Traveling With Toddlers- The Terminal

Okay, so this is going to be the first in my series about traveling with toddlers. Many people wonder what to do with them once you get through the random assault that is TSA, and now you have hours to kill before your flight. Well, I’m going to help you. The answer is simple, explore.

So many airports now are trying to become “interesting” and “fun”. Now I know most people don’t think of them that way, but they can be. With all of the stress associated with traveling and the new security measures it’s in the airlines best interest to try and make up for some of the discomforts. So money has been poured into many airports to try and make them destinations in their own right. That might sound crazy but it’s true. If you can pick which airport you fly into and out of, and where you might have a layover they want you to pick their airport. So if you’ve noticed a lot of new construction in your local airport and new shops opening up, this is why.

First thing’s first. If you don’t travel much it might be worth it to you to Google your airport, as well as your destination and any layover airports. They have websites and they list what’s available. Some places are better than others, and some terminals more “fancy” but there’s usually something to do in each one. It might seem weird to research where you’ll be since it’s only a few hours, but if you have a pack of kids you’ll be glad you did. Here’s the link to Sea-Tac’s amenities site, This is just one of the airports I visit most often, but most have a section devoted to entertainment.

A lot of families just go straight to the gate, drop their bags, and sit there till boarding. That’s fine, if everyone is tired or the plane is about to start boarding soon. But if you have hours to go it might be a mistake. I never mind seeing kids act like kids at an empty gate, but I hate it when they’re running riot in a packed one. So find out if your local airport has a playspace. Most do and they’re very much like the ones you see at shopping malls. They do still have the same rules as mall parks (only for kids under 42″) but no one is going to be giving you the stink eye if you’re kid is over that height (so long as they’re not playing rough, obviously). So find a safe play area and let them get that energy out there as opposed to a packed gate, or worse- the plane.


(Sea-Tac Kidport, photo from Sea-Tac’s website)


(Logan International’s Kidport, photo’s are from Logan’s website)



Sometimes the play areas aren’t close, or there isn’t one at all. No problem. Get out there and look around. Ride the tram, the moving sidewalks, visit the shops, or just take a stroll to see if you can see any planes taking off. The airport I was in in Vegas last week had a great fish tank my son loved and we never would have found it just sitting at the gate. They also had art installations, my son liked “Desert Wildlife” by David Phelps, they’re four oversized sculptures that appear to be coming out of the ground. That’s of course just one of over a dozen exhibits in this airport alone. Most airports showcase art exhibits, take your kids to go find them. Even babies can enjoy the overhead ones, many are often on the ceiling, hanging above like gigantic mobiles. I counted six different ones on McCarran International’s website alone! 


(This photo is from Mr. Phelps own website)

Depending on how long your traveling you might have to eat. If you want to bring snacks I support you. As someone with Celiac disease I often have to bring food with me, but I try to travel light. (Remember TSA liquid rules and places that have agriculture restirctions when packing your lunch box!) In years past most airports were gluten haven, with nothing beyond the occasional overpriced apple of packet of chips to supplement what I brought from home. But that seems to be changing. There’s a Wolfgang Puck at Sea-Tac that has a great chicken dish and french fries that are totally safe! And this is just one of the many places I’ve found in the past couple of years that I could eat at. So don’t rely on snacks alone. If you have the time consider getting a real meal. Yes, it will be pricier, but your stomach and your nerves will thank you. So will your kids, because a well fed child is a happy child. There was an article on Baby Center recently that actually advocated withholding liquids from your children. Sorry, but that borders on abuse in my opinion. Heaven forbid your child has to engage in normal bodily functions while away from home, I feel bad for that authors kids. Feed your children, give them something to drink. Just don’t give them anything carbonated, it can cause gas pains in flight. Plain water, milk, and juice is fine, but sports drinks often contain hidden caffeine and can act like a diuretic so keep that in mind. Image

(Wolfgang Puck Express, photo from WP’s website)

It’s also worth mentioning that there can be lots of things for adults to do in airports. I like to go to Butter London’s only salon and get a manicure whenever I’m at Sea-Tac. They always do a great job and there’s no chemical smell since Butter doesn’t use the harsh stuff! Many places also have spas where you can pop in for a manicure, waxing, massage and more. While I’m relaxing getting my manicure my husband usually takes my son to the play space to burn off some energy. It’s a great way to start the trip off on a relaxing note. Especially since I know my son is going to spend the next several hours tap dancing on my lap…


(The shade I’m wearing is Come To Bed Red, Leslie always does an amazing job!)

