Travel Advisory: Tips for families traveling with their TCK children and adolescents

Here is the continuation of Jenni’s post on Airports I’ve Known. This is both a practical and humorous post. Once you read this you’ll never, ever want to travel with meat…..just sayin’.


Tips for families traveling with their TCK children and adolescents by Jenni Gate


Jenni Gate - luggage

  • Airport air-conditioning can be freezing, especially in the middle of the night when the whole family is sprawled out on the floor or huddled on uncomfortable, hard plastic seats. Always bring a sweater or at least a light jacket and wear trousers, not shorts.
  • When you need to rest between flights. Sleeping in an airport beats paying for a hotel with a three-hour layover in the middle of the night. It is a good idea to have your passport and ticket within easy reach, and any valuables in a bag under your head.
  • Look for lockers. Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam provides wonderful, roomy lockers where you may lock your bags if you want to explore the city. But make sure to bring your bags with you through the exit and lock them up near the airport entrance. Once you have locked a bag behind a security checkpoint, it may be nearly impossible to get access to it again.

Jenni Gate - Schiphol

  • Look out for airport taxes. I spent my last dollar in Hong Kong and had no money for the airport tax. I sobbed until someone took pity on me and paid my tax.
  • Weather. Expect delays in ice storms, snow storms and hurricanes. Even if the airport you’re stuck in is in another part of the world, if a connecting flight is delayed due to weather, there is a very good chance flights all down the line in other parts of the country or the world will also be delayed.
  • Lost bags are a fact of travel life. Pack light, if you can, so that you have no checked luggage. If that’s not possible, pack a toothbrush and a change of clothes in your carry-on bag.
  • Don’t fly with meat. Flying to Dulles from Oregon one year, my grandfather, a farmer, packed meat in his luggage, expecting to surprise us with Christmas dinner. It was his first experience with lost luggage. By the time his suitcase was found, it had to be thrown away. Dulles baggage handlers were not amused. People ship fish from Alaska sometimes with similar results. Use dried ice and realize that if the container is lost, no amount of dried ice will preserve it after so many hours.
  • Security is security is security. Always present, always intrusive. Try not to become separated at either side of the checkpoint. Realize that your 5th grader probably did not listen to your warnings about pocket knives.
  • About the kids…. Keep small children occupied with coloring books, movies, and lots of games. Travel boredom is easier to handle today with electronic readers and mp3 players. Snacks help. Naps help. Sometimes there is just nothing you can do to stop a tantrum. At those times, at least try to walk your child away from other travelers to keep the tension down.

Jenni Gate - Waiting

  • And about the adolescents…. Keep adolescents from killing each other by keeping them at opposite ends of a row of seating while you wait for your flight. They have as much energy to burn off as a toddler. If there is an open space near your gate, let them show off their pushups or sit-ups, dance steps, or stretches. Ignore the looks from fellow travelers.
  • Actually don’t even travel with teenagers.  It is just not wise. It is an extreme stressor that could lead to ugly faces, angry words, exasperated shouting and threats of violence. And not just by the teens. Seriously. If there is a way to avoid traveling with teenagers, do it.

What about you? What airports do you know? What tips can you share?

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27 thoughts on “Travel Advisory: Tips for families traveling with their TCK children and adolescents

  1. Travel with toddlers: bring only toys thatcan be lost (straws, a plastic cup, whatever is easy to replace). Don’t try to find the lovey underneath the seats. Tie the binky to the child’ sweater so it won’t get lost.
    Pack your swimsuits and flip flops in the hand luggage so you can get directly to the pool even when baggage gets lost or your hotel room is not yet ready.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Laughing at the last part about traveling with teenagers. My boys’ testosterone sometimes surges and conflict happens. . . Though seriously, that one time that it LOOKED like one of them punched the other in the nose while I was in line to check our luggage? That time it WAS really an accident! Bloody nose and all!

    But for the most part? Traveling with four teenage boys has made our international flights easier than ever before. I carry the passports and the baby. The boys do everything else. Of course, we have to fly often enough that we have our airport “routines” down. . .


    1. LOVE this! I hope you keep a journal of these flights! And tell me – is the baby a boy as well? I was the only girl in a family of 4 boys and my husband is one of 5 boys.


      1. Yes! The baby in that comment is also a boy! (But we’ve since had a little girl! Crazy!)

        I don’t know what I’m going to do with our next move. Only the two little ones are coming. How do I travel without my teens along?!


