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Family vacations are great opportunities to create memories that last a lifetime, but painful travel experiences can generate unpleasant memories that never fade. Neverending car rides and missed flights can ruin otherwise fun trips. In my own travels, I have always avoided layovers in Denver because I still remember playing on the moving sidewalks until I was bored and irritable during two extended layovers in Denver International Airport. I’m sure my dad wished we were anyplace but a large, busy terminal for those seemingly endless delays. These days, even a routine flight can involve long delays at the airport thanks to increased security and reduced staff at check-in. So how do you keep the kids happy on the fly?

While you can never guarantee a trip free of delays and mishaps, you can nevertheless plan the best way to handle those situations when they arise. To help ensure good travel memories and smooth vacations, we’ve put together a list of the best kid-friendly airports for long layovers. These airports provide more than just moving sidewalks to keep the kids busy. Kid-friendly amenities include everything from aviation-themed play areas and educational exhibits to private family rooms and rocking chairs for mothers with infants.

We judged these airports based on their kid-friendly amenities, convenience as a stopping point, and proximity to great family vacation spots. Next time your family takes to the sky, plan for the unexpected by connecting through these family-conscious hubs.

San Francisco

SFO AquariumWhile San Francisco is a common endpoint to a journey, it can also serve as a great connection to Asia-Pacific destinations like Hong Kong, Seoul, and Tokyo. Before stepping onto a long trans-Pacific flight, there are few airports better suited to entertaining kids than SFO.

The airport includes nurseries in Terminals 1, 2, and 3; Kids’ Spot play areas in three locations, and three different aquariums in Terminal 1 before security. Dedicated family lanes also help families get through security at their own pace. The convenient security lanes can be helpful on very long layovers, as SFO’s location makes it relatively easy to escape the airport and explore San Francisco for an hour or two between flights.

A-List Mom Travel ranked SFO the second best airport terminal for kids (after O’Hare). They point out that the airport has great options for older kids and parents in addition to the play areas, including the Commission Aviation Library and the 11,500 square foot Louis A. Turpen Aviation Museum. The museum, “conjures up a feeling of a bygone era when traveling was a sophisticated pastime for only the rarefied few.”

SFO is so dedicated to keeping your family happy and engaged between flights that they have put together self-guided tours of the airport terminals. The tours will lead you and your kids to the various exhibits, play areas, and airport features that make SFO unique. They also include questions and challenges to occupy the little ones. There’s no better way to spend a long layover than taking the family on a treasure hunt.

Boston Logan

Logan KidportIf you are taking the kids out of the country, then Boston’s Logan International Airport is a great place to catch your flight. The domestic and international terminals are connected by walkways, so transfers are quick and easy. The most popular international flights from Boston connect with European hubs London, Frankfurt, and Paris, though you can also fly direct to Tokyo and Beijing.

Families facing a layover in Boston will find the airport well-equipped to keep your kids entertained. Two Kid Port play areas, created with the Boston Children’s Museum, are located in Terminals A and C. Like O’Hare, Logan’s indoor playgrounds feature plane and tower shaped climbing structures. These play spaces also include seating for parents, as well as an area for watching TV. Atlanta-based blog, My Busy Children, advises, “I would definitely recommend waiting for the airplane there with kids instead of the gate area.”

Keeping the youngest jet setters in mind, Logan also features rocking chairs, family restrooms, and rooms for nursing mothers who want some space and privacy.

In addition to major domestic and international flights, Logan is also a hub for transportation to regional vacation destinations like Cape Cod, Vermont, and Maine.

 

Phoenix

Read more about Phoenix airport here.

Atlanta

YangchuanosaurusAtlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson airport is the busiest airport in the world, and also one of the coolest airports for kids to visit (it came in first for amenities and third for families on a recent Travel Leaders Group poll cited on Gadling). Why? Dinosaurs. In addition to its two play areas, the Atlanta airport features a fully assembled skeleton of Yangchuanosaurus—a dinosaur that lived in China during the Jurassic period. This particular dinosaur now lives in the Hartsfield-Jackson Atrium, to the amazement of children and parents passing through.

Hartsfield-Jackson also features an Airport Art program that includes artworks and rotating exhibits that delight passengers of all ages. The Youth Art Galleries on concourses D, E, and T display art projects by Georgia students.

Atlanta is a major hub for Delta, and the most popular domestic flights connect with many cities in Florida, New York City, and Dallas, along with international hotspots like Cancun, Jamaica, and Nassau.

Keep in mind that Hartfield-Jackson is an enormous airport, and more than a few travelers have gotten lost in its concourses. While it’s one of the better airports for keeping the kids busy, you should also make sure your children don’t stray far, and remember to leave plenty of time to get from play areas and exhibits to your gate before your flight leaves.

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by Sharon Hurley Hall

If you’re planning a holiday getaway, don’t forget about airport parking. Travelers who neglect this part of travel planning until the last minute often pay the price – literally! Making airport parking reservations is just as important as taking care of other travel arrangements – and you don’t want to leave it to chance. Here are five tips on getting the best deals on airport parking.

1. Avoid the Airport

This may seem like a strange piece of advice, but one of the best ways to save money on airport parking is to avoid the airport. Airport parking lots can be expensive, so unless you have absolutely no choice, don’t park there. A recent survey by the UK’s Travel Supermarket found that parking off airport could result in savings of 572% across an 8 day stay.

Another disadvantage of airport parking lots is the amount of time you waste driving around looking for a space and then lugging your cases to the nearest pickup point. Why risk missing your flight when there’s a much better option?

2. Choose Off Airport Parking

This goes hand in hand with the previous tip. Off airport parking lots are usually located at suitable distances from airports and the process is much easier than at the airport. All you do is drive in, hand your car over and board a shuttle to your terminal – you even get help with your bags. Best of all, this option will cost much less per day than parking at the airport – the potential savings are huge! You’ll also have peace of mind, as there’s usually security in place to make sure your car is safe. One tip: check the actual location of the parking lot before making your reservation so you can be sure it’s as convenient as you need it to be.

Road Lines3. Book Online

While you can turn up and park at an offsite airport parking lot, you will save even more if you book in advance online. Most providers offer discounts for online booking and it makes the whole arrival and departure process much more convenient too. While you’re on the site, look out for coupons. Your local off airport parking provider might also have a promotion in local media channels so don’t forget to check out local advertising for additional savings.

4. Double Dip

Points – don’t we just love ’em? Since airport parking providers often team up with other travel industry professionals, you might be able to score additional savings via your existing points schemes. Perhaps you can save on airport parking by paying with a particular credit card, while still earning points for what you spend. Check out your airport parking provider’s website to see who the company partners with in order to make additional savings.

5. Check for Rewards

If you’re a regular traveler, then it makes sense to join the rewards scheme for your local offsite airport parking provider. Once you’ve been a member for a while, you’ll be able to get additional services (think warming or cooling your car before pickup, a valet service, car wash or free parking days) which will help you to get more bang for your buck. You won’t have to pay for them and they will make your travel experience much more enjoyable.

Follow these tips and you’ll get to have a great airport parking experience at an affordable price.

Sharon Hurley Hall is a professional writer and blogger  who runs the Taking Off Travel Blog for off airport parking provider Park Ride Fly USA.