We’ve all been there – speeding to the airport, biting your nails all through security check, cruising down the hallways to your gate (dodging slow-goers in your way), only to find out your flight has been DELAYED.
When I travel alone, I secretly welcome a small delay. It means that I can pull out a book or wander the shops without the usual mommy-guilt that there’s something else I ought to be doing. I write postcards, people-watch and buy pink scarves I don’t need. It’s lovely.
But when you throw 2 small children into the mix, the zen of “free” time in an airport can quickly turn nightmarish. Pent up toddler-energy only keeps for so long, and there’s no good place for a rowdy game of tag (let alone the dangers of attempting hide-and-go-seek!). To preserve your sanity (and that of those sitting near you), you have to think outside the box.
When a 2-3 hour delay was announced as we were jetting off for a quick family gettaway, I thought I was well-prepared. I had my 2 yr. old and 4 yr. old opened their little backpacks and start exploring. They had packed some of their favorite playthings, and I had added a few fun things bought on a recent shop at the dollar store. When the toys lost their appeal, we pulled out snacks, books, and portable music and movie players. I tried to keep my little ones distracted and engaged.
After a hour, the wiggles got the best of them. Jude began climbing the chair and Gabby started dancing (and knocking over strangers’ luggage in the process). No matter what I offered, promised or threatenned, I simply couldn’t keep them calm. We had at least an hour to go and I felt the frustration in me quickly turning into impatience. I told my husband I would be back in a few minutes, and went for a walk.
As I strolled, I did some deep breathing and cooled down. But I also took note of my surroundings. An idea formed and I began to make notes. Soon I was ready to return to my family. I gathered my two little ones close to me and told them we were going to go on a “Treasure Hunt”. I told them they would each have special jobs, but that we had to together. We left daddy behind to guard the luggage, and we set off.
My four year old was given an “Alpha Quest” – to spot the letters that spell familiar words in the signs around him. We started with his name, then mine, then his sister’s. He loved the challenge. For my tiny two year old, I had made a list of objects we would see along our way. As she spotted them, I drew big smiley faces on the paper.
Our hunt was the most fun 30 minutes I’ve ever spent in an airport! It ended at the “Treasure” – a throne fit for a princess and pirate where mommy paid for them to each get their shoes shined. We then walked across the way to a sweetie shop, each picked out a treat, and munched our way back to the airline gate.
The walk had worn them out. We soon boarded and both my little ones slept through the entire flight. This merciful bonus to our Airport Adventure made it the perfect start to our family gettaway. And when we encountered a delay on our way back home, it was welcomed by cheers from my children!