My husband and I once survived a 22-hour long travel ordeal that only included one 7-hour long plane ride. We were young parents, taking our first international flight, and traveling with an almost two year old and a three month old. It was horrific.
Thankfully, we survived. We eventually became seasoned international travelers, cavorting about with small children like it was no big deal. I did learn a few tricks of the travel trade that made it substantially easier for our family to navigate the often unpredictable world of airline travel. What was the hardest situation to handle? Learning to combat flight delays with kids in tow took some practice.
Keep calm and carry on.
As soon as we check our luggage, I assume that we will never see it again. It seems a bit pessimistic (and we've only ever lost it once), but it makes me really think long and hard about what we choose to carry on. Not only do we travel with a change of underpants and plenty of diapers and baby wipes, but we also make sure that we'll be able to entertain ourselves and our kids for hours in the airport should our flight get canceled or delayed. We travel with crayons, coloring books, markers, small travel-sized games that are new to the kids, decks of cards, post it notes and stickers (these can provide hours of entertainment), and a portable DVD player or our iPad, iTouch, and iPhone. If you think you might need it, be safe and bring it.
In addition to helping you cope while you're stranded in an airport, if you've ever been stranded on a plane during a delay, you know the importance of a well-stocked carry-on.
Playing airport bingo is a great way to pass the time when you've been stranded in an airport (or any place you have to wait). If you're organized, create bingo cards before you depart, including things you know you'll see in just about every airport (a fast food restaurant, a red suitcase, someone with multi-colored hair, etc). Bring along hole punchers if the cards are one use only, or use change if you want to play again and again. Didn't have time to make bingo cards in advance? Create your own at the airport using paper and pens. It doesn't have to be fancy to be fun!
Do you typically pack your own snacks to get you from point A to point B? One of the best ways we've found to pass the time and keep everyone entertained is to find a sit down restaurant in the airport and eat a meal. The food might be slightly more expensive than eating somewhere else, but you're guaranteed to waste at least 45-75 minutes feeding the whole clan. During a lengthy flight delay, it'll be worth every penny.
Utilize the gift shop.
Browsing the newsstand, gift shop, or duty-free shop is another way to keep everyone entertained when your 30 minute layover has turned into three hours. Check out the local flavor (t-shirts, cheesy souvenirs), browse the magazines and bestsellers, see what kid-friendly entertainment (coloring books, books, magazines, games, etc.) they have on hand, and them move along to the next one. While it might not be ideal if you're traveling with little ones, the gift shop is a great way to pass the time with older kids and adults, too!