How to Handle Flight Delays or Cancellations with Kids

mother with chldren looking out an airport window waiting for an airplane to be ready to board

A string of things can dampen the thrill of your next trip, even if you have pre-planned it all very carefully. But there is nothing like a flight delay or cancellation to kill the buzz of traveling. According to data, about 19% of flights get delayed or canceled daily in the US.

Being stuck in the airport due to an interruption in the flight can cause panic, especially if you are traveling with family and don’t know what to do about it. You can be stuck waiting for the flight for hours on end. Sometimes it can stretch overnight or even longer.

If you are about to take a trip with your family soon, you must prepare yourself beforehand and load yourself with all the right information to get the most out of a cancellation or delay. You don’t always have to wait at the airport in that case. There are ways to be proactive and even get benefits from the situation. Here’s what you could do.

This post is part of our flying with kids family advice series

Subscribe for Flight Notifications

Most airlines nowadays have apps and websites that show all real-time information, such as flights, time of departure, time of arrival, and more. Not only can you book the tickets for your family online via those sites and apps, but you can get to know about the time of your flight before it is even shown on the display at the airport.

In case of a delay or cancellation, the app will probably record that information first and show it immediately. Alternatively, you could subscribe for notifications, and you will be notified automatically if there are changes in the information regarding your flight. Make sure to check the airline’s app regularly, so you would know of such development and be prepared.

Check the Weather Forecast

As most delays and cancellations occur due to inadequate or extreme weather, you should always check the weather forecast before booking the flight and before leaving for the airport. Weather forecasts may not always be correct, but they are on point most of the time. So, making sure that your flight is on the expected bright and sunny days can reduce the chances of delays and cancellations.

If you didn’t check the forecast before booking, you can always take a look before leaving for the airport. However, bad weather forecasts do not always mean that your flight will be canceled, and it is safe to still reach the airport on time.

Take a Flight in the Morning

Early morning flights are the best if you want to avoid chances of flight interruptions, as flight delays and cancellations accumulate later in the day. If the morning flight does get canceled or delayed, at least you have a whole day ahead to get on a new one. Also, traveling in the morning with kids is easier than traveling in the afternoon heat.

Moreover, early morning flights are not that popular among passengers, so they often go for a cheaper rate. If you can handle compromising a little sleep, you can save a few bucks on your next flight and reach the destination on time.

Family waiting in an airport silhoutted with plane taking off

Book a Continuous Flight

Continuous flights are usually way more expensive than connecting flights. The good thing about it is that it saves you the hassle of having to reboard several flights in the journey. You sit on one plane, and it lands at the destination. This reduces the chances of flight delays and cancellations by a significant amount.

If you can afford to splurge on a direct flight, take the option, especially if you are traveling on busy days. Direct flights are better for families as you don’t have to go through the entire process of boarding repeatedly with little kids.

If you can’t afford a direct flight, choose the route of your connecting flight carefully. Be sure to go through places that are less likely to have bad weather during that specific time.

Claim Compensations for Delays and Cancellations

There is a silver lining in flight delays and cancellations. You don’t have to bear all the brunt without any compensation for the inconvenience. You are legally entitled to get a flight delay compensation, given that your situation fulfills a few conditions.

The flight delay should have caused you to reach your destination late by at least two hours. You should have arrived and checked in on your flight on time. The airline should be responsible for the delay. It doesn’t matter if you have been given food, vouchers, or other amenities during the delay, you are eligible to get the compensation.

In case of a flight cancellation, the airline should also be its cause and not because you were late for the airport or of any other reason from your end. The flight should have been canceled less than 14 days before your trip.

If you keep showing up with the claim, you will be compensated soon enough for all the family members’ tickets. If flying from Hungary, for example, you can get a Wizz Air Compensation of up to 600 EUR for one person depending on your flight details.

Before booking a flight, make sure to take a look at your passenger rights with the airline. For delays and cancellations caused due to the airline’s fault, you are also entitled to refunds and other benefits. These rights may differ in domestic and international flights.

Check the Airport for Play Area

In case of a delay, you need some distraction for the kids to keep calm. So, it is better if you check beforehand with the airport about whether or not they have a play area for the kids. Check online to see what other pastimes they have for kids. If the airport is near a train station, it can provide a great form of entertainment.

Play with children, take them on a trip around the airport, and make it a learning experience by showing them how stuff works.

Rebook the Flight

You must keep a tab on alternate options for flights and routes on the same day. In case of a delay or cancellation, you can rebook online on other airlines. Some airlines also give you the option to transfer to their partner flights in case of long delays and cancellations.

This might not always work, and you might have to do all the rebooking on your own. But for families with young kids, waiting might not be the option, and you may have to rebook flights. So, being prepared beforehand is the key.

Get Travel Credit Cards

It can be worth getting a premium travel credit card for comfy family travel. It may come at a steep price sometimes, but you will get immense travel-related benefits which will be enough to offset the hefty price tag. Travel credit cards provide insurance and protection for flight delays and cancellations. So, you can get adequate refunds in such cases.

Besides that, you also get access to VIP lounges, free food, and more related perks which can be a relief for families with little kids. Even if your flight gets delayed or canceled, you can sit back and relax in the high-end lounge with free food and drinks.


If you travel regularly with your family, you can get elite status with your airline. This can give you additional perks and special treatment, like separate seats for the kids. The central point here is to know your rights and be fully equipped with information to navigate around the situation. Ask questions and be assertive to get your due compensation.

When traveling with family, always ensure to book a room in a nearby hotel, as it would be almost impossible to stay at the airport overnight on long flight delays. Try not to overstuff baggage with toys, but do keep enough entertainment on hand for kids.

Have a great family trip!

A mother waiting for a plane at the airport with 2 small children
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Need more flying with kids’ advice?

You won’t want to miss our detailed guides to flying with your kids. We cover everything from your very first baby flight to tips for flying with 2 or more kids. You may also find helpful:

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