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!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Portland International Airport (2.5 stars)

Portland's airport is a wonderful little haven.  So small it's refreshing, with a number of stores that capture the independent feel of the city, somehow avoiding becoming the cliche airport shops.  Surprisingly, for an airport this size, Portland does in fact have a children's play area.  It's pretty small-- basically a few interactive cubicle-wall style games and a television, with some kid-sized chairs.  It's in the middle of the hall, surrounded by some eating establishments, so mom can grab a coffee and watch the kids.

Here, then, the complete review:

Are there one or more play areas?  yes, there's one!

Is there one in every terminal, after passport control?  it's in concourse C, but the whole airport is small enough that it's not far from any gate.

Is the play area conveniently located?  how could it not be...

Is there information about the play areas available online?  yes, the play area is marked on this map: 

Are maps clearly labeled to make finding the play areas easy?  yes

Are there one or more nursing areas?  I don't think so; I didn't see one.   Oregonians are maybe not as shy about nursing in public as the rest of the country!

Description:   I think I've about covered it already in the intro.  Like the rest of the city:  small but a nice little gem!   sorry, no pictures this time because I lost my camera on that trip.  Bummer!

Here's a quote from another website (Kids Airport Diversion Guide), I did not read this before going to Portland, so can't say if it's all accurate or not:

Portland International Airport (PDX): The people who run Portland International Airport seem to do almost everything well, not the least of which is catering to families with children. There are lots of opportunities for kids to work off steam before being strapped in for a long flight. Pre-security near the checkpoint for Concourses D and E, you’ll find a multi-colored jungle gym, replete with padded surfaces. It’s got a pair of stairs that lead to a couple of slides and a “lookout” with a toy telescope and steering wheel so kids can spy aircraft out on PDX’s tarmac. Post-security on the C Concourse there’s a play area with a bunch of attractions: Lego tables, bead maze, play cars, and a TV monitor that’s set for children-friendly channels. Best of all, the area is close to restrooms and has plenty of seats for parents.
Need something more stimulating than mere play? Take them to the ABC lobby post- security. You’ll find a stunning Columbia River exhibit with interactive monitors and native artifacts, maps, photos, and excerpts form the journals of Lewis and Clark. When you’re flying east from PDX, get a window seat for your child and see if they can spot the areas they saw on the map. That’s the essence of interactivity. Stop by Creative Kidstuff on Concourse C to get your kids come travel-worthy games to keep them occupied during the long flight.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Beijing Capital International Airport (3 stars)

I have to say, Beijing's airport was a pleasant surprise.  While it is far from being the child-friendly haven that, say, Tokyo and Seoul have created, nevertheless Beijing's facilities for kids were better than I expected.  There is a nursing room (near gate 25) and there are also a few play areas, although I can't say whether they are available in every terminal.  I last visited this airport in November, 2009, and welcome any further input from readers who have been there!

Here, then, the complete review:

Are there one or more play areas?  There are more than one, although I can't know for sure how many.

Is there one in every terminal, after passport control? unknown

Is the play area conveniently located?  It can be a bit of a hike to the play areas, but not overly terrible.  The layout of the gates is more confusing than anything else; sometimes things are not as far away as they seem, due to some shortcut hallways.

Is there information about the play areas available online?  there are some maps on the website, but they are only in Chinese.

Are maps clearly labeled to make finding the play areas easy?  yes

Are there one or more nursing areas?  yes, near gate 25.

Description:   The play areas here were climbing/ playground style, though there was also a television that was constantly running tom and jerry.  Personally, I'm not a fan of televisions in the play area, because my kids can watch tv on the flight and I'd rather that they run around, but that's really a minor issue.  For some families the tv might be a boon during their time in transit.

Overall, we experienced 2 different play areas.  A few photos of the first one here...

And, on our way back out of the country, the second play area that we found:  Not too shabby!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Lambert-St. Louis International Airport (2 stars)

The St. Louis airport does not fare well in my analysis from a parent/ tot perspective.  It may have a play area, but it is difficult to find, far away from many gates, and not fabulous.  However, kudos for having a play area at all, and the fact that there's a little-used terminal (D) with lots of space to run around is definitely a bonus.  Here's the full review:

Are there one or more play areas?  There is one. 

Is there one in every terminal, after passport control? Only terminal C has one, and it's between gate C-25 and C-27.  Incidentally, the USO is also in this area.  The USO is not labeled on any maps; you have to call it from an airport phone to find out how to get there.  It's a nice little perk for military families, with some snacks and a movie lounge, as well as a tiny little play space.  I'm not complaining about the size-- hey, it's a wonderful resource even without the play space.

Is the play area conveniently located? Not unless you're flying from terminal C.

Is there information about the play areas available online? nope.   I couldn't remember the gate numbers, but found some handy info at sleepinginairports.com to jog my memory.

Are maps clearly labeled to make finding the play areas easy? no, I found it difficult to find the info.

Are there one or more nursing areas?  not that I saw.

Description:   Sorry, I don't have pictures of this one either.  I remember it being small and a bit disappointing, after the long haul and tram ride to get to it.  I visited this play area in July 2009, and will be back again next summer so I'll try to snap some photos then!