Your Guide to Traveling With Kids During COVID-19
While traveling right now is more challenging than it used to be, families are taking the leap back into vacationing for the pay-offs that time spent away together provides. Vacations offer families an opportunity to create memories that last a lifetime. Travel allows us to learn about other cultures, create the opportunities to solve new problems as a unit, and bond in a way that feels less forced than your average weekly game night.
Traveling during the pandemic presents a unique set of challenges—created, in no small part, by the extra precautions airports and airlines are taking to ensure passenger health and safety. Here, read our tips for traveling with children during the pandemic, and learn how additional factors like COVID testing, enhanced security and safety measures, and PPE mandates might impact your travel planning. Then, revisit our list of the most kid-friendly airports in the U.S., and the amenities available at these locations for your family to enjoy.
Traveling with Kids During COVID
Most parents would agree that no matter the occasion, traveling with children takes courage! Your kids keep you on your toes at home, so they’re sure to do the same in an unfamiliar place. With COVID-19 restrictions in place, your fears are, no doubt, heightened. Still, for many parents, the benefits of travel make getting out of your comfort zone worth it.
Here is some advice for parents traveling with youngsters during the global pandemic:
- Delay your travel if anyone in your party is sick or has known recent exposure to COVID-19.
- Consult with your child’s pediatrician to discuss the risks of traveling to your desired destination.
- If over the age of two, communicate with your child in advance about what to expect and get them accustomed to wearing a mask and social distancing.
- Research the COVID-19 testing requirements for your destination and schedule medical appointments for each traveler accordingly. Some places, like Hawaii, for example, currently require proof of a negative coronavirus test from a designated facility for each traveler, within 72 hours prior to arrival.
- Check with your child’s school to find out if they will need to stay home for any length of time after you return. Some U.S. schools mandate 7-10 day quarantines for students who have traveled outside of the state.
- Arrive early for each event on your itinerary.
- Pack plenty of snacks, but note that snack time should be brief since your child will need to remove their mask to eat and drink. They should promptly replace their mask as soon as they finish eating.
- Pack your own disinfecting wipes. While some airlines provide them, this isn’t guaranteed.
General Advice for Parents Traveling with Kids
Here’s some great things to keep in mind when you’re traveling by air with children now, and in the future:
- Request any special in-flight meals at the time of your reservation.
- When possible, only take carry-ons; this will help you avoid potential problems and delays with baggage and save you money.
- Don’t check a stroller with baggage - it will come in handy as you make your way around the airport(s).
- Remember to ask for family and child discounts at stores, restaurants, and kiosks.
- Keep your contact information on a card in your child’s pocket.
- Store essential medicines in your carry-on bag.
- Bring NEW toys, books, puzzles, and/or games to maximize novelty.
- Bring comfort items like special stuffed animals or blankets.
- Use earplugs, gum, bottles, and/or pacifiers for ear-popping on the plane.
- Take advantage of your airline’s child-friendly airport lounges.
- Plan departures, stops, layovers, and arrivals at airports with family-centered amenities when practical
With these tips, the right amount of patience, and enough planning you can have a safe and enjoyable vacation with young children.
Something worth mentioning: If you plan to travel with an infant all major airports in the U.S. are required to designate a breastfeeding area for nursing mothers. Be on the lookout for a private space to feed your baby within your terminal, if you so desire.
The Most Child-Friendly U.S. Airports
Since many families are venturing off on vacations, or at least planning a break, we thought it wise to reshare our intel on the most kid-friendly airports in the U.S. Even if you have no scheduled layovers—and regardless of the airline you fly—air travel often comes with unexpected delays.
And, understandably, kids aren’t usually privy or mentally prepared for long waits. While there are 5,080 public airports in the United States as last documented by the Bureau of Transportation, not all of them do everything possible to facilitate a comfortable experience for travelers with small children.
Fortunately, some airports go the extra mile to make the travel experience more comfortable, and even fun, for kids. If at all possible, try to plan your all-ages family vacations with this list of airports in mind. Take advantage of the most kid-friendly dining, play areas, shopping, and rest zones at each facility.
Note that some amenities listed here may currently be unavailable due to today’s constantly evolving safety and sanitation restrictions. As of today, here’s what you can do with kids at each of the most child-friendly airports.
1. Denver International Airport (DEN)
Keep your whole family entertained during a layover or while waiting on a departure flight with kids in Denver.
Best Place to Eat with Kids at DEN: Smashburger & Bar, Concourse C
Smashburger & Bar is open from 5:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. daily at DEN. Enjoy family-friendly dining in a relaxing spot. Or, order takeout to carry back to the airport lounge or your terminal.
Best Place to Play with Kids at DEN: Underground Train (AGTS)
While the Denver airport has several kid-friendly areas to play, one of the most exciting activities for kids is a ride on the Automatic Guideway Terminal System. The subway is intended to get travelers from their arrival terminal to departure location, but you can hop on for free anytime.
Best Place to Shop with Kids at DEN: Kazoo & Company Toy Store, Concourse B
Kazoo & Company Toy Store is open daily from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm at the Denver International airport. This is an ideal shop for families with kids to visit or to purchase gifts. They offer a broad variety of educational toys, games, plush animals, and more.
Best Place to Rest with Kids at DEN: Airport Lounges, Concourse A, East & West Wings
Depending on your membership, you may be able to access one of the airport’s lounges. For a one-time fee, you can access American Airlines Admirals Club in Concourse A during hours currently limited by COVID-19 or United Club, located in the east wing and the west wing of the building.
2. Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW)
If you’ll be traveling out of the Dallas/Fort Worth area, or have a layover at the airport while traveling with kids, DFW has loads to offer.
