. In fact it wasn’t until I arrived at Gatwick and caught the taxi driver eyeing me with concern as I left the baby on the pavement and swore at the double buggy I couldn’t unfold that it really sunk in. Unable to commandeer a luggage trolley as well as the buggy, I had to strap on two backpacks, balance a baby car seat on the buggy handlebars and tow a huge wheelie bag. Finally I got on the move, zigzagging up the ramp to Departures. Lesson learnt: Use the porters. Many big airports have helpers who will meet you and transport your luggage.

Bags and car seat checked in, next came security. At least there was a family lane, so I could sidestep couples and business travellers, glaring at us like we were the sort of vermin they were going on holiday to get away from. Folding the buggy and removing its wheels (by stern request) was no easy task with a baby strapped to my front and a toddler straining to break free from his backpack (attached my wrist by a leash). By the time I’d removed our shoes and sampled three types of baby food as well as a bottle of baby milk (formula, not breast, thankfully) to prove I was no terrorist, there was quite a queue forming. Lesson learnt: Make sure you know how to fold and dismantle your buggy, and keep baby food in a separate, transparent pouch.

Once I’d pulled myself, the buggy and the children back together and made it into the departure lounge, a clipboard-wielding lady made a beeline for us. Convinced she was going to ask me to answer a survey I almost ran her down, but she simply stepped in our path and directed me to the ‘children’s area’ – a haven of brightly coloured play mats where children sat glued to a giant CBeebies screen. Lesson learnt: There are kids’ zones at many airports, ranging from rooms with games and TVs, to soft play areas with baby-changing facilities and microwaves.

Thankfully you can keep hold of the buggy all the way to the boarding gate, and – even on budget airlines – families usually get priority boarding. Once I’d given up my wheels I was left with a wailing babe crushed against my chest, while the two year-old escaped behind the crew counter and banged on the glass towards the planes. Lesson learnt: Don’t go to the gate too early, as there are fewer distractions there.

Thankfully onboard there were no major dramas, save for crayons being lost down the side of the seat, head-rests being repeatedly torn off and having to leave the two year-old in charge of his baby brother while I dashed to the loo. You don’t get your buggy back until baggage reclaim, so it was a long, slow walk from the plane, and the toddler pegged off through the jungle of knees and made it through passport control on his own (before being marched back by a stony-faced official). There was still no sign of the buggy when our luggage arrived, so I had to tether the eldest boy to a post (with the backpack and leash), to stop him climbing on the baggage carousel while I retrieved the bags. Lesson learnt: Always travel with a baby carrier and a toddler backpack with leash (or reins) for the sections of the journey without the buggy.

Needless to say, since the dawn of motherhood airports are no longer about window-shopping and grazing on expensive paninis. But, with a little preparation, they can be a fun place to explore with the small, wild things in tow. My best advice is to take your time and rest assured that one pair of hands is enough to take two tots on a plane. Just about.

Have you attempted to take toddlers on a place? Let us know your stories and top tips below.