Ground Support for Family Travelers

Travel agents rank the best kid-friendly airports.


It’s no secret that air travel today often is a hassle more than a convenience, even more so when traveling with children. So when choosing a destination or booking flights, especially when downtime between connections is involved, parents might want to seek out airports that are best equipped to handle younger family members.

A 2007 survey of members of the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) asked just that. “With [an increased] emphasis on families, more and more parents are choosing to take their children with them, not just to see grandma, but also on international vacations,” says Cheryl Hudak, ASTA president and CEO. “Anyone who has traveled with small children knows what a life-saver a family-friendly airport can be.”

The Orlando International Airport, with 41.7 percent of the vote, was the clear winner for being the most family-friendly airport in the United States. The next best airport—Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International Airport—garnered just 4.6 percent.

Orlando’s main appeal is its people mover, which according to Daria Pizzetta, a mother of two young girls from New York, “is like the last ride getting out of Disneyworld.” For teens, there’s the Alien Attack video arcade. Plus this year marks the third year running for the airport’s Share the Art program, in which artwork by airport employees and their families is on display for a month in the facility’s ARTport Gallery.

Other standouts: Tampa International Airport offers designated play areas, and parents can host birthday parties that include a scavenger hunt. The Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport has multiple, spacious play areas each featuring a mock airplane, an air traffic control tower and luggage-style seating.

Fly the friendly overseas skies

For those families traveling abroad, London’s BAA Heathrow Airport is No. 1 for kids according to 24.6 percent of respondents, who cited special rooms for feeding and changing infants, as well as a variety of age-appropriate play areas. For older children, there’s a flight simulator game and arcade stations located throughout the airport. Younger children might enjoy the free coloring books and crayons that are dispensed at information desks.

Amsterdam Airport Schiphol came in second with an 18.4 percent share, which is not surprising given the airport’s designated play areas featuring slides, wagons and Legos. Older children can test their memory with educational computer games or kick back with a little Nintendo. In July 2007, Schiphol debuted its new Babycare Lounge by Nutricia, located behind passport control. (Nutricia is a Dutch company that specializes in products for children under the age of 3.) The service is free, open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., and includes seven semi-transparent cubicle beds for babies, baby baths, changing tables and microwaves.

Singapore’s Changi Airport, whose Family Zone includes nursing rooms, diaper-changing stations and a washing area, as well as a playpen for toddlers and a corner where parents and children can watch cartoons, was among the top five.

Room for improvement 

Even though the airports above are better for families than most, there’s still room for improvement. “The security line [at Orlando] is really, really long, and the food is as bad as any other airport,” says Pizzetta. “Could we get a fresh vegetable anywhere that hasn't been fried?”

Still, the airport does offer dozens of shops, including two Disney stores. “If you missed all the shops in Orlando,” Pizzetta adds, “you can make up for it here and get one last princess item for your tired and cranky kid.”

Themes: Family Travel

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