Let’s take a few minutes to talk about layovers. There is no perfect airport for kids. They are overstimulating, and seemingly impossible to navigate with tired littles and heavy bags.
So how can we make the unavoidable layover less stressful, and something that benefits our travel rather than takes away from the experience?
From the moment you book your tickets you can set yourself up for success by considering how long your layover should be.
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There Is No Perfect Airport For Kids…
So let’s not keep them there too long!
What is the best timeframe for a layover with babies and toddlers?
A layover that is too short is setting yourself up for stress, Therefore I recommend avoiding anything under an hour at all costs.
If your first flight is late, you could miss your next plane and have to deal with the hassle of arranging new travel plans. All while managing children!
Best case scenario you will end up rushing to catch your next flight. There’s nothing worse than dragging a cranky poopy toddler along as you sprint to your next gate!
A 1-1.5 hour layover is suitable in smaller airports if there are no other options. Make sure to pack filling snacks in case you don’t have time to eat between flights.
A power bank to keep your devices charged could also come in handy, as you won’t have time to sit at an outlet on a really short layover.
In most circumstances, a 2-3 hour layover is ideal. Not too long, not too short, juuuuust right.
There’s plenty of time to take care of both adult needs and little needs.
You’ll have time to get something to eat and charge your devices.
Not to mention changing a diaper or two, and if things work out really well, sneak in a nap for the kiddo.
And speaking of changing diapers…
Family bathrooms are God’s gift to traveling parents.
There’s nothing I love more than stepping off a plane for a layover than to look around and see a little restroom sign with two adults and a kid in the middle.
Except for maybe a Chick-fil-a. But even if God’s gift to food is nearby, the family bathroom trip must come first.
I see you mama, traveling alone with a toddler.
You’ve survived the first leg of your journey. And are now haggardly lugging your backpack and pushing your stroller while your little one desperately needs a diaper change.
The first thing you should do is look for your oasis, the family bathroom.
Whether it’s sparse or fancy, the family bathroom offers privacy and a contained space to manage everyones post flight needs.
Take a deep breath and collect your emotions.
Splash a little water on your face. Do something to refresh yourself, maybe moisturizer or brushing your teeth, whatever works best for you.
Change diapers and wipe noses. If needed, switch out any dirty clothes in your diaper bag for clean supplies in your carry on.
And if you need help figuring out how to pack your diaper bag for travel, check out my blog post about that -> HERE.
Get some food!
It’s not surprising, but it’s hard to eat on an airplane while managing a young child, particularly while traveling alone.
Let’s be real, those puff snacks you sneak in between endlessly feeding them to your toddler to keep her quiet?
They are not going to get you through a day of travel.
And maybe it was just my baby, but I swear he could smell the food cart coming from a few rows away and would insist on eating at that very moment.
So this is where choosing at least a 2-3 hour layover will benefit you. Find something yummy nearby or on the way to your gate and chow down!
If your child is eating table food, it will save you time to pick a place that serves something everyone likes.
Pro tip: many airports have apps nowadays, or at least maps you can access online ahead of time.
Plan a convenient place to eat ahead of time, and pick a back up in case the line is longer than you’d like.
If you’re running low, grab some water to stay hydrated.
If you’ve got a long layover, take your time to find a place with food you’ll really enjoy and a convenient outlet to charge your device.
So you’ve hit up the family bathroom and gotten something to eat.
Both you and the kiddo(s) are clean and fed. What comes next?
That totally depends on your child’s normal routine.
Napping in the Airport – Is it Possible?
Short answer, YES! It’s totally achievable! But it does take some preparation.
So how can you get a young child to sleep in such a place?
Is your baby small and not too active or grabby yet? You might get away with baby wearing or draping a light blanket over your stroller to get your little one to sleep.
But after a while, your kiddo will become more aware and a draped blanket won’t last two seconds before being ripped off and dropped onto the dirty floor. So how can you achieve the coveted toddler nap?
I have had great success with a product called the CoziGo. This amazing device clips to just about any stroller and blocks out the busy sights of the airport, all while maintaining a breathable and cool space inside.
The clips successfully keep my active toddler from tossing it aside and it is dark enough that he falls right to sleep with no problem.
You can check it out -> HERE.
My son sleeps with white noise, so I also use a travel sound machine on the go.
This little device is convenient, easy to use, rechargeable and loud enough to block out the announcements that frequently ring through every airport.
And while I’m on the subject, who came up with that system anyway?!
Obviously not a mom! Even with the sound machine, every loud announcement makes me flinch as I imagine my toddler being woken up after just ten minutes of precious sleep. But I digress…
So if it’s time for your kiddo to take a nap, find a quiet gate near an outlet and take a rest, Browse Twitter, get some work done, or have a snack. This time is for you!
Playtime – Get moving!
Perhaps your child already slept on the plane and she’s full of energy and longing to move. In that case, let her move!
Some bigger airports have kids areas, but don’t count on one being anywhere near your gate. Remember, there is no perfect airport for kids!
If your kiddo is old enough to understand, let her walk next to the stroller while holding onto it from the side so she’s unlikely to be separated from you.
Another way to keep kiddo nearby is to have her wear a backpack harness with a leash attached to you. Unfortunately, neither of these options tend to work well with young toddlers in my experience.
Of course your child may react differently than mine, but my 18 month old is an all or nothing kind of kid.
He wants total freedom or no freedom. Therefore, being restricted by the harness just leads to tantrums and sitting on the floor refusing to move.
Imagine trying to walk a cat on a leash and you’ll get a pretty good picture of what this looks like.
In short, if you like the idea of the harness, try it out ahead of time to see how your toddler reacts.
For this age, I recommend finding a relatively open area.
If you’re traveling with a partner, one of you guard the stroller while the other closely follows the toddler around.
If you’re traveling alone, park your stroller where you can clearly see it.
This scenario is a bit trickier because you can’t allow your child to wander far, but is still manageable with redirection and distraction.
And that’s it!
So those are my tips for a smooth and stress-free layover with kids!
What’s your favorite thing to do on a layover, with or without kids? Let me know in the comments!