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, http://seatacshops.com 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.
(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. 🙂