Five reasons to get to the airport EARLY with a toddler

Last month, I almost missed my flight due to the challenges of traveling with a 21-month-old. While optimism is a good personal trait, it’s best avoided on travel days. I wish that I had arrived at the airport a full hour earlier to give myself some breathing room.

To help you avoid the same mistake, here are five reasons to get to the airport EARLY with a toddler:

1) You’ll be schlepping extra stuff. (Add 10-20 mins.) When you’re used to breezing through an airport with a purse and a wheeled carry-on, it’s easy to forget how much longer it takes to manage all of the STUFF that a toddler requires. If you are bringing a stroller, pack n play, car seat, and/or diaper bag, you are going to be encumbered. Don’t forget that the toddler herself is essentially another piece of baggage.

2) Your lap child might need a boarding pass. (Add 10-20 mins.) If you are flying with a lap child (i.e. if you didn’t purchase a seat for your child under 2 years old) you may need to go to the ticketing counter to show your child’s birth certificate and pick up a boarding pass. Southwest, for example, requires that parents get a boarding pass for their lap child, but does not issue them in advance – you have to pick it up at the airport and show a copy of the birth certificate. If lines at the ticketing counter are long, you might be in for a stressful wait. [Note that a printed copy or even a scan of the birth certificate on your phone/computer are acceptable; you don’t need the original.]

3) Security delays are likely. (Add 5-10 mins.) Going through the security checkpoint will take longer with a baby or toddler, especially if you’re not a frequent flyer. Last time I flew with my kid, I plum forgot to remove my laptop from my bag, and so had to wait around for the additional screening. Also, kids are allowed liquids in excess of the 3oz rule – such as pouches, formula, breastmilk, or medicines – but these may require additional screening, and thus additional time.

4) Poop happens. (Add 10 mins.) As we all know, even the most “regular” kid might produce a dirty diaper at any moment. Changing a kid on the plane is not an easy task, so you’ll want to build in at least 10 minutes before boarding to hustle off to the restroom.

5) Toddlers have tempers. (Add 10 mins.) Toddlers are independent creatures who don’t always tolerate being led around, or being forced into a stroller when they want to walk and explore. If your kid winds up face-down crying on the ground (like mine recently did) you’ll be glad that you built in some extra time to soothe and distract her rather than having to wrestle and drag a melting fusspants towards the gate in time for family boarding.

So there you have it – five good reasons to add about 60 minutes to your arrival time at the airport for your next trip!

Have additional suggestions? Horror stories about almost missing your flight with a toddler? Share in the comments below!

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