Adults in top physical shape will weave through moving sidewalks filled with wheelies to make it to the jetway on time and miss. How the heck is someone traveling with a kid who just began walking or is easily sidetracked supposed to make it?
1. Time – The easiest solution is lots of extra time, especially during peak travel seasons. Arrive at least two hours before a flight and consider even more time if starting at a busy airport. It is far better to have an hour to kill at a gate then trying to make the twenty minute cut off with kids in tow.
With connecting flights, try and leave a minimum of 90 minutes between flights. This should allow time for routine delays, potty breaks, picking up a bite to eat (to go), and traveling to the opposite end of the airport for the connection.
2. Divide and Conquer – If traveling with more than one adult, divide up responsibilities in advance. One could be the sherpa, carrying bags while the other is the wrangler, keeping the kids on track. One can take potty duty while the other forages for food. One waits for the luggage with one kid while the other takes the second kid to get the car. Just agree in advance who is handling what responsibilities.
3. Backpacks and Buggies – Keeping younger kids off their legs will always speed things up. Slings and carriers are great for those under three. Strollers can be a hassle at security and on the jetway, but for many it is the only option to get kids under five or six through the airport.
A fun alternative is the Trunki children’s suitcase. This child-sized wheeled suitcase really does fit under the seat in front of you and is a ride-on toy. It is currently my favorite way of getting Mirielle across long stretches of terminal (her’s too.)
4. Competition – When the kids get too heavy to tote, create contests and competitions to keep them moving (in the right direction.) Who can make it to the next water fountain first? Last person to gate C36 gets the middle seat. Even with toddlers and preschoolers, beating mom, dad or older brother in a “running” race is a great way to get them to move across spaces quickly (I used it this weekend in the NYC subway tunnels).
5. Time – See number 1. Everything else is just a contingency.