A diversion guide for kids when you're stuck at JFK, ORD, LAX, MCO and many other airportsFlying with kids can be a challenge, but this Cheapflights guide takes a look at fun activities at some of the domestic and international key connecting airports.
A caveat: while lots of airports are opening new, innovative play areas and museums, don't leave your child there unattended. No matter how secure it seems, supervised play is safe play.
Family Friendly Security Lanes
Did you know that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) www.tsa.gov is starting to group security checkpoints, in hopes of speeding up the process for everyone?
If you're traveling with your family, look for the Green Circle lanes, designated for those who need extra time. You'll get a bit of breathing space, without in-a-hurry, laptop-toting frequent flyers breathing down your necks and demanding that you move faster. (Those folks can go in the Blue Square or Black Diamond lanes.) The TSA says separating its security lanes has already increased efficiency and saved time for family travelers. Next time you travel with kids, it could just save your sanity.
AIRPORTS IN THE U.S.
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL)
As the world's busiest airport, there's plenty of space for art and exhibits, like the awesome model train exhibition near the entrance to Concourse T. And don't miss Yangchuanosaurus! ATL partnered with the Fernbank Museum of Natural History to display the skeleton in the airport's atrium.
Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall (BWI)
Upstairs in the main terminal, in BWI's Observation Gallery, is a one-of-a-kind children's play area. There's an array of airplane parts: a wing, tail, wheels -- even part of a fuselage. Plus some fun equipment meant to be played on (don't fret -- the area is carpeted).
Boston Logan International (BOS)
In Terminal C (the departure level of the main terminal), the Children's Museum of Boston has created Kidport. It offers hands-on, educational exhibits like an airplane sculpture for climbing, a baggage-claim slide, an infant and toddler play area, and a "what's outside" window display. There's another Kidport in Terminal A (designed by Playtime), which sports a replica of the unique Boston control tower.
Charlotte Douglas International (CLT)
If you have a long layover, here's a great diversion that's just a 5-minute drive from the airport: the Carolinas Aviation Museum. There, you'll see more than 50 aircraft on display. Admission is $5 for children, $8 for adults. Hours: Sundays from 1pm-5pm; Tuesdays through Saturdays 10pm-4 p.m. Information: 1-704-359-8442.
Chicago O'Hare International (ORD)
Once you're through security at Terminal 2, head to the Chicago Children's Museum's Kids On the Fly interactive exhibit. Fully accessible to passengers with disabilities, there's tons to see and learn: an air traffic control tower, a tricked-out helicopter, cargo plane, luggage station -- plus a restored F4F-3 Wildcat, the kind that WWII hero, Lt. Commander Edward "Butch" O'Hare (the airport's namesake) flew.
Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International (CVG)
A Kidsport is located in one of the most prominent places in the airport: the top of the escalator on Concourse A. Kids can explore miniature buildings, parents can sit in rocking chairs and supervise, and the Cartoon Network is on in the background. Sweet simplicity.
Dallas/Fort Worth International (DFW)
Look for a trio of Junior Flyer Clubs. The largest one is located in Terminal B, at Gate 12. The 685-square-foot aviation playground has a runway, roadway, car, airplane, and control tower. The Terminal C club is at Gate 14. In International Terminal D, Gate D-30, televisions in the play areas broadcast the Boomerang channel. Need to wander more? Hop on the Skylink. Sure, Skylink can quickly connect passengers between terminals, but kids know better: it's an awesome ride through one of the busiest airports in the country.
Denver International Airport (DEN)
There's a small, unsupervised play area on the mezzanine level of Concourse B, but the coolest attraction is the free underground train. Kids find it fascinating, and it's a safe, easy way to pass the time.
Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW)
Detroit, a large Northwest Airlines hub, sports seven - count 'em - play areas. All are located in the relatively new McNamara Terminal, and are arrayed along the boarding concourses. You'll find four play areas in Concourse A, two in Concourse B, and one in Concourse C. In the check-in lobby of venerable Smith Terminal there's a neat Sturgeon display. Kids love it. These fish have been swimming in the Great Lakes since the days of the dinosaurs.