Kids travel

Traveling with kids? Some helpful resources

 

I was honored and, I admit, a bit surprised to find my name and StuckatTheAirport.com on a list of recommended people to follow on Twitter if you’re traveling with kids.

But Frances Judd seems to have done her research. And there among a list of great focused-on-kids blogs, writers and resource sites such as Colleen Lanin (@TravelMamas), Suzanne Kelleher of WeJustGotBack.com, Debbie Dubrow of Delicious Baby and Anya Clowers of JetwithKids.com, she was kind enough to include my Twitter feed (@hbaskas & @StuckatAirport), my USA Today column and my posts here at StuckAtTheAirport.com as a useful resources for travelers.

If you are traveling this week – with kids or not – be sure to pack some patience. And if you find yourself stuck an airport, see if the 50 airport guides I keep maintained for USA Today can help. They list kids plays areas, good places to eat and shop and offer tips on art exhibits and other amenities.

Souvenir Sunday: chocolate airplanes & Aeroflot give-aways

I’m still snacking on the packaged samples and sorting through the screen cleaners and assorted geegaws I picked up in Long Beach, Calif. last month while attending the APEX (Airline Passenger Experience Association) Expo and discovering the adjacent exhibit hall for IFSA, the International Flight Services Association.

Here are two items I wish I could have taken home as souvenirs: a white chocolate airplane and a sampling of the toys and games Aeroflot hands out to its youngest passengers.

Kiddie careers at Hong Kong International Airport

During my day exploring Hong Kong International Airport I kept seeing signs pointing the way to the “Dream Come True Education Park” in the mall-like area attached to Terminal 2.

I headed that way and found what looked at first to be just a big indoor playground for kids, with the shell of an airplane up front. But as I walked around inside the park, it turned out to be something quite different.

At 15 different stations, kids were learning about different kinds of jobs and careers, dressing up in uniforms and getting ‘on-the-job’ training from staff.

In the hospital, children were getting ready to perform surgery. In the fire station, they were suited up and ready to put out the next (scheduled) fire. And at the police station, a new team of recruits was getting trained in how to wear their uniforms – and handle guns.

Over in the aviation stations, kids could learn what it meant to be a flight attendant or a pilot. In the nursery, they could hold and care for real (heavy) “babies.” The Space Station, Astro Station One and the TV studio weren’t open the day I visited, but the modeling school was and a fashion show was underway.

For those that completed their training there was one more ‘real life’ stop. At the bank, newly minted professionals could pick up their pay.

That first flight and that screaming baby

My Alaska Airlines flight from Las Vegas to Seattle Tuesday afternoon provided a great refresher course on what’s great – and what’s not – about modern day air travel.

The great part: the people you end up talking to.

The not so great part: crying babies.

On this very full flight there was one inconsolable child who cried and screamed pretty much the entire flight. I was sitting a row behind the family and I could see that they were trying to remain calm and solve the problem, but nothing seemed to work.

I thought I was a hero there for a second when the crying stopped after I passed the little girl the frog-shaped flashlight I travel with. But after a few seconds, she went right back to weeping and everyone on the plane went back to rolling their eyes and plugging their ears.

That’s the not so great part.

The great part: meeting people who aren’t bored (yet) with flying.

In my row, there was a 15 year-old girl going home to Seattle who apologized for making me and Mr. Middle Seat get up so she could take her seat by the window. She told us she’d insisted her mother get her that seat because she was nervous about flying alone.

Mr. Middle Seat chatted her up during the flight and as we all got up to leave he asked her if she was still nervous. She was, she admitted, because now she was afraid she wouldn’t find her mother in the airport.

I offered to walk out with her and on the way she told me that on the first leg of the trip, she couldn’t find her friend for at least a half hour when she landed in Las Vegas.

After asking assorted – unhelpful – people for help, she ended up crying and calling her mother, who said “Do I have to fly to Las Vegas to get you?”

So we walked off the plane together, down the concourse, down two sets of escalators, past the baggage carousels and out to the curb. A second-nature trek for me, but definitely daunting and confusing when seen through the eyes of a newbie traveler.

My new buddy called her mom, who said she’d be pulling up momentarily. And I said good-bye to what I hope is now a more confident traveler already planning her next great adventure.

Gatwick treats old and young travelers; Dulles doles out cake

The search for the UK’s oldest traveler is winding down at Gatwick Airport.

Citing researching that shows 56% of O.A.Ts (Old Age Travelers) over 70 are traveling more often than they did when they were younger and a “staggering” 61% of those aged 85 and over are out on the road more as well, Gatwick airport has been trying to find the oldest “holidaymaker” and give them a trip for two to Las Vegas on British Airways and three nights at the 5-star Vdara Hotel and Spa.

The deadline is June 29, 2012. Rules and details here.

Gatwick Airport also has something for very young travelers.

As part of its free audiobook download program, the airport is offering recordings of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, the Three Little Pigs, the Ugly Ducking, Sleeping Beauty, the Three Billy Goats Gruff, the Princess and the Pea, Rumpelstiltskin, the Tortoise and the Hare, Puss in Boots and Little Red Riding Hood. You can download the stories at the airport or give a listen on SoundCloud here.

They do it at theme parks so why not at airports?

Earlier this month the 500 millionth passenger at Washington’s Dulles International Airport was surprised with soda, cake and cupcakes and given a Dulles Airport swagbag with a $50 gift card from Shop Dulles Airport.