How to Have Fun in the Airport with Kids


With the big Holiday travel season upon us, you may be dreading the trip and the time you’re going to spend at the airport. Traveling through the airport with kids is stressful on a normal day but add in the Holiday rush and inevitable delays and you might break out into a sweat. Never fear, there are ways to keep kids amused and even for parents to have fun while waiting out that delay at the airport.

While you may live in a town that has a nice easy in/easy out airport, we live outside Chicago so we know the beast that is O’Hare Airport intimately. Whether your airport is small, nice and accessible or you have to traverse the crowds in Chicago or Atlanta or travel a thousand miles within the airport like in Dallas or Denver, or deal with the hordes of humanity in Boston, hopefully these tips will help you easily deal with your time in the airport with kids in tow.

Get there plenty early

You never know how busy the airport is going to be, so reduce your stress level and give yourself plenty of time to get to the gate with kids in tow. Don’t try and cut it close thinking that less time in the airport with kids is good. Trust me, you don’t want to be running to your gate with diaper bags, kids luggage or toddlers on your back before a fun family vacation. It takes years off of your life and turns your hair prematurely gray.

Take a Stroll

Chicago O’Hare is large. The DFW is monstrous. Denver is a hike. Assume that you are going to have to walk and walk and walk. So, if you have babies or toddlers with you, make it easier on your back by using a small, inexpensive umbrella stroller to push the kids to the gate. You can check the stroller right at the gate and use it while traveling.

The airport is full of fun stuff

Think of the airport as part of the adventure of your trip. While watching planes take off and land has lost some of its glamour for me, my kids love it. Go sit by a window and enjoy. If you do have extra time to kill at an airport, find an information desk or ask one of the gate attendants what you can do with kids. Most airports have some fun stuff. You can even check online on the airport’s website before you travel.

At O’Hare, kids love the full size dinosaur skeleton in Terminal. Toddlers love the flashing lights and the moving walkway between B and C gates in the United Terminal. Take them for a walk in the tunnel, if you have the time. If you really have a lot of time to kill, our kids always love riding the People Mover or tram between the Terminals. Sit in the front car and they can pretend to be driving a space-age vehicle.

Munchies make a party

While there are plenty of places to grab food in airports, it can get expensive and if you are late or in a rush you might not have time to stop and wait in line. Always have a Ziploc baggie of goldfish crackers or Cheerios for toddlers or pretzels, raisins, or baby carrots to munch on while traveling. Do take time to buy a bottle of water before getting on a plane. You never know when the drink cart will make it around and you can always use the water for drinking, making baby formula, or even dabbing at spills on your clothes.

Here we are now, entertain us …
Traveling takes time and you’ll need to keep kids (and maybe some of the adults) in your group amused. Every traveler should have their own Boredom Bag, you know a bag or backpack that is full of toys, books, crayons, stuffed animals, or games to keep them occupied. To keep kids amused during the flight or in case of delays, check out my age-appropriate ideas for a Boredom Bags.

If you have a great airport travel tip, please leave us a comment and share it with us.

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