5 Tips for Surviving Flight Delays

surviving flight delays

Updated 8/30/2015. 

Headed to the airport and scheduled to arrive two hours before our flight, we got stuck in traffic. A serious accident on a bridge completely shut down the highway. Unfamiliar with the roadways, traveling in an area we didn’t know well, we waited. And waited. We finally arrived at the airport, before our scheduled flight departed but too late to clear security.

The airline staff transferred us to the next flight, thankfully not full. Then that flight was cancelled because of mechanical issues. They moved us to the next flight which was also cancelled. On the last scheduled flight of the day, we finally boarded our plane and headed home. Have you seen the movie, The Terminal? That’s how I felt that day.

I didn’t handle the first few hours of the flight delay well. The diaper bag was packed for a flight home, not for an 18-hour day in the airport. What, really, is there to do at an airport with a preschooler and a toddler ALL DAY? I had a choice: figure it out or complain miserably. Complaining didn’t work, so we figured it out.

Today, I’m experiencing much the same thing. I’m ready to share my “big news,” but there’s a delay beyond my control. I can’t change it or fix it. While I’m frustrated, that flight delay taught me there’s no point in complaining.

Friends, I apologize for the delay. As soon as I can, I’ll make the big announcement… but for now, please wait patiently with me. Thanks!

In the meantime, here are some tips for surviving flight delays:

  • Have a positive attitude. Ticket agents, food vendors and gate attendants did NOT cause your delay. They do NOT have the power to change flights, equipment or schedules. Be kind. They’ll appreciate it. We got a bag of cookies from Starbucks because the barista had been watching us find creative ways to entertain our kids. She said we made her smile, and she wanted to do the same for us.
  • Find creative outlets. If you have multiple delays, ticket counter agents tend to be sympathetic, as they should. When we got our second round of tickets (third flight), I asked the clerk for paper and pens to entertain the kids. She did better and found coloring books and crayons for my boys. 
  • Rent a locker. Spending hours at the airport with kids and bags gets stressful. Keep the essentials with you, but rent a locker to hold carry-ons not needed in the airport. Less to lug means less to lose. Update 8/30/2015: Lockers are no longer available at most airports. If you’ll have a long layover, ask the airport hotel concierge (when available) if they’ll hold your bags. Just be sure to tip!
  • Ask for food vouchers. Airlines are stingier than they used to be, but they don’t want to lose customers. If the clerk does not offer food vouchers when issuing new tickets, ask for them. I discovered that I got a “yes” when I waited until the counter was quiet.
  • Claim an out of the way corner. An area with less cross traffic allows kids more freedom to play. Rearrange the furniture to create a “room” with set parameters and allow the kids freedom to play in that space. A semi-private area gives them secure freedom away from other travelers. We asked a gate attendant for travel blankets and used them to make a “tent” for our boys. They played quietly under their tent and even took their naps there. 
Since we spent our day at the airport, technology has made it easier to survive flight delays, especially with school aged children. Movies on the iPad, texting with friends, video games and music keep kids amused for hours. If the battery dies or the kids just can’t sit still, hopefully these tips will help you!
Traveling with baby has its own challenges, but these tips will help families with tiny travelers survive long layovers or flight delays.
Do you have a favorite tip for surviving flight delays? Have you experienced your own version of The Terminal? Share your tip or story with us in the comments below. Who knows… maybe someone stuck at the airport will read this post and survive the delay because of you!
Happy Travels!

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