You’ve checked in, checked your luggage and patiently waited in agonizingly slow security lines only to get to the gate and see those ill-fated words “delay.” Now what?
If you are lucky your gate is near the playground and you can simply let your children loose to play within sight, grab a coffee sit back and relax. However if that is not the case, take a cleansing breath, curb the panic, nothing to worry about you got this!
First talk to the airline representative and give them a head’s up on your situation, most importantly that you are traveling with young children. Hopefully they will be able to give you the details and a realistic time line to work with. If the flight is delayed due to mechanical issues you will have to wait near the gate because they will start boarding as soon as the issues is resolved.
If the flight is delayed due to an absent airplane you will have a better time estimate to work with and can go explore the airport on a lengthier leash. Always let the airline representative know you’re approximate whereabouts so they can send someone to get you if needed. Keeping in mind it is your responsibility to listen to those inaudible overhead messages for boarding information.
Most larger city airports both nationally and internationally have play center areas for children. Find these on the map or ask a staff member if there is an area where kids can burn off a little energy. If there is nothing close or nothing at all airport infrastructure can provide a ton of great “play” options. For example most kids love escalators and can spend an unreasonable amount of time just going up and down, up and down. Since you are not in a hurry let them do it as many time as it takes for the novelty to wear off, it usually never does.
Airport trains also hold huge entertained value during a long or unexpected layover. At Dallas Forth Worth airport small light rail trains transport passengers between 4 terminals and we circumnavigated the airport 3 times before the kids reluctantly jumped off.
Explore the large art installations, which are typically sturdy enough for children to climb or crawl around. Encourage them to use their imaginations and make up a short story they can act out involving the structure or mosaic on the floor.
Seek out other children. My husband once had a rousing game of tag with 11 children all waiting for the same flight and afterwards almost every other parent came up to thank him profusely even buying him a coffee prior to boarding and a drink on the plane. Kids love to play together and it takes all the pressure off you, and the other parents, to entertain. Even the shyest kids will eventually melt into the fold.
For older children it’s always wise to pack a small family game or deck of cards easily accessible in the carry on luggage. Find a quiet place, but don’t get so engrossed you miss your flight all together.
Most importantly remember there is nothing you can do or say that will speed up a delay so relax, take it in stride, slow down and just be together.