So that’s pretty much it for what to do at the airport. Eat, explore, and try to relax. I promise you, the space between TSA and the plane is the easiest time you’ll have when getting to and from your destination. 

Upcoming posts will be about going through TSA, packing, and wrangling tiny insane people inflight. 🙂


2 thoughts on “Traveling With Toddlers- The Terminal

  1. Helen here (from previous comments) I realised today I actually have a wordpress account (I tried to blog agggges ago with a friend “augustandalicepie” Honey was my pseudonym) perhaps I should again. You’ve inspired me. I now appear to be permanently logged in so perhaps I now have no excuse to go it alone.

    Anyway, AGH BUTTER LONDON, I have been googling safe nail polishes to buy cheaply in the states (whenever I go to NYC I always get a manicure – they aren’t so common here – manicurists I mean – make of that what you will). Safe, not just because I like to be conscious but also because I just discovered I am expecting another baby. Early days. But maybe if you ever need advice about managing morning sickness whilst with toddler on a flight I may be able to return the favour of awesome knowledge you are bestowing on me about flying with little ones.

    I had no idea about the play areas. That is fantastic. I shall check out Heathrow now too.

    The couple with the baby and the toddler made me blush, the shame of it, I honestly could not do that to my 2 year old or the other passengers EVER. And I see myself as pretty patient and laid back, but that just sounded hellish and selfish. By the way I did not see your follow up comment until today. I will blame short sightedness, or avid email inbox clearing or something, I thought you hadn’t responded to me because my enthusiasm for contact paper had been a little too enthused, sincerely thanks for the amazon tip, I have already made an order from Honest (mostly because Jessica Alba and curiosity) but I think I will be getting most everything else from there. I am going to check out your other recommendations for to dos 🙂 thank you. My husband wants to ride the duck, if you know what I mean, he says only tourists ever do it so now he has a tourist wife he can finally try it out, I shall report back 😉

    • That’s awesome, you should take it back up! Everyone has something to share, so share it. 🙂

      Butter is good, so is Deborah Lippmann but both are quite pricey. At least $15 a bottle, though if you buy from the Butter salon at Sea-Tac they offer bulk discounts. If you want to get a manicure safely (congrats on the baby BTW!!!) They’re a good place to go. They don’t do anything they shouldn’t (trimming cuticles, etc.) and they use a new disposable tools on each person. Good luck to you in managing both a toddler and morning sickness on such a long flight. That sounds brutal. Have you considered asking your GP for something to help you deal with nausea on the flight? I used zofran (prescription only in the states) it’s heavy duty stuff that really works but is very low risk for side effects. I also carried ginger chews and small candies to suck on. I only did a few flights while pregnant, but those really helped me. Do let me know what works for you, people need to know!

      I’m happy to share my experiences with any who want to hear from me. I tried to ask questions and learn as much as I could from parents who I felt were doing the “right” thing. So if I’m doing things that are working (at least for me) I have a duty to pass that info along. And playsapces are woefully underutilized in airports. I can’t understand why? Do people not know they exist, do they think getting out there to look for one is more hassle than it’s worth? I truly do not know. But it’s awesome they have spaces for kids to run around and we should be making use of them, they’re there for a reason. I think the single biggest mistake parents make in airports is simply plunking themselves down at the gate and not getting up again until it’s time to board. What kid is going to be cool with sitting forever on the ride to the airport, then in the airport, then again on the plane. It’s like a recipe for driving a small child insane. My kid is super easy going and does what he’s told, but that would grate on even him.

      Yeah, that was the worst flight ever. And did I mention they were directly behind me, cause they were. Ugh. Clearly this couple was not sit out to deal with kids. I hate to say it but after six hours of watching them fail to parent it became clear it was because they had no clue how. It certainly started out selfish, but ended up being pretty sad.

      And no worries. I’ve been so busy lately I might not have even been able to write back. Amazon is a great place, they sometimes call it shelf adhesive shelf liner so I’d search for that as well if I were you. And don’t worry, I share the contact paper enthusiasm (if you hear shouting and laughing in the distance that’s my aunt making fun of me). I was actually in Target the other day and I saw self adhesive “wallpaper” in the home improvement aisle which is basically fancy contact paper and thought of you. Check it out while you’re here!

      I’m unfamiliar with the duck, I’ll have to find out what that is. I don’t know what it is, but I know I want to do it- who doesn’t want to do something called the duck! Let me know if it’s fun. 🙂

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