14 August 2006

Killing time during airport delays

Spending time in an airplane can be hard enough with young kids, but when you've got the double-whammy of an airport delay, you need all the help you can get:

Here is a hack we recently shared on our site OutWithTheKids.com, concerning being stranded/delayed in an airport:

Flying with your children can be hard enough, and a delay in your flight schedule is the last thing you want to see flashing on the departure monitors. Here are some ideas on killing time in the airport:

1) Have a family meal at an airport restaurant or food court.

2) Seek out an open seating area where there is another family with a child roughly the same age as your own. Chances are they are in the same predicament.

3) Find the airport's play area. Many airports have them but the fun zone may not be located in or near your terminal. You can Google "Airport play areas" or visit the airport's website. Philly, Dallas, Seattle, Portland, Colorado Springs, Chicago O'Hare, Boston's Logan, Vancouver, and Baltimore are among the many airports featuring such an area. Now getting the kids to leave in time to catch your flight...that's a topic for another day!

4) Take a walk. The airport is filled with interesting vendors, people, and sights. Many have museums or historical placards scattered throughout. For example, Dayton's airport displays Wright Brothers artifacts that may interest little plane-fanatics long enough to make the downtime more bearable.

5) Find some rocking chairs. Charlotte features a great area between all the terminals with rows of white wooden chairs to people watch. There is occasional live music in this area as well. What child, especially the small variety, doesn't love a rocking chair?

6) Watch planes land and take off. Many airports have designated "prime" viewing areas to witness the spectacle that is modern air travel.

With any luck, you'll watch the hours fly by and actually be in flight yourself soon enough.

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First, I love to travel. In theory. When I used to travel for business, I found the calm hours of the flight a respite from my otherwise-busy life. I could zone out and let the pilot and flight attendants do their respective things and I would wake up... [Read More]

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Denver has a nice playground, too.

I don't know if it applies to civilian families, but there's a USO on concourse B at St. Louis-Lambert with a nursery. They gave me a nice quiet place to nurse my daughter several years ago between flights to join my husband at his new duty station.

Our travel bag of tricks contains:

- a few puzzle books, a blank notebook and a blank pad of typing paper (cheaper than a sketchbook unless you find them on sale), and coloring/writing implements in plastic cases (RoseArt makes a hard plastic 24-crayon holder and we found colored pencils in their own plastic holder at a dollar store) along with an Avery eGrip mechanical pencil (easy for little hands to grip);

- homemade felt "paper" dolls (I used Butterick pattern 3280), FeltKids offers similar pre-made products;

- an inexpensive MP3 player to listen to children's music and audio stories;

- a sandwich bag of finger puppets.

I pack some security-appropriate snacks (pre-wrapped snacks, dried fruit in small zipper-lock bags, etc.) and make sure to have extra pencils in case we share our puzzle books with other travelers. (It defused several cranky kids when we got stuck overnight in Phoenix last summer.)

I also keep some postcard stamps in my purse because postcards are 25c each in many airport gift shops and writing them keeps my 6-year-old daughter entertained.

We bring the lite laptop for movies and also the charger for when we're at a terminal for long periods of time. Also, we browse at all the gift shops. And, we get the soft serve ice cream at the fast food joints. It's a good bribe. Finally, we play race up and down the terminal halls. We try to keep moving because we can't as much on the plane.

Don't give up on low-tech, old-fashioned tools.

We never travel without at least one deck of cards in someone's pocket or hand-bag. They're small, never confiscated, and operate independent of batteries.

The little ones play concentration or other guessing games, the bigger ones play other games they know. Teens can always be tempted out of pouting boredom by the prospect of winning m&ms from their dumbo parents in various wagering games. Cards can also be tossed into a hat and be used to build houses.

And card games are great ways for our kids to meet the similarly bored kids of other families in the waiting area. Some of whom actually come from fascinating places and have stories to share, provided something neutral and language-tolerant breaks the ice first.

We have 2 kids (now 10 and 8) that have traveled extensively by car and airplane since birth. We have lived overseas for most of their lives so plane travel for us usually involves at least 20-35 hours of flight time and airport layover time. We have found that the key to happy kids during the flight is making sure to get some exercise and tire them out before and between flights. As some other posters mentioned, some airports are better suited for this than others. For our kids, the number one easiest toy to take along for both fun and to encourage movement -- balloons! They are so creative in the games they'll come up with. Just be sure to bring plenty along since playing with them can become quite addictive. Balloon vollyball is a family favorite!

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