You only have two arms, which makes transporting your child(ren) and bags through the airport a real back-busting struggle. But there are ways to make it better, ranging from the cheap-and-(relatively)-easy to the “only for the well-heeled” solutions.
When considering how to get your bags and your kids from here to there, what you’ll want to do first is make a plan. Can you push the stroller with one hand? How old are your children? How many of them need to ride in a stroller/carrier, vs. how many can walk (and even roll their own suitcase, a task most kids are ready for around 2 and ½ or 3)? What airport are you departing from? What’s your arrival airport? Considering the number of kids and bags you plan to bring, where will your pain points be?
Looking at a map of your arrival and departure airports can be very useful here, if you don’t know them well. You can see how far your terminal and baggage pickup is from parking/transportation to get an idea just how difficult it’s going to be, and therefore decide how much you want to spend making it better. And why aren’t the children playing with their iPad during all of this?
The below are some of our favorite solutions, ranked in ascending order of cost.
Without buying one extra piece of gear, you can use amenities already in place at the airport, for just a few extra bucks. If you’re being driven to the airport, have your driver drop you off right by curbside check-in. Tip the skycaps $2 per bag, and all you have to worry about lugging now are your kids and carry-ons.
When you get off the plane, before you pick up your checked luggage, rent a luggage cart, such as a Smarte Carte for $5 (the rental machines accept credit cards). Many airport maps indicate where their luggage carts are rented – generally inside parking garages, or near the baggage carousels. Know where the closest carts are near the baggage area, and before you join the queue waiting for bags, go get that cart. If you have a child who can’t yet walk, you may want to fold up your stroller and pile it on the cart, then have a light, easy-to-transport baby carrier at the ready. Kids who are able to walk can walk beside the cart, holding on to the side.
If the skycap-and-cart scenario won’t get you where you’re going stress-free, it could be what you need is one of the many helpful travel gadgets that have come out in recent years to make airport transversals easier. Here are some of our favorites:
Lugabug Travel Seat: This innovative seat straps right to your luggage, turning it into a rolling child-carrier. It’s not for newborns – children should be at least 2 years old, and less than 60 pounds – but for carrying tired kids through the airport, this well-reviewed seat’s a winner. $60
Mountain Buggy Bagrider: This is one of the newest travel helpers out there – a hard-shelled suitcase with a child seat on it that basically folds out, and can hold a child up to 33 pounds (about the size of your average 3-year-old). You can roll it through the airport, and right onto the plane! $99
Toddler Car Seat Traveling Strap: If you’re carrying a car seat – or two! – onboard the plane, this simple strap can help. It fastens a convertible car seat – not an infant seat, because the strap uses your seat’s top tether – to a rolling suitcase securely. Your child can ride in it, or walk beside you. $18
Trunki: There are tons of rolling children’s suitcases – but your child can use this innovative case as a scoot-along rider, or sit on top for you to tow. It holds up to an astonishing 110 pounds, so if you’re petite you can take a ride, too. $50
Boba Air: There are plenty of small, light baby carriers on the market. But this carrier truly has it all. It’s comfortable enough to carry a child from 15 to 45 pounds all day long, and it folds into its own (attached!) pouch which is about the size of a water bottle. This is a great carrier to tuck into a carry on in case you need it. $70
More travel-friendly gear:
Unfortunately, those little electric carts you see zooming through terminals are only available for people who also need a wheelchair (and you have to ask for them at the gate rather than reserving in advance, so they often are less reliable than they should be).
But at many airports, professional are ready to be your extra set of hands, if you’re willing to pay for it. Or bring your own nanny.
Airport Butler is a relatively new travel service that acts as a concierge for travelers. They can escort you from curbside onto your plane, meet your plane and help you pick up your luggage and get on whatever transport you’re taking to your hotel, or perform other duties for you. It’s expensive – we were quoted a rate of $250 for a curbside-to-plane escort – but if you have the money and the need, it might be worth it for you.
Airport Butler isn’t at every airport (yet?). It launched in San Francisco in 2016, and is now available in large cities and hubs in North America like Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta, LaGuardia in New York , and Dallas/Fort Worth International. For more information on locations, see Airport Butler’s web site.
In addition, many airports have their own porters or concierge services. They’re almost ubiquitous in some countries, less common in other locations (including the U.S., although major airports often have services). To find out what’s available in the airports you’ll be traveling to, try searching “porter services + airport” or “concierge services + airport.” Many airports have a page on their site that spells out exactly what’s offered, how to reserve or find a porter, and how much it costs – Toronto’s Pearson airport is a good example.
So you can see, there are plenty of helpers if you have more things to carry than hands to carry them. Don’t let your baggage slow you down – travel freely and get the help you need!