If you need someone to meet you at the gate, contact the airline, not security.
Many airports don't allow friends or family to meet you directly at the gate. If you feel you will need extra help, especially when traveling alone, talk to the airline.
The trick is not to talk to security. Go directly to the airlines counter up front and explain why it is critical that you get to the gate. They can give you a special pass. I have had to meet my nephews traveling alone at two different airports and you are right about security: even if you see your party they won't let you budge.
It's often easier to send one parent for the car...
Once you've made your way to baggage claim and claimed your baggage, you'll have to get to the car. It's often easier to have one parent wait with the kids and the luggage, while the other parent gets the car.
SF Airport has rental luggage carts spread all over the airport that CAN take small children (they sit in them like a shopping cart.) What we did when we landed was get two of them, fill them up with all our stuff (we were also hauling car seats which the guys had sat in on the plane) and go to the baggage claim. While waiting for the bags I took care of the car rental paperwork. By that time the bags arrived. We loaded them onto the cart and then I went for the car while Jill waited (watch out- you get the rental car buses on the upper level at least you did in February. ) I got back in approx 15 minutes and we were on our way. Pretty smooth sailing considering 2 11 month olds and lots of luggage including ski equipment.
One potential drawback to this method is that some airports are very hard to navigate. Before you know it, you'll find yourself at the gate, paying your parking fee, then driving back in again.
... but you can also take advantage of shuttles.
In Denver, the rental car places are all incredibly far from the terminal (and the airport itself is incredibly far from everything else!). It would have taken forever for one of us to go get the car and come back. We took the rental car agency's shuttle out to their lot together.
Jet lag is not forever!
When facing an international flight, one of the biggest worries is dealing with jet lag. The good news is: even if the children's cycles are thrown off, they will recover! And so will you....
Our policy is that if they fall asleep at the wrong time of day, they can stay asleep 2 hours-- the length of their usual nap. We do our best to get them to eat on the new schedule, and get as much sunlight as possible (not easy if you arrive in England in November....) The longest it's taken to readjust is 5 days-- not too bad considering it was an 8 hour difference. Usually it takes less.
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