Airports can often be sterile environments focused on being a holding place as travelers move from point A to point B. Fortunately, not all are and many now offer families fun and interesting activities to do in airports. Even airports that are somewhat more “boring” can be enlivened with a little creativity or planning ahead. For example, I never travel without a deck of cards and a travel size version of Otrio, Gotrio.

After spending more hours than I care to recall inside airports earlier this week, I think I have figured out everything there is to do in an airport with kids! The following are some of the best things for families to do in airports:

Find the airport’s play area

play area in the Seattle Airport

The play area in the Seattle airport.

Many airports have a small play area which allows families with young children a place to run around and play.

The play area in the Minneapolis-St Paul airport has a play area with places to climb and slide in the shape of an airplane.

The San Francisco airport also has a “Kids’ Spot” post-security for its younger travelers to play in.

Portland, Oregon has a little play room for the smaller kids in terminal D. Seattle has a nice size play area in Terminal A.

There is a fantastic kid’s play area in the O’Hare International Airport in in Chicago, between terminal 2 and 3. It’s called Kid’s on the Fly and it’s free! Here are some pictures of what it looks like.

O'Hare airport in Chicago Children's area
O'Hare airport in Chicago Children's area
O'Hare airport in Chicago Children's area

The airport play areas are easily discovered using the website ahead of time or the airport map while in the airport.

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Kids get hungry quickly, and so it pays to take the time in the airport to eat. Many airports have local or specialty restaurants now, so it doesn’t always have to be McDonald’s in the airport. It could be time to try something new. It may also pay to visit a sit-down restaurant which will offer a longer distraction and may even provide coloring or other activities for younger guests.

Peruse the local culture

This activity is best for families with older children, but it can provide a welcome and educational diversion. Many airports offer displays about local culture, local history, or art from local museums.

In the New Orleans airport, oversized historic pictures combined with informative captions teach about local jazz and cuisine.

Chicago O’Hare offers a Brachiosaurus Dinosaur on loan from the Chicago Field Museum on permanent display as well as a rotating display of art from art museums.

The Salt Lake City airport displays local art work that shows off the state of Utah. 

Enjoy a scavenger hunt or bingo game

Airports offer many of the same sights the world around, so it is easy to create a scavenger hunt or a bingo game that lets the whole family take in the sights while enjoying some low-key fun. For the truly creative, you can also use the airport website to create a scavenger hunt that focuses on the sights of that particular airport. For those without a lot of time to create a card, offers a free downloadable airplane card with registration. To extend the activity even more, have blank grids to start with and have your kids design the bingo cards before you begin!

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Here is an airport scavenger hunt printable you can print out at home and take with you!Airport Scavenger Hunt free printable

Watch the planes

Find a good window or observation area and simply watch the planes take off and land. Ask your kids questions about the colors or logos on the airplane tails. Make up stories about where the people are headed or coming from.

These are just a few of the activities that families can enjoy in airports. With a little creativity, the trip to the airport won’t just be a stop along the way, but an actual part of the trip itself.

Play Games

I have an assortment of little games, so that can be played solo and others that two or more can play. What they all have in common is how small they are which makes them easy to travel with. Here are some of the ones I take when I know we might be stuck at the airport longer than we should. 

On the Dot game has over 60 brain teaser puzzles to solve and can be played by one to four people. This is a more challenging game and better for teens and tweens. It is considered a STEM activity. 

Ivan’s Hinge is another puzzle game and is for solo players. Your kid will fold, loop, bend, twist, and turn to find a solution! The patterned challenge cards invite curiosity, logic, determination. My eleven-year-old son will spend hours doing this.

Spot It is a matching game that can be played with one to eight players. You have to find the a matching symbol between two random cards. This is a STEM activity that develops focus, visual perception skills, speech-language skills, and fine motor skills. The kids and I have a lot of fun playing this game. 

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Chill out in a lounge. Most airports have at least one. You can pay for day access at most.

I have an American Express Platinum that gets me into any Delta lounge when flying Delta, Alaska lounge when flying Alaska and a whole host of other lounges.

You can purchase a Priority Pass membership. This too gets you into many lounges.

If you are military there are military lounges at many airports including Orlando, DFW, SEA, ATL, PDX, MSP, Detroit, Denver, LAX, and many more. These are sometimes referred to as a USO, but many have other names.

Have you been stuck at the airport before? What do you do to keep your kids entertained? Leave your suggestions or tips in the comments below!

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. 7 Airport Activities for families