family travel

How to keep you and your kids from going crazy at the airport

 

The holidays are fast approaching, and that means lots of families will be heading to airports with their kids.

Adults forced to hang out in airports can visit bars, tour shops or treat themselves to a nice meal, but I thought this would be a good time to share some tips I worked up last year for Travel + Leisure about giving kids something to do at the airport beyond crying, whining and getting underfoot at the gates.

 

Airport or a theme park?

Orlando_Airport_Snow White

An arcade, a 3,000-gallon aquarium in the Main Terminal food court, a fun fountain and photo-op ready statues of Mickey Mouse, Snow White and other celebrity characters make Orlando International feel more like a theme park than an airport.

Shops for the Kennedy Space Center, Disney, SeaWorld and Universal Orlando offer one last chance for must-have souvenirs. And the top floor of the parking garage is a great spot to watch the area’s nightly theme park fireworks – for free.

 Robots and Mr. Rogers

Mr Rogers at PIT

Pittsburgh International Airport entertains children with its freshly refurbished Kidsport area filled with interactive displays, an exhibit honoring the Steel City’s own Fred Rogers and his “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” TV show and a giant Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton.

PIT is also home to an art installation billed as theWorld’s only in-airport robot repair shop,” and a giant transformer-like robotic figure inspired by the city’s bridges.

 

Child-friendly in Chicago

 

At Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, the ever-popular “Kids on the Fly” play area in Terminal 2 lets little ones climb on airport-themed toys while, in Terminal 1, a four-story tall, 72-foot long skeleton model of abrachiosaurus looks down from its spot outside the Field Museum.

Kids get exercise and entertainment walking along the 744-foot-long kinetic neon light sculpture in the Terminal 1 underground walkway and a reason to look up “sustainability” after visiting the 26 soil-free plant towers in O’Hare’s aeroponic garden.

 

Play with pups – or pigs

Teams of adorable, stress-busting therapy dogs wearing “Pet Me!” vests regularly make the rounds at dozens of U.S. airports and the specially-trained pups (and, at SFO, a token pig) are happy to get hugs and kisses from kids.

The pooches will patiently pose for photos and their handlers usually have souvenir trading cards to give out featuring head shots and stats (i.e. age, breed and favorite treats) for each animal.

 

An airport or a museum?

Many airports stage family-friendly art and history exhibitions year-round.  Check your airport’s website for what’s on view when you’re traveling.

 

 

Sometimes the best part of hanging out with kids at the airport is the great show put on by the airplanes and the bustle of activity out on the airfield.

Watch from a window seat in a gate area or food court, or head for an airport observation deck.

Baltimore-Washington International Airport has a large pre-security viewing gallery (with exhibits and a snack bar) and there’s a small post-security viewing deck at the entrance to Terminal 2 in Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

Got some ‘kids at the airport’ tips to share?

500 kids color a new livery for a Korean Air plane

On Saturday morning, 500 lucky kids (and their parents) poured into a Korean Air hangar in Seoul, Korea to help color a giant picture that will soon wrap one of the airline’s Boeing 777-200 planes.

Korean Air livery design - photo Harriet Baskas

Map of the design to be colored by children – photo Harriet Baskas

The event marks the 10th anniversary of a competitive drawing contest in which one child’s drawing is usually chosen to adorn a plane. This year, however, the airline commissioned its own design and created a festival where children worked together in teams to color and paint sections of the 64 X 40-foot image that were then put together to form one colorful whole.

Korean Air livery

Here are some more snaps from the day, which included live music, a magician, crafts activities and a chance to tour a 787 plane.

Korean Air coloring event

 

Participants in Korean Air kids coloring festival

 

Korean Air coloring event

Putting all the pieces together

 

Korean Air art

Finished artwork – courtesy Korean Air

 

My attendance at the children’s coloring festival in Seoul is courtesy of Korean Air and kicks off a week of touring some of the carrier’s operations throughout the country. Stay tuned for more images and stories from my visit.

Pop-Up virtual reality experience at JFK T4

                                                                            

If you’re traveling through Terminal 4 at John F. Kennedy Interational Airport in the next few months and have been curious about what all that fuss is about headsets offering viritual and mixed reality experiences, you’re in luck.

Periscape VR has opened a six-month pop-up shop with freestanding VR towers and 12 stations in the terminal to offer travelers a chance to test out the technolgy with 5-10 minute-long experiences costing $1 – $2 per minute.

The experiences are grouped into five categories and might offer a fun way to spend a few minutes while waiting for a flight.

Here’s the menu:

If you give it a try let us know how it works and if it’s something we should nominate for Airport Amenity of the Week.

Airline amenity kits you might fight the kids for

A wide range of airline amenity kits, for both adults and children, were on display last week in Hamburg, Germany as part of the World Travel Catering and Onboard Services Expo.

Amenity kits for adults were lovely, of course, but those for kids just look like lots more fun. Especially the Super Hero kit I spotted (below) that includes a backpack with a built-in cape!

 

Nursing pods for Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Int’l Airport

Slowly, but surely, airports around the country are catching on to the fact that nursing mothers in transit need a clean, safe place to breastfeed their babies or pump milk, and that bathroom stalls or mop closets aren’t the answer.

A better alternative: the increasing number of nursing rooms that are popping up at airports, and the standalone lactation pods made by Vermont-based Mamava, which are now at about three dozen airports.

Now, just in time for “DontCryoverSpilledMilk” Day – February 11 – Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is getting six Mamva nursing pods.

Like other airport-installed nursing pods, the Zappos-sponsored Mamava suites at ATL will have locking doors, AC and USB power, a fold down table and two benches.  ATL’s pods, though, are introducing a few new amenities, including lactation pad dispensers, cleaning wipes and trash cans, happiness quotes, and special soundtracks designed to get the milk flowing. “Think ocean waves, baby giggles, etc,” says Mamava.

See more information about the pods and the Zappos partnership on Mamava’s “Pumpcast.”

ATL’s Mamava nursing pods will be hard to miss: just look for the giant babies.