Woo hoo! You survived the flight(s) with your kids. You’re exhausted. You’re beat. Your kids are whining, sprawling jello masses on the floor who just can’t quite find enough energy to walk but have plenty of energy to wail or complain. Getting through the airport and to your destination is the last leg of your trip and some preplanning can really help.
If you’re doing a long flight cross country, you’re lucky and don’t need to do immigration or customs. But chances are you are flying internationally and will be dealing with immigration and customs and perhaps visas. All of which adds more time.
So without further ado, here are some of my tips for making the final leg a little easier, especially if you are flying as the sole adult with kids.
–Arrange for family to meet you as far in as they can. This is either baggage claim for domestic flights or after customs for international ones. The draw of Nan (my mom) waiting for them on the other side of customs is enough to give my kids a final boost of energy to go running through the doors yelling “NAAAAANNNNNNNYYYYYYYY” while I struggle behind them with all the luggage.
–No family at your destination? Look into porters or expediters or other types of helpers. In Cairo, we can arrange for an expediter, driver, and car for about $25-35. It is cheap and completely worth it as he can meet you inside immigration and help you through immigration, getting bags, and through customs. He’ll haul your stuff all the way to your a car and driver who gets you to your door. In India there were porters around baggage claim who’d help. Some airports you may be paying a lot more, but it is sometimes worth it. Especially if you have a lot of checked bags.
–Strollers. This is when having a stroller is sooooo handy. If you’re lucky enough that your gate-checked stroller is returned to you at plane side, you’re golden. However, many airports don’t return strollers until baggage claim. When we landed in Cairo recently, I had to get both kids and carry-on bags to immigration where we met our expediter and then to baggage claim where our stroller luckily appeared first. Sticking DS2 in it made both of us very happy as he was exhausted. If you travel a lot, there are certain (typically pricy) strollers that actually fit in the overhead bin and you can bring on board. Then you are never without your stroller.
–Not bringing a stroller or it’s too big but you’re bringing a carseat on board? Consider a gogobabyz or similar. It can come on board with your carseat and then you can wheel your kid through the airport.
–Some carry-on kid suitcases double as a wheeling kid seat. We haven’t used them, but some people love them.
–Needing to haul a carseat through the airport? Wear it like a turtle shell! I did that with DD when she was 2 and I flew alone to a wedding. Wore her on my front, loosened the carseat straps to their longest and put them on like a backpack with the carseat being my turtle shell. Then I had a hand free to wheel my suitcase and hold my carry-on bag.
–Bribe! Yup, sometimes my kids get a lollipop at baggage claim or immigration lines or while getting off the plane because they have reached their threshold.
–Talk up the exciting upcoming thing. Is a grandparent waiting on the other side of the door? A parent? Are you about to go in a taxi (DS LOVES taxis)? Are you headed to the beach? Talk about it to keep the excitement up.
–Look for priority lines. Some airports specifically indicate special lines for people needing assistance and indication people with small children count. If there is no sign, you can always ask. Or hover in front of a worker. In Frankfurt, we got sent through the much shorter EU Passport line (rather than the Other Passports line we should have gone through) because of having little kids. In Bangkok families go through priority lines as well. The US tends to be the worst about allowing this. But it can’t hurt to ask. Especially if your kid is melting down.
–Landing at night? Hoping your kid falls asleep on the drive home? Take a bathroom break in the airport and put on fresh diapers, go potty, brush teeth, and possibly change into pajamas. Then if they fall asleep in the car, you can hopefully just transfer them into their beds.
I don’t actually have any good photos from this stage of the journey as I’m normally exhausted and many airports are picky about photos in many of these sections.