How To Get Through A Flight Delay With Kids

by Tanay Howard
A mother, a father and their two children sitting at an airport lounge due to a flight delay
Justin Paget/Getty

With COVID cases surging in the United States again, and now wintry weather in the mix, hundreds of families had their recent travel plans stalled, changed or even canceled completely. If you’re someone with little to no responsibilities then a change in plans, while annoying, is more of just an inconvenience. But if you’re a parent? A flight delay can change the entire course of your trip. And while kids are much more likely to go with the flow when it comes to delays and such, they do tend to get bored very easily — and we all know how that ends up. Here’s some helpful tips if you find yourself in the airport with kiddos and a delayed flight on your next trip.

Expect the unexpected

Stay ready so you don’t have to get ready is pretty much my parenting mantra. If you expect and accept the possibility of delays ahead of time, it takes a little bit of the initial shock and frustration away if the situation does in fact come to fruition. It helps to remain calm, and not let your children see your frustration as they tend to feed off of their parents’ reactions.

Get creative

Go on a scavenger, play spot the luggage or create other indoor games that will help to pass the time. Have your children “find” different color luggages, spot a pilot/flight attendant or other popular airport sights.

Pull out the electronics

Tablets, handheld devices (like the Nintendo Switch) and phones are lifesavers when it comes to passing time. Aside from the multitude of games available on any App Store, there are tons of apps dedicated just for kids. Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon Video all allow you to download certain shows & movies to view without WiFi.

Word search, coloring books, paint by sticker, etc.

Mess free coloring books and paint by sticker are two cute book ideas that parents can toss into their kids travel bags. For children a little older, try picking up some themed word searches or crossword puzzles.

Let them play

This is not the time to expect kids to be on their “best behavior”. Find a part of the airport that is not crowded (a gate not being used) and let kids run. Also, find out if the airport has a designated “kids play area”. It’s better to let them get the energy out now, so they’re nice and tired once your flight is finally ready to take off.

Check out your airline’s lounge

If you can, the airline lounge is usually less busy than the main waiting areas. They usually serve meals, have more comfortable areas to “lounge” and are more spacious. You can usually access these lounges if you hold a certain status with your airline and some credit card companies provide the benefit as well.

Head to the viewing gallery

Most airline terminals have viewing galleries that allow you to see the planes runway. The excitement of seeing the planes take off and land may only last a good 20-30 minutes, but it definitely beats 20-30 minutes of whining.

Explore the terminal

Some of the major airports have pretty impressive terminals. You can use your time to explore some of the shops, restaurants and even artwork in and around the airport.

Head outside

The idea of having to go through TSA with the kids all over again may not seem all that appealing but depending on the length of the delay it may be worth it. If your flight delay is a few hours, you could take the opportunity to get out and explore the city.

While nobody wants to be delayed, the reality of the situation is, a flight delay can and will happen — especially these days. Keeping your cool, coming prepared, and embracing all possible scenarios will help to make your travel a little less stressful.