Traveling with your kids can be incredibly rewarding and exciting, as you’ll have the opportunity to see new destinations throughout young, curious eyes. Even traveling by bus, car, train, and plane can be a fun, new experience for even the youngest world travelers. But, whether traveling by yourself or with kids, unexpected hiccups, like losing your luggage, facing a delay, or a flight cancellation, can put a damper on plans. Missing a flight or having a delayed flight can really upset young travelers who may not be old enough to understand why they are aren’t arriving where they’re meant to at the time you told them. Though facing a flight delay or cancellation is very frustrating, it is important for us parents to play it cool and be prepared in case we are faced with upset travel plans.
Prepare first with snacks, toys, and television
Before setting off on your fun family trip, prepare at home with extras — and when I say extras, I mean extras of everything. Because most airports are unfortunately not very kid-friendly, pack your carry-on luggage very strategically, so if you do face a delay or cancellation, you have everything you need for your child. If you have a child still in diapers, make sure to pack more diapers and wipes than needed. Likewise, if your child is eating pureed food or formula, think ahead and pack the maximum the liquid limit allows — you typically can’t find these items at an airport. I’d even suggest bringing a banana, bowl, and spoon, so you can mash extra items if you have a long delay.
For entertainment, especially of toddlers and older children, think ahead with a fully loaded and charged tablet, battery pack, and charger, so you can watch movies and TV while stuck at the airport. New toys and books are also fun to keep little ones occupied.
Check to see if you are entitled to money back
When traveling within certain regions, such as within Europe, people who face long delays or flight cancelations are often entitled to a significant amount of money back. Recently, when a flight I was taking with my family was delayed for several hours, we filed a claim and were able to receive more than 50% of our money back. So, if your flight is delayed or canceled, it pays to look into local rules and regulations.
Find a place to sleep
If your flight is delayed overnight or has been canceled and rebooked for the next day, talk to the airline staff about putting your family up in a hotel overnight. Many airlines will be authorized to do this, especially if you are traveling as a family.
If your flight is delayed for a few hours during the day, you might be able to encourage your children to nap (thus giving you and your partner a break) by finding a quieter corner of the airport. Just be sure to keep an eye on the clock so you don’t miss your flight!
Calmly talk to the airline staff
I can’t stress this point enough; it is so, so important to speak calmly to the airline staff when the delay or cancelation first gets announced. First and foremost, staying calm shows your kids that a delay or cancellation isn’t going to ruin your vacation, helping them to stay more positive in the face of their own disappointment. It also models to your children that you should be respectful when dealing with other people, even when you are frustrated or upset. And finally, the airline staff are much more likely to be able to provide helpful solutions and respond positively to requests you may make.
When faced with a cancelation, some airlines may be able to provide your family with a free accommodation as well as meal vouchers for use in the airport or at the hotel. They should also be able to reschedule on a similar flight for another day without charge. If you are delayed, the airline staff should help you to reschedule a connection or maybe even provide you with meal vouchers for the airport. Just remember to speak calmly with the airline staff and wait your turn in line.
Look for a family-friendly spot to wait
Though airports are typically not kid-friendly, some have indoor playgrounds, TV stations, and videogame areas. If your flight is delayed a few hours, you could easily pass the time having fun. If the airport you’re stuck at is lacking these fun features, you could try enjoying a meal at a more family-style restaurant, especially one that has a view of the planes taking off and landing.