Photo: Sarah McDonald via Tiny Trailblazers

I know a lot of parents who gave up traveling during the baby and toddler years because it just seemed too hard. For us, we had to get on a plane to see family who lived overseas and we dreaded the idea of flying with young kids. But guess what? It was not nearly as bad as we thought it would be and we have taken our kids on many flights since.

Getting through an airport with young children doesn’t have to be a stressful start to your family vacation. Follow these airport hacks and sail through security like a seasoned pro. You’ve got this!

Call the Airline

If you book your flight on the web, call your airline in advance of your trip to double check a few things. If you are flying with a lap infant internationally, try and get a bassinet. Even if you don’t use it, they are usually the better seats so you are getting a free upgrade.

If you are flying with children under 15, ask what their seating policy is: most airlines will make sure your child is sat with you without making you pay extra to select your seats.

Get Through Security Faster by Signing Up for TSA Pre-Check or Global Entry

TSA Pre-Check is for domestic flights and it covers your children, too. If you have a travel credit card, check your perks—you may be able to sign up for free.

Ask if There Is a Family Line

Some airports have a family line for security, allowing you to move through a little faster. Parents of young children are also allowed to take through juice, milk, pre-made formula, water and baby food for their kids. Just have them out when you go through. And kids under six do not need to take off their shoes!

Take an Empty Water Bottle

Although you can’t take water for yourself through security, you can take empty water bottles and fill them at water fountains airside. If you have stainless steel bottles, take them OUT of your bag, otherwise they look suspicious going through the scanner and you may be held up so they can check your luggage.

Take the Stroller & Car Seat to the Gate

Airlines allow you to take a stroller and a car seat up to the gate where you can gate check them. If you have a lap infant, ask if there are any spare seats available when you get to the gate and the attendant will try and find one for you. Because you have your car seat with you, your baby can now sit in the car seat for the flight (and hopefully fall asleep there).

Use a Car Seat Bag to Stow Extra Gear

If there are no spare seats, you can gate check that seat but make sure you put it in a bag first. Car seats easily get damaged or pieces lost and you have a better chance of getting it back whole if it is in a bag. An extra hack: throw a few pieces of clothing in there if they won’t fit in your luggage. (It’s like getting free checked luggage!)

Avoid Airport Germs

Does your toddler touch EVERYTHING? (Especially when you say, “Don’t touch that!”) Try this simple trick: tell them what they CAN touch. So instead of saying, “Don’t touch the toilet!” redirect them with,  “Can you touch your nose?” Or even break out into song with “Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes.” This tip has saved my sanity and kept us sanitary in many a gross bathroom.

Get Gadgets

Airports are huge and the walk from security to the gate can be very long. Help make it more fun with a sit-on suitcase for your kids that you can pull along yourself. Too young to sit on a suitcase? Use a luggage strap to attach your car seat to your rolling hand luggage and turn your bag into an instant stroller!

Do the Pre-Flight Run-Around

Find out what facilities the airport has in advance of your trip. Some airports have awesome play areas, ideal for giving your kids a workout in advance of a flight. If your airport doesn’t have anything like this, still try and find somewhere not too crowded where you can play some running around games before boarding. In my experience, a good workout puts kids in a much better mood for sitting down for long periods!

Traveling with children can seem daunting but it is so worth it for family vacation memories that will last a lifetime. Happy travels!