Leaving the Ground with Smiley Faces: How to Keep Kids Happy at the Airport

You’ve spent hours preparing for this family holiday and it’s finally arrived. You’ve packed everything you need, chosen the best flights to coincide with nap time, have laboured over seat assignments, and stocked up on games for the kids’ tablets.

You know you’ve done everything, but there’s still that hurdle of surviving your time in the airport with the kids. How can you make sure it runs smoothly and goes without a hitch?

Here are our top tips:

Allow Plenty of Time

Everyone tells you to allow as much time as possible for parking up, checking in, going through security, and so on, but this becomes even more important when you’ve got kids in tow. Allow yourself plenty of time before your scheduled departure so you’re not having to rush anything. If you’re stressed because you’re worried you’re going to miss your flight, this is only going to reflect in your kids’ behavior.

Familiarize Yourself with the Location

You may have already flown a number of times from your local airport but make sure there haven’t been any changes to the area since you last flew from there. The last thing you want to find out is the carpark has moved and you now have a lengthy transfer to the terminal, for example.

Equally, research your destination airport, too, especially if you’re getting a taxi or public transport to your hotel. Print off a map so you know exactly where you need to head when you land. Still not sure? Then hotels, especially those in the city centre like Marriott Crystal Towers Cape Town, can often help with directions, transfers, bus times, and so on.

Check in at Home

Many airlines now offer online check-in services, so take advantage of these before you set off to the airport. If you can check in, print off your boarding passes, and reserve seats before you get to the airport this will save you a lot of time and hassle. Always make sure you’ve got seats together (if possible), and if it’s not possible to pre-book these before the flight, get in touch with the airline to let them know you’re traveling as a family. Most will make sure you’re all sat together and may even allow you to board before other passengers so you can get the kids settled before the major rush.

Limit Your Carry-On

It’s a careful balancing act between your carry-on luggage and checked items when you’ve got kids. You’ll want to make sure you’ve got all the essentials for the journey, but if you’re carrying too much, it’s not going to be pleasant, especially if you’re queuing for a long period of time.


Pack a few toys and surprises for the kids that you can keep revealing throughout the journey and any other essentials such as spare diapers and baby wipes.

Be Prepared

Finally, it’s always worth running through the whole airport scenario with your kids before they get there, especially if they’re old enough and haven’t flown before. Explaining what happens in the security queue (i.e. they won’t be able to take their favourite toy through the metal scanners) will help to make them familiar with everything so nothing’s a nasty surprise when they arrive.

By preparing all of the above it should help your trip run smoothly, as the kids (and you) will have everything they need, won’t be rushing about, and will know exactly what to expect.

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