That’s why we’re delighted to see airports adding or refreshing play areas with creative and engaging features.
The latest on the scene is at Portland International Airport (PDX). There, the Tillamook County Creamery Association has created a cool new kids’ play area on Concourse E.
The 600-square-foot space has steps, slides, and a flying van designed with children ages 3 to 8 – and people of all abilities – in mind. The bouncy flooring is made from post-consumer recycled materials and the mural on the wall is by illustrator Josephine Rais.
The Tillamook Market, also on Concourse E, serves up meals made with Tillamook’s famous cheese and other locally-sourced ingredients, scoops of Tillamook ice cream, exclusive branded merch, and grab-and-go favorites including famous Tillamook Cheese Curds.
And we’re big fans of the Farmer’s Fridge salad vending machines offering fresh meals at more than 20 airports.
The trend is growing.
Santa Barbara Airport (SBA) has a new Freshful Fridge vending machine filled with locally-sourced snacks, salads, and beverages. Look for it in the SBA baggage claim area on the first floor.
More Limits at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport
For a while now, Amsterdam Schiphol Airport (AMS) has been placing caps on the number of departing passengers and flights. The action is an effort to deal with staff shortages that are causing long lines, canceled flights, and giant baggage backups.
Beginning “no later than 2025 – 26,” Schiphol will ban aircraft takeoffs between midnight and 6 am and all aircraft landings between midnight and 5 am.
Private jets and the noisiest airplanes will no longer be welcome at Schiphol. And plans for an additional runway are being scrapped.
“ We need to be sustainable for our employees, the local environment, and the world,” said Ruud Sondag, Royal Schiphol Group CEO. “I realize that our choices may have significant implications for the aviation industry, but they are necessary. This shows we mean business.”
KLM said in a statement that while it believes “operations should be in balance with our surroundings and the climate,” the airline is “astonished” that Schiphol is “unilaterally putting forward proposals that will have far-reaching consequences for airlines, without involving the industry parties in this process.”
Instead, KLM said, it would prefer “to work with the rest of the aviation industry on developing further measures to reduce CO2 emissions and noise pollution.”
And in July the US Department of Transporation issued a notice encouraging US airlines “to do everything in their power to ensure that children who are age 13 or younger are seated next to an accompanying adult with no additional charge.”
Airlines Beginning to Pay Attention
On Monday United Airlines announced a new plan to make it easier for parents and children under 12 years old to sit next to each other without paying an extra fee. That includes passengers who purchase Basic Economy Tickets,
The airline said the policy will extend to customers who purchase Basic Economy tickets. That category usually doesn’t allow seats to be assigned until boarding.
United says a new seat map feature that finds available adjacent seats at the time of booking makes this new policy possible. The seat map program will first review all available free Economy seats and then opens complimentary upgrades to available Preferred seats if needed, according to United.
Other airlines may follow suit by adjusting their policies to follow United’s lead.
For now, Delta Air Lines’ website says the carrier “strives to seat family members together upon request” and urges passengers who can’t find seats together to contact Reservations for help.
American Airlines’ website says”if you’re unable to choose seats, don’t want to pay for seats, or chose a Basic Economy fare, our system will detect that you’re a family traveling. The system will search for seats together automatically before the day of departure. We’ll try our best to keep you together, but if seats are limited, we’ll assign seats so children under 15 are next to at least 1 adult.”
Alaska Airlines’ site states that “if are unable to obtain seat assignments together for your family, we will make every effort to seat at least one adult with any young child (age 13 and under) from the same party.”
Like other carriers, JetBlue’s statement on family seating urges families to book early. But says “if seats together are not available, please let our airport gate crewmembers know when you arrive at the airport. They will do their best to find a seating solution. We cannot guarantee that seats together will always be available.”
Hawaiian Airlines has inked a deal with Starlink, the SpaceX satellite network, to provide complimentary high-speed internet onboard flights between the islands and the continental U.S, Asia, and Oceania as early as next year.
The airline plans to equip select Airbus A330 and A321neo aircraft, as well as an incoming fleet of Boeing 787-9s, with Starlink’s satellite internet connectivity service.
“We waited until technology caught up with our high standards for guest experience, but it will be worth the wait,” said Hawaiian Airlines President and CEO Peter Ingram, in a statement.
Free Coloring Books at O’Hare and Midway Airport
If you are passing through Chicago’s O’Hare or Midway Airport anytime soon, be sure to stop by an info desk to ask for one of the free activity and coloring books. The books are available in English and Spanish and can be downloaded as well.
Free stuff and prizes when you explore Indiana
The deals team at Stuck at The Airport loves creative travel campaigns, free stuff, and prizes.
Admission is free to all Indiana State Parks on May 1. That also happens to be the Hoosier State’s free fishing day as well.
Throughout the week, anyone who checks in using the Indiana State Nature Passport becomes eligible for a grand prize that includes a 2022 State Parks Pass, a $50 gift card for camping, and a subscription to Outdoor Indiana magazine.
Indiana also has a Culinary Trails Passport and throughout May, anyone who checks in on the I Scream for Ice Cream Trail is eligible to win a gift card from one of the trail stops, courtesy of Indiana Foodways Alliance.
Each video, hosted by a leading museum director, shares insights and commentary on a piece they have selected from their collection. Here’s the latest:
Sky Squad Lands at BWI Airport
SkySquad is a travel tech company that arranges for a ‘helping hand’ at airports. The service is designed to offer assistance to families, seniors, pet owners, or anyone who needs some help navigating the travel experience, and now travelers at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall International Airport (BWI) can book it.
