Air travel is stressful at the best of times. Security protocols, baggage restrictions, checking for the 15th time that your passport is, in fact, in your bag: It always feels like you’re one moment of forgetfulness away from catastrophe.
Then there’s the fact that you’re hurtling through the stratosphere suspended in a 150ft aluminium Pringles can. Not everyone takes that well.
Throw in some recalcitrant toddlers, and the results can bear an uncanny resemblance to the ninth Circle of Hell.
In other words, when navigating air travel with kids in tow, you need all the help you can get. These nine airports are doing their level best to make flying family-friendly and fun…
1. Zurich Airport, Switzerland
Ranked the most family-friendly airport in Europe by consumers in a recent Play Like Mum survey, Zurich’s kid-friendliness comes from making everything really, really easy.
Check-in and security breeze by with the metronomic efficiency of a Swiss watch, and you’ll be tucked into your seats before your little one has had time to demand half the contents of duty-free.
For the unfortunate souls caught in transit, the airport has two dedicated playrooms tailored to the needs of different age groups. There’s a sleeping and breastfeeding area for babies, while older kids are spoiled for choice. The video game area, craft corner, or table football table…
2. Seoul Incheon Airport, South Korea
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South Korea’s largest airport, for children Seoul Incheon is basically Disneyland with runways. The long list of facilities includes an ice rink, cinema, designated kids’ zone for ages three to eight, and kid-friendly cafes themed on Charlie Brown and Hello Kitty. Throw in a capsule hotel and 24-hour nursery rooms, and you might as well move in.
3. Chicago O’Hare International Airport, USA
It’s not often that airports come kitted out with reconstructed Brachiosaurus skeletons, and if the Natural History Museum is anything to go by, kids love those.
Strikingly spacious with plenty of running room, O’Hare has carved an intriguing niche as an ‘artsy’ airport. Murals and flashing light shows around every corner will surely distract even the most attention-starved child.
But there’s more to O’Hare than aesthetics, and kids’ TV behemoth Nickelodeon named the airport’s play area the “Most Awesome Airport Play Area” in the world. Top that, JFK.
4. Changi Airport, Singapore
Changi isn’t so much the best child-friendly airport in the world – it’s the best airport in the world, period. We’re not sure it even qualifies as just an airport anymore…
How many airports can claim a vast set of Eden Project-esque nature gardens, a butterfly exhibit with over 1,000 butterflies, and a 24/7 cinema showing the latest blockbusters? How many terminals boast a four-storey, 12m slide, five different play areas, and a rooftop swimming pool? Changi is more like a vast, integrated entertainment centre that happens to harbour planes.
5. Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, Netherlands
We think Amsterdam knows that its overall reputation is not always child-friendly, so it’s using the airport to compensate. A babycare lounge awaits weary parents in the main terminal, sporting cribs, changers and comfortable seating, while slightly older children can enjoy the aeroplane-themed play zone, and the large stuffed animals literally just lying around on the floor.
For calmer children (we know, in your dreams), there’s a satellite of the Amsterdam Science Museum, a library, and a post-security balcony providing a front row seat for take-offs and landings.
6. Munich Airport, Germany
We’re not sure what they put in the water supply at Munich Airport, but every passenger seems to rave about the airport just as much as the city itself.
The aptly-named Kinderland (no, not that Kinder), gets kids playing, climbing, drawing, and sliding, under the watchful gaze of a staff childcare professionals. For the more outdoorsy toddler, the nearby Visitor’s Park comes complete with mini-golf and a trampoline.
They seem to have thought of everything – even a buggy rental service, and a nappy vending machine in Terminal Two.
7. Heathrow Airport, UK
We’re not sure why people make jokes about Heathrow, because these days it’s one of the simplest, smoothest airport experiences out there. Each terminal comes complete with changing tables and play areas – multi-coloured, multi-storey structures with borrow-able socks – alongside kids-eat-free meal deals and a branch of Hamley’s toy shop.
Best of all, you’re allowed to take more than 100ml of baby food, sterilised water, prepared baby milk and breast milk. There’s nothing worse than facing a three-hour delay while your baby formula sits uselessly in the hold.
8. Dubai International Airport, UAE
A few facts about Dubai International: The whole airport covers an area of 3,100 acres, while Terminal Three alone chalks up the second highest floor space of any building in the world. Some 70.5 million people pass through every year, and if you count the duty-free as one store, it’s the world’s largest retail outlet.
On-site amenities include free recliner chairs, health club, swimming pool, five-star hotel, Arabian desert-themed kids zone, more than 60 eateries including a Nutella cafe, and a host of giant, multi-storey water features that would blend in perfectly at the Palace of Versailles.
The airport is so ludicrously, unnecessarily massive that journeying between facilities will probably leave your kids too tired to cause any trouble.
9. Calgary International Airport, Canada
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Did you know YYC has a unique educational and entertainment facility focusing on space and aeronautics? Located on the third floor of the Domestic Terminal, SpacePort features hands-on exhibits and displays that can make any trip to the airport interstellar. Open from 9 a.m to 3 p.m Monday to Friday. #calgaryairport #flyyyc #fly_yyc #yyc
We have one word for those travelling through Calgary with kids: SpacePort.
There’s no rule-book for airport entertainment, so there are hidden gems a-plenty for eagle-eyed flyers. This interstellar installation on Calgary’s third floor offers up aeronautical insights that you’ll pretend are just for the kids, but which will 100% interest and inform you too. Chief among its curiosities – an actual, bona fide moon rock on temporary loan from NASA.
- Press Association