Why should airports do anything for the goons who bring small children on a plane ride? We parents are asking for trouble just by setting foot in the airport, and now we also want play areas. First we expect preferential treatment like early boarding, and now THIS.
To be clear, I'm not complaining that airports don't always have fantastic play areas and kid friendly zones. It's true that, by choosing to fly with tots, I'm signing up for a certain amount of misery. However, given the choice, sometimes I'd be willing to pay another $10 on my ticket if it means I'll be routed through a fun place where my kids can get their wiggles out, rather than a yucky, smoke-filled airport with no seating and dirty floors. It's hard to find enough information to make these decisions, however, so I started a blog to help my fellow travelers. Please let me know what you think!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (3.5 stars)

Sea-Tac has made a distinct effort, and in that respect it's better than many of the US airports I've visited.  I stopped through the Seattle-Tacoma Airport in July, 2009.  There is a play area, and it's 1,400 square feet of climbing, sliding, and interactive fun.  It was hopping busy the whole time I was there.  I'm very reluctant to give Sea-Tac any more than 3.5 stars, though you may disagree with me.  For more info read on:

Are there one or more play areas?  There is one.  It's big and centrally located.

Is there one in every terminal, after passport control? no-- the two satellites have no play areas.

Is the play area conveniently located?  yes, in a sense that it is near the major restaurants.  However, the location is not fantastic in terms of getting to gates for departure-- you have to allow a good 20 minutes for walking to the gates that are located in the concourses, and quite a bit more for taking the train to the satellites.

Is there information about the play areas available online? yes, it is on the interactive airport map at http://www.portseattle.org/about/maps/cte.shtml

Are maps clearly labeled to make finding the play areas easy? yes-- there's a teddy bear symbol.  It is very close to the central food court area.

Are there one or more nursing areas? yes, as well as a family restroom, attached to the play area.

Description: The play area is relatively clean, though it was beginning to show wear.  I never saw less than 10 kids running around there, so it must see some pretty heavy traffic.  That, combined with the fact that it is quite a hike to most of the gates, leads me to conclude that Sea-Tac needs to sprinkle a few smaller play areas around the remainder of the airport.  The family restroom is a nice touch, as is the fact that the play area is without a television.  Kids traveling on airplanes are already overstimulated, they don't need cartoons running in the background, too!

Note for military families:  If you have tons of time, enough that you could leave the secure area, come back in and still make your flight, then the Sea-Tac USO is small but fantastic.  Loads of free snacks (including milk and sandwiches, healthy kid options!) and a small playroom are available there, in addition to a tv room.

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