March Break Airport Survival Guide
Busy airports, security lines, winter weather delays — are you sure you want to do this?
Booking Best Practices
Rise and shine: Book the earliest flight you can. Sure, you’ve got to wake up early, but those first flights out are the least likely to be delayed, and airports are blessedly calm at those hours if you’re flying with the entire family. Or, fly a day before or after the actual break.
Choose connections carefully: When booking flights with a connection, if you have a choice of airport, choose the one farther south — there's less of a chance of a weather delay. And keep in mind that airports will be busier over the school holidays, so allow some extra time to connect.
Pre-order kids meals: This only works if you're on a flight that includes meals, of course, but if so, it's a winner. Even if you’re in the last row of the plane, the kids meals come out first (no waiting!) and include food kids will likely eat (think chicken nuggets, mac n’ cheese, soft veggies) and are often served with little activity bags.
Speaking of food… pack snacks! Assuming that you’re going to have time to grab something at the airport is a surefire way to guarantee you won’t -- and your kids won't care about your good intentions. Stock up on portable food like granola bars, sandwiches and fruit before you head out to make sure you and your kids aren’t hangry long before the flight attendants start offering (or selling) meals.
At the airport
Use the airport as a gym: Parents and experts seem to be divided on this one. Some say, "run children, run. Run free. Pretty please, for the love of everything in this world, exert as much energy as possible before boarding the plane." While others feel that because exercise releases so many endorphins and adrenaline, too much exertion before having to sit for an extended period of time will keep them too wired and unable to relax when on the flight. For my family, the "use the airport as a gym tactic" works, but it's worth noting the other side. If you are looking to run wild, some airports even have indoor playgrounds.
Give yourself plenty of time: You’re already sweating, carrying way too much stuff and stressed about the whole experience in general … the last thing you need to do is be rushed or (gasp!) miss your flight (indefinite airport time = tears). If you gave yourself 1.5 hours from your door to board before kids, give yourself three to four hours with them.
Security isn’t that scary: When you’re with your kids you can bring baby food, formula, breast milk, nursery water, etc… just about everything you need. It will get tested and inspected, but you shouldn’t have a problem. Kids can keep their shoes on, but everything, including lovies, have to go through the x-ray, so it's a good thing to discuss that ahead of time if attachment issues are a concern. Look for a Family/Special Needs lane in Canadian airports if you need additional assistance.
Early boarding: Do it! We’ve debated this a few times. Do we really want to spend extra minutes on the actual plane? Yes. You are doing yourself a and other passengers a favour. Take the time to get settled, organize your stuff, wipe down the arm rests and make friends with the flight attendants.
Gadgets are good: We know - your child doesn't read enough and is obsessed by that computer screen. But just briefly, relax your rules on iPad or portable console use. Plug in and take a deep breath. They'll still grow into functioning adults despite the extra hour of mid-air Stardew Valley or the hundredth "Moana" viewing. It will be the most peaceful flight you ever had.
If you don’t want to leave town but are dreading another year of playing referee in your living room, why not head to a nearby hotel? Travelzoo has hotel deals that your whole family will love.