Friday, May 6, 2011

12 ways to improve airports for traveling kids

There is a very interesting post at the Lonely Planet blog, all about a recent discussion on their forums on the subject: "Things I want to see in airports". There are lots of great ideas there, including some that would be excellent additions for those of us traveling with children, and I also have some ideas of my own:

1. Good play areas - This is such a good idea, and fortunately more and more airports seem to be adding some type of play equipment for kids. Often these areas are out in the open however, which can make it a little difficult to supervise the kids (they can run away too easily). An enclosed play room would be good as well, especially if it had comfy seats for parents... Sea-Tac airport in Seattle has something like this, and I really loved it when we were stuck there for hours waiting for a connecting flight.

2. An airport movie theater - Another excellent idea. A room with kids' shows playing, and again: comfy seats for kids and parents, would be a nice break when you're waiting for a flight. If language is an issue, just play old-school cartoons like Donald Duck and Goofy that essentially are like silent movies with no real need to understand the dialogue.

3. Showers - Some larger airports (Schiphol for example) already has this. It might be a bit of a messy prospect to bring kids in for a quickie shower, but if you've had a really long flight, and maybe your kids (or your diapered baby) got very messy, it could be great way to freshen up.

Messy eater? Who, me?

4. Laundromat - I love this idea. A quick wash of a stained shirt or pair of pants (either my own or the kids') could make for a much improved travel experience. If you travel with a messy eater, you'll know what I'm talking about!

5. Rent-a-beds - Maybe your kids or your infant are exhausted after not being able to sleep properly on board. An hours nap in a real bed (equipped with an alarm clock so you know you'll get up in time for your flight) might be just what you need.

6. Better food - Posters at Lonely Planet suggested they wanted better food made with fresh ingredients rather than the usual fast-food stuff and I agree. I also like the idea of a restaurant or store offering simple things, like fresh fruit and fresh veggies. Maybe a buffet-type setup where you can put together your own salad or sandwich or pasta dish? I know that kind of thing would appeal to my kids too. Previously on this blog, I've mentioned the idea of ordering pizza and having it delivered at the gate (my kids and I are all pizza lovers), and that concept could be broadened to include all sorts of food: sushi, Chinese food, sandwiches...

7. Water-filling stations - I first saw these mentioned when San Francisco airport installed them, and I'm still hoping to see the concept spread to other airports. Kids get thirsty all the time, and water is the best drink there is. I'll be hauling a refillable water bottle with me on my next flight, hoping to use it.

8. Proper baby-care/baby-feeding areas - Some airports are putting these types of facilities in place, but there should be more and they should be comfy and nice and clean. What is needed is roomy washroom facilities with proper change-tables, dispensers where you can get diapers and wipes, big sinks where you can wash a baby more thoroughly if needed, and some hand-sanitizer on the side. A quiet place for breastfeeding and bottle-feeding parents to sit down with their babies would also be great . Breastfeeding should be allowed anywhere, in my opinion, but sometimes mom and baby do need some private quiet time. And bottle-feeding services could include a place to warm bottles, get fresh water, wash bottles, buy bottle liners or bottles, and even get formula.

9. Family-express lines - I know I'm totally biased here, but I think families traveling with children should be getting some preferential treatment in all lineups at the airport: at security, immigration, everywhere. Not only would this be good for families traveling with kids who might be going nuts from exhaustion, fear of flying, hunger, or being in need of a bathroom right now. It would also be better for everyone else because they wouldn't have to listen to baby-cries and toddler-tantrums.

10. Airport libraries - For some quiet time, nothing beats curling up with a good book (or e-reader!). A library with, again, comfy seats, magazines and books, cell-phone story-apps, e-books, audio-books, maybe some computers with games and stories... all this would be great for kids and adults. Maybe a Kids Corner to keep the children apart from any adult travelers who don't want to share their quiet time with other people's kids?

11. A craft area for kids - This wouldn't have to be that elaborate, just a place for kids to sit down and play, draw and color. Jigsaw puzzles, blocks, Lego, crayons, paper, markers... it wouldn't take much. And it would certainly help pass the time!

12. Puppet theater & story time - Yes. I'm really dreaming now, but hey, it would be great for kids: a simple, old-school puppet theater with old-school fairy-tales on show, a preschool-teacher hired to sing songs, do finger-plays and read books to the kids. Heaven. And again: don't forget the comfy seats for parents to lounge in!


  1. Strollers and car seats that you plan to gate check must go thru the scanner. While you might want to keep your child in the stroller until the last minute, it is useful to have the extra compartments empty for quick and easy folding.


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