  3. Our family flew to Cameroon for a 2 month mission trip. First time flying for all 3 kids – 15, 14 and 12 – they loved everything about it. The first night we stayed at a guest house, left our luggage and went to an informational meeting. When I got back to our room I noticed a steady stream of ants heading into my 12 year olds carry-on. He had saved his salad from Brussels air and the ants were everywhere. Lesson learned.


    1. Oh no! I laughed out loud at that story. We learned pretty quickly in Africa not to bring chocolate and how important it is to put everything in sealed containers or the cockroaches and ants have a feast!


  4. Jenni, I also laughed about your advice to not travel with teenagers. It actually comforts me because I thought it was just my kids! We have four: 15, 13, 11 and 7, and we have been living in Australia for four years, which has meant lots of long flights. I try to keep as much distance as possible between the older two but the tension still erupts from time to time! Also, I just wrote a post yesterday on my own blog about having my passport stolen in Miami when I was 19 and traveling alone on the way to Ecuador. I also cried, and an airline agent took pity and helped me figure out what to do. I really enjoyed this piece.


    1. Oh my, Christie! You are in the thick of it with 4 children and two of them already teens. Good luck to you. Mine are all grown, or nearly so. :)

      I can’t imagine having a passport stolen. I’d be lost! I will have to check out your blog, if you don’t mind posting the link here. Ecuador is on my list to travel to this year. I could use some tips about what to see/do while we’re there.


      1. Hi Jenni, my blog is and I’d love to have you stop by and visit. However, I don’t have any information about Ecuador on it because that was 24 years ago! I loved the otavaleno markets and traveling across a river by a taravita (you can google that)—scary but so exhilarating. I made my 15yo read your post, and she said, “Surely we (i.e. teens) aren’t that bad!” I just smiled … we do have to get them home to North America somehow so we can’t really follow your advice. I just may get my 13yo son to do some pushups in the airport though.


      2. Thank you. I will check out your blog. I haven’t heard about a taravita, so I will definitely look that up. :)

        As with anything, I think some teenagers make better travelers than others. My own were pretty good, having traveled back and forth between parents for years. Still, long hours of travel and close quarters brings out the crankiness (and sibling rivalry) in all. My husband and I took his teens on a trip to Cancun over Christmas a few years back, and they had not traveled much before that. Oh joy! The boys were using anything they could find to kick around as a soccer ball, making imaginary goals and touchdowns, doing push ups and sit ups competitions, and swinging around the poles in the train between terminals. When we told them we had to run to the next gate because a delay in flights put us 15 minutes from the next terminal where the next flight was being called, they dragged their heels and bickered. Their sister pushed every button she could think of to cause endless arguments between them all. And they sang some embarrassing South Park song throughout the entire ordeal. I had one nerve left at the end of that trip, and they were all standing on it!


      3. Saying that, there are so many ways that teens make up for it and make us proud or make us laugh. It’s a rewarding job to be a parent or step-parent, but the rewards are sometimes few and far between. :)


      4. I’ve not been to Ecuador yet, but my co-worker is from there and she always brings us these delicious crispy chocolaty candies. I think they’re called Huevitos (little eggs)

        Liked by 1 person

      1. Robynn just came back from a month long trip to India — with two teens ( one a beautiful blonde) and one almost teen:)

        Sent from my iPhone



      2. Robynn, I’m glad you survived the experience! Your teen and pre-teen actually sound pretty mature from reading your post. I think mileage varies on this. Of course, I was a teen once, and I’m pretty sure I drove my poor parents half crazy. My children are pretty well-traveled, my step-children, not so much. It’s fun to look back now and laugh, but it can be an ordeal!


  5. Oh, my Goodness! I did the same exact thing in Hong Hong! My little sister and I were traveling alone and we did, ahem, a little too much shopping. I had reserved money for the exit tax but thought the hotel transport to the airport was included in the room charge since it was on the way in. I guess we were about 13 and 18. Back in those days we didn’t have credit cards so, like you, we cried till the agent took pity on us. For all I know, he paid it himself. We thanked him profusely, of course.

    I’ll add one item to the carryon advice if you are a hard-to-fit size headed for a beach holiday: Pack your swimsuit as well. Learned that one the hard way when the bag only reached four days into a week’s stay in Barbados.


    1. I was 18 when I went through Hong Kong on my own. I thought I knew it all at that age, but I didn’t know about that airport tax. I think another American family took pity on me and paid it. Then, I think the ticket dates were wrong, and I ended up crying to the airline agent until they changed the dates on my tickets. How to travel the world on tears alone!

      Good point about the swim suit. I’ve had to buy swimsuits before as well when my bag didn’t arrive at the same time as me. It’s an expensive way to shop.


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