If pulling your two young sons out of school for a year and travelling to 29 countries doesn’t make you an expert on getting through airports with a family, I don’t know what does.
That’s what travel writer Heather Greenwood Davis did, and she shared her top six tips with me for getting through Canada’s busiest airport, Pearson International in Toronto.
1. “Do as much as you can before you get to the airport. That means everything from paying for your luggage ahead of time to online check-in. The more lines you can avoid at the airport itself, the better your experience will be,” says Davis.
With thousands of families travelling at March break, the lines are going to be long and the patience of little kids will wear thin after a few minutes.
By checking in online, you can also guarantee your family will sit together, should this be your goal.
2. Once you’ve gotten through the baggage check-in or have managed to stuff everything you all need into carry-on bags, you’ll get to the airport’s security screening.
Make sure you don’t have liquids in your carry-on (note: if you’re going somewhere warm this means only sunscreen bottles less than 100 ml) or that junior hasn’t snuck in a lightsaber.
If the kids are accustomed to a certain water bottle, bring it with you but make sure it’s empty. You can fill it up at a water fountain after you’ve cleared security.
3. Once you’re through security, buy a few snacks for yourself and the kids. You never know when you might run into a delay (on the runway) before you get to your final destination. A “hangry” kid makes for stressed parents. You can bring snacks from home, but not if you’re travelling on a NEXUS card (an expedited process for pre-screened travellers between Canada and the U.S.).
4. Although most airlines allow parents of children under the age of three to pre-board or board before your zone is called, unless you are racing to stow carry-on bags, don’t board early with kids. The less time on the plane, the better.
5. Prepare your kids to sit quietly on the plane well in advance. Have them get used to using headphones with their iPads at home so they don’t yank them out on the plane. Warn them about seat kicking and make it a punishable offence (no iPad for you!).
6. “And go early. The stress of rushing for your plane is only going to add complications to an already busy day. The new restaurants and shops at Pearson mean you can find plenty to do while you’re there. Or pull out that new book you’re planning to enjoy on the beach and start the vacation early,” says Davis.
Throw in a glass of wine at an airport lounge, and I’m all over that one with you, Heather.