Three major airlines (American, Southwest, and Delta), recently demonstrated the importance of airline travelers to be prepared for just about anything. Weather, late staffing, even airport renovations can add monkey wrenches in travel. Even computers have troubles.
Traveling with children is a whole different ballgame. Young children often Can’t handle sounds, scents, sights, and noise of busy airports, especially when problems arise. Flight delays make everyone tense and unsure, not to mention downright angry.
What can you do to make unexpected glitches a bit more bearable? I have added a few things I learned on this delayed trip. Please note: this is/was my personal observations. I am not advocating for any particular airport or airline.
#1: Be Polite
Ask politely for a hotel voucher if you aren’t immediately offered one. After an agent verified I was booked on a canceled flight, she printed out taxi and hotel vouchers and even called to make sure they had a room ready for me (it was an hour before their “normal” check in time). I was so relieved to have a safe place to sleep that I could have hugged her.
The next day, I asked the agent, “I know this is a horrible time for you and I don’t want to add to your stress. If there is an available seat on this flight, may I please have it?” After calling all passengers (most airlines wait ten minutes before scheduled departure for travelers and even page them several times), she placed me in an empty seat (in first class!). I still had to wait almost seven hours at the next airport since all the flights were full, but it was worth asking and certainly worth being polite.
#2: Keep Needed Items Handy
Keep a spare change of clothes, medications, extra money, and phone chargers in your carry-on bag. It adds weight and bulkiness, but having needed items is a must for a delay. Your child’s IPad, game system, IPhone, or Leap Pad isn’t going to help entertain him/her if the battery dies. It is also helpful to be able to keep your cell phone charged. I was very glad that I had my medications in my purse and not in a checked bag.
Be sure to keep an extra day of clothes, formula, diapers, etc. with you. While Walmart seems to be everywhere, you may have no clue where and spend time (and money) trying to find one. This is especially important if your child is allergic or sensitive to diapers, wipes, specialized formula and/or food, etc. and needs specialized items.
This is probably a throw away tip. Parents already know to never travel with kids and no emergency food for the unexpected hits of “starvation.” I always pack a baggie of sliced apples for an extra boost of energy and to avoid high priced, unhealthy airport food. If you’re in a strange town, you may have no idea about prices or restaurants; having snacks that you know your children (and you) will eat can be a life saver.
Have one or two “surprise” toys, books, games, or other distractions on hand. Pulling out a new book or toy is a great way to offset frustrating delays and cries of: “I’m bored! There’s nothing to do!” Plus everyone likes a good surprise now and then.
#4: Roll With It Baby
Check out what’s available in the area. Is there a kids’ museum, nearby Main Street to walk, or a park? Make the new city exciting and check out local color. It could become a cherished memory, plus time passes faster.
I visited a museum. There was also a lovely park where the fresh air (even though it was a breath stealing 106 degrees!) helped to relieve some of the stress. Both activities were free and I only had to pay bus fare. The hotel where I stayed also gave me quarters for the laundry room free of charge. Clean clothes were like a trip to Heaven. Plus, their television offered more channels than I get at home so I wallowed in DYI shows and movies.
#5: Find a Reason to Smile
Parents are their child’s first and foremost teachers. Your children often base their reactions on what is modeled around them. “Little people” don’t just have “big ears” they have big eyes too. Take delays as teachable moments to show plans are rarely set in stone and can change on a dime. Also, demonstrate the art of compromise, working with others (like the airline, airport, and hotel agents), and manners with your attitude and words.
Smile and make it an adventure even if you are stressed, ready to pull your hair out, and ready to scream. You are Dora the Explorer in a strange land. You are Christopher Columbus discovering a new world. You are catching a Pokémon! Have fun. You might just help yourself relax a bit too.
Go to dinner at a new restaurant, particularly a small, family-owned type to see something beyond the standard “chain” available anywhere. Go for ice cream at a Mom-and-pop stand. Be indulgent and call in pizza while lounging about the hotel pool. Have a slumber party and watch movies sitting in a blanket fort in the room. Set your creativity free.
Delays stink. There is no doubt about it. Hopefully these tips help you survive unexpected travel inconveniences!