Best Place to Eat with Kids at DFW: McDonald’s, Concourse D
Let your little ones burn off some of their energy between bites at the McDonald’s DFW kid area. There are several McDonald’s at this airport, but if your children are interested in a foam-soft play area, and you want to sit comfortably while you charge your battery (or your phone), make your way to Gate D8.
Best Place to Play with Kids at DFW: Gameway, Concourses B & E
Gameway is a revolutionary gaming lounge created to keep kids and adults of all ages entertained while waiting for their flight at the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport. Enjoy snacks and drinks then login to your own Playstation account to play. Costs range from $10.99 to $44.99 per person for the experience, depending on how long you want to play.
Best Place to Shop with Kids at DFW: Geppetto’s Toy Store, Concourse A
Geppetto’s Toy Store has branched out from its original store in San Diego and now serves airports, including DFW. Your kids will love the array of toys and hobby items the store has to offer.
Best Place to Rest with Kids at DFW: Coca Cola Rest Zones, Terminals A & E
Find The Bubble by Coca Cola, right in the Dallas/Fort Worth airport! Rest zones are located in terminals A (A13) and E (E13). They’re easy to spot—just look for signs that say “The Bubble Presented by Coca Cola.” Take small children along to watch TV, relax, or recharge.
3. Boston Logan International Airport, Massport (BOS)
Planning a stop in Boston? You’ll love the kid-friendly airport amenities at Logan Airport.
Best Place to Eat with Kids at BOS: Friendly’s, Concourse A
Friendly’s is open from 4:30 a.m. to 30 minutes after the last flight, so you can typically eat here at almost any time you’re traveling through Logan. The restaurant has a kid’s menu and offers breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert for the entire family.
Best Place to Play with Kids at BOS: Kidport, Concourses A, B, and C
Kidport offers families a safe, fun-filled spot to decompress before or after a flight. These play areas were designed by the Boston Children’s Museum, and are a hit for families traveling from anywhere in the world. There are three locations inside the airport.
Best Place to Shop with Kids at BOS: Booklink, Concourse A
Booklink is fun for readers of all ages with an impressive selection of books near Terminal A. If your little ones enjoy libraries and exploring children’s literature, be sure to visit this Boston airport reader’s paradise.
Best Place to Rest with Kids at BOS: Designated Rest Zone Rocking Chairs
Need a rest? Find one of the airport’s rocking chairs in a designated rest zone. These areas are located in multiple concourses and are perfect for infants who like to be lulled to sleep with a rocking motion. Be sure to bring earplugs or noise-canceling headphones to block out disruptive sound.
4. Portland International Airport (PDX)
The only west coast airport on the list, traveling with kids is a little more fun (and quite a bit easier on parents) if you are making a stop at PDX.
Best Place to Eat with Kids at PDX: Cafe Yumm, Concourse C
Exclusive to the Pacific Northwest, PDX features a local favorite: Cafe Yumm, and their Yumm Kids menu. Cafe Yumm serves children in a bigger bowl to help avoid spills. Plus, this spot’s food options are some of the healthiest in the airport.
Best Place to Play with Kids at PDX: Art Installations, Concourse E
Unfortunately, because of COVID, all childrens’ play areas at PDX are temporarily closed. Check flypdx.com/travelsafe for updates. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a walk through Concourse E with the family to view the art -- kids will enjoy it as much as any adult.
Best Place to Shop with Kids at PDX: Northwest Travel Mart, Concourses C, D, E, & Clocktower Plaza
Forget an essential at home? Visit the Northwest Travel Mart at PDX airport, and find something for the entire family. Pick up snacks, last-minute travel necessities, and souvenirs. The shops open early (between 4:00 and 4:30 am) and close between 1:30 and 7:00 pm.
Best Place to Rest with Kids at PDX: Airport Lounges, Concourses C & E
If you need to rest, PDX airport has two pay-per-use airport lounges, the Alaska Lounge and the United Club. Hot tip: check your credit cards for possible rewards and exclusive access to these lounges and other private facilities serviced by another airline.
4. O’Hare International Airport, Chicago (ORD)
Will you be making a pitstop in Chicago? Check out this midwest hub’s family-friendly offerings!
Best Place to Eat with Kids at ORD: Smoothie King, The Grove, Concourse B
The Grove offers high-quality and healthy smoothies from Smoothie King, perfect for families on-the-go at O’Hare International Airport. Plus, the establishment is as kid-friendly as they come with an extended smoothie and juice menu that includes something for everyone.
Best Place to Play with Kids at ORD: Fighter Plane, Terminal 2
If you have time, be sure to take the kiddo(s) to check out ORD’s WWII F3F-4 fighter plane, now fully restored. The jet is a great visual history lesson, and added bonus, is a fabulous place to take pictures.
Best Place to Shop with Kids at ORD: Field Museum, Concourse B
Field Museum is open from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. (closed on Wednesdays) and is located near Gate B8 in Concourse B. The shop is perfect for gifts on the go including books, toys, and jewelry. If your little one likes to browse, they’re sure to find something interesting here.
Best Place to Rest with Kids at ORD: The Mother’s Room, Concourse C
The Mother’s Room is designated for nursing mothers traveling through the O’Hare airport. Looking for a serene area to breastfeed your infant and relax while you wait for your next flight? Don’t miss The Mother’s Room.
Traveling with kids was challenging enough pre-COVID, but now that we’re facing new health and safety hurdles, airport traveling is far more stifling. Still, families are doing it every day because of the many pay-offs for vacationing with loved ones. The key to stress-free vacationing today is ample preparation. We encourage you to review and follow the latest CDC guidelines before you head to the airport.
At The Parking Spot, we’ve responded to COVID-19 by increasingly reducing contact at all of our near airport parking locations. We'll continue to take precautions to protect travelers and employees.