With fees starting at $49, the concierge-style service provides assistants who can greet customers at their car door to help them unload luggage and then guide them through the check-in and checkpoint process and out to the gate.
Sound like something you or someone you know could use? SkySquad is also available at Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD), Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA), Cincinnati Northern Kentucky Airport (CVG). Next up: Ft Lauderdale.
New PDX Coloring Book
There’s a lot of construction going on at Portland International Airport (PDX) right now, which can add an extra layer of stress to anyone’s journey.
To make getting through PDX easier and more fun – especially for families with kids – PDX has put together a new coloring book with whimsical characters and some fun facts about the airport.
The text is in English and Spanish, and each booklet has images that match larger counterparts on the walls and on the giant post-it notes throughout the terminal.
We’re making this an early nomination for “Airport Amenity of the Week.”
A growing wave of relaxed restrictions, along with an increasing number of vaccinated Americans, is leading to a surge in “vaxications” and other trips, after a year of pandemic-induced lockdowns.
Mothballed restaurants, hotels and attractions, canceled cruise seasons, and record low airline passenger traffic are making way for a brisk uptick in travel plans. Around half of Americans set to take a trip in the next three months, according to an analysis from the U.S. Travel Association.
“People have an 18-month supply of events, visits and vacations to catch up on,” said Michael McCall, professor of hospitality business at Michigan State University. “There is a substantial pent-up desire to travel. Families have not hugged or spent time together.”
After more than a year of closure, Disneyland looks set to open in April, along with many other theme parks. Dollywood theme park, for example, in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, opened for the season last weekend, just in time for spring break, as is its tradition.
Live indoor music has already returned to New Orleans, although dancing inside clubs remains prohibited.
Business is brisk right now at Biloxi Shrimping Trip in Biloxi, Mississippi, which got hit hard during the pandemic. In March 2020, “we lost all our group travel clients and walk-up business for the year in just a few days,” said owner and operator Mike Moore, “But the start of 2021 has been surprisingly busy, even compared to last year. Our vessel has been operating steadily with walk-ups and the phone is starting to ring for groups visiting in the fall and also for spring of 2022.”
Urban areas are seeing visitors return, too.
“Since the beginning of February 2021, we have begun to see more travelers from outside our region,” said Rudd Schupp, chef concierge at tourist information center Visit Seattle.
While great airfare deals have lured some to Seattle from California, Utah, Montana and Texas, many visitors from the neighboring states of Oregon and Idaho “just wanted to get in the car and drive somewhere,” Rudd said.
Road trips were popular last summer, but even more people could be hitting the road this summer. Travelers in a recent TripIt survey said they will be ready to head out on a road trip as early as June in a personal car (83 percent) or in a rented car or RV (60 percent), with more than 60 percent planning to drive for Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day trips.
Many of those trips will include hotels stays, but many road trippers will stay in their RVs and in campgrounds.
Jon Gray, CEO of RVShare, a peer-to-peer RV rental marketplace, said bookings for spring break are already up by 114 percent compared to last year.
Private and public campgrounds are also seeing an uptick in reservations, with some opening earlier than usual this year. Advance reservations were already up by 150 percent as early as January at many campsites affiliated with the Jellystone Park franchise network, which has nearly 80 family campgrounds across the U.S. and Canada. Campspot, a campground reservation software system, said guests are booking longer and more frequent trips, with a nearly 300 percent increase in guests booking multiple trips.
Even the hard-hit cruise industry is hoping to salvage some of its 2021 season. While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lifted its no-sail order in October, the restrictions in the Framework for Conditional Sailing Order that replaced it have led most major cruise lines to voluntarily extend their sailing suspensions.
Some cruise lines have announced that when cruises return, all crew and passengers will be required to have proof of negative Covid-19 tests and vaccinations. In the meantime, “we continue to see significant interest among cruisers in returning to sea,” said Colleen McDaniel, editor-in-chief of Cruise Critic.
Based on a recent survey of our readers, 42 percent shared that they are currently looking to book a future cruise — and a majority of those are looking to sail within the next 12 months. So, though they are not yet able to sail, they’re eager to do so when the time is right,” McDaniel said.
Air travel has already picked up significantly, with the Transportation Security Administration screening the largest number of passengers last week since the pandemic hit. While the numbers are still way down compared to pre-pandemic times, traffic is rising enough to give airlines confidence to bring back many paused routes and introduce new services: Hawaiian Airlines just launched a new nonstop service from Orlando, Florida, to Honolulu; JetBlue Airways will soon begin flying between Hartford, Connecticut, and Miami; and American Airlines announced 10 new, returning and seasonal routes out of Austin, Texas.
“Airlines are seeing more people shopping for flights on their websites and they are getting more queries through travel agencies. They are seeing booking volumes build,” said Henry Harteveldt, president of Atmosphere Research Group. “Because international travel restrictions still exist between the U.S. and many countries, most of the demand is domestic or to the few countries where Americans are allowed to visit, such as Mexico and Costa Rica. But there is hope on the horizon.”
Passengers whose flights or travel plans were canceled during the pandemic are also sitting on billions of dollars of travel vouchers, many of which expire soon. “Airlines want you to use that credit, so this may be a great summer for people to get out on the road and into the skies,” Harteveldt said.
Travel experts say anyone wishing to take a trip should be exercising caution, especially in light of the CDC’s recommendation that travel be avoided where possible, even for passengers who are vaccinated.
“If you’re considering travel sometime this year, it’s more important than ever to do your due diligence ahead of any trip to ensure it is safe and enjoyable,” said Paula Twidale, senior vice president for AAA Travel.