The Best (and Worst) Airport Hubs for Traveling Families

Unless you are traveling to and from a major city, it is likely you will have a connection before arriving at your final destination. Each airline has hubs through which it routes the majority of its connecting flights. When choosing your flight, it’s handy to know which hubs offer kid-friendly options for traveling families.

Here is a list of the major airport hubs and their family-friendly rating (1 being least friendly and 5 being the most friendly):

Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport – Delta Airlines (2): With the amount of air traffic going through this airport, it’s shocking there isn’t a kids play area. But the 1 1/2 mile long Transportation Mall is carpeted and provides a great place for kids to burn off some energy. If your kids are particularly culture-minded, you can take a stroll amongst the Zimbabwe art exhibits between concourses T and A.

Charlotte / Douglas International – US Airways (1): As one of the two hubs for US Airways (Philadelphia being the other), Charlotte / Douglas International is not kid-friendly. For long layovers, you may want to considering visiting the aviation museum, which is 5 minutes from the airport. But other than that, we can only hope that Charlotte’s upcoming renovation will include more options for traveling parents.

Chicago O’Hare – United Airlines (3): Considering the fact that Chicago is known for fabulous food, it’s a crime that O’Hare offers slim pickin’s in the area of gastronomy. Wolfgang Puck’s (Terminals 1 & 3) is your best bet. Though the “Kids on the Fly” play area in Terminal 2 and “Play it Safe” play area in Terminal 5 are a boon to traveling families, O’Hare’s family-friendly ranking is downgraded to a “3” due to a high number of flight delays and cancellations.

Washington Dulles International – United Airlines (2): The Metro Washington Airports Authority has a great website with flight-friendly activities for kids, including pictures of the airport K9 Team. As spectacular as the website is, Dulles is sadly devoid of play areas for kids.

Dallas / Ft. Worth – American Airlines (5): There are three play areas to choose from when traveling through Dallas including the McDonald’s play area at D30, and two Pepsi Junior Flyers Clubs at gates B12 and C14. Since delays due to weather are not as common in Dallas as they are in Chicago, Dallas / Ft. Worth gets top marks for family-friendly connections.

Detroit Metro – Delta Airlines (5): Delta inherited this hub with the acquisition of Northwest Airlines. Detroit’s newly renovated McNamara Terminal has no less than FOUR children’s play areas, located at gates B20, A63, A25 & A18. You’ll also enjoy the wide variety of dining options and a dramatically different look and feel from the old Detroit Metro.

Salt Lake City – Delta (5): Delta’s western-most hub provides three play options for families traveling with children, located at gates A1, B1 and at the top of the E concourse. I love the store “Creative Kids Stuff” at the top of Concourse C. It has a great selection of reasonably-priced toys and activities for kids of all ages.

Cincinnati / Northern Kentucky International – Delta Airlines (4) This play area is small, but then again, so is the airport. The CVG Kidsport in Concourse A, Terminal 3 Gate 1 provides toys, gym equipment, sponge floors and kids television.

Memphis International – Delta Airlines (1): Though this minor Delta hub offers a variety of interesting dining options, they do not have a children’s play area. Interestingly, they claim to be a “smoke free building”, but smoking is still permitted in the Blue Note Cafe.

Minneapolis / St. Paul International – Delta Airlines (5): MSP is our favorite airport in the Midwest. In addition to a play area at gate C12 and video arcades in concourses C, F & G, this airport has one of our favorite airport restaurants – The French Meadow Bakery near gate F3. From chipotle goat cheese quesadillas to traditional salad nicoise, bison short ribs and free-range turkey burgers, you’ll love the fun and healthy offerings at this unique restaurant.

Newark Liberty International – Continental Airlines(1) The smaller of Continental’s two hubs, Newark Liberty lacks the renown of neighboring airports run by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, namely JFK and LaGuardia. More importantly for traveling families, it lacks a play area or kid-friendly amenities of any kind.

Houston George Bush Intercontinental – Continental Airlines (1): Unfortunately, this airport does not have a play area, nor does it offer any recommendations for places to occupy traveling youngsters.

Philadelphia International – US Airways (5) : Of the two US Airways hubs, Philadelphia is the clear winner. The Aviation Play Stations at gate D10 and A1 feature “interactive displays specifically designed to introduce children to the exciting world of aviation. Hands-on items include a jumbo-jet where children can get inside to be both passengers and crew member, and a smaller airplane featuring hand controls where children can activate a spinning propeller.”

Boston Logan (5) Though Logan airport isn’t a major hub for one of the domestic carriers, it plays a key role as an international gateway. It also has two fun play areas for kids called “Kidports” at Terminal C and Gate A18. They are both fun and educational for traveling families.

Las Vegas, McCarran Airport (5): Vegas is not a major hub, but it has a note-worthy play area for kids in the D Concourse. (picture featured at the top of the page)

If you know of a great airport play area, please make a comment and include details about where it is located.

Comments

  1. We loved the play area in Boston. It was nice to sit down and take a break – http://mybusychildren.com/kids-place-kidport-in-boston-airport/ . I am looking for information of there is anything at all for kids in NY – JFK, but have not found anything so far :(

  2. I am sorry but I must disagree with the rating of George Bush Intercontinental. For a non-seasoned traveler parent , I agree yes it may LOOK boring. But the gates have great food, and secret things to do like create a echo.

    • Christy says:

      Lara makes an good point. Even if an airport does not cater to families with kid-friendly facilities and play centers, you can always create your own entertainment. The key to successful travel (and parenting, for that matter) is sharing the delight of discovery with your child.

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