Traveling with children can be a burdensome task when in an airport, and don’t even get us started if a flight is delayed.
“All U.S. airports completely drop the ball when it comes to families. It’s like they don’t even care. Very discouraging,” said one respondent to our TravelPulse survey and results of the best and worst airports in the U.S. “Travel outside the country, you see amusement parks, movie theaters, arcades in airports. They make the airport an attraction beyond the idea of flying there. In the U.S., that concept is completely lost on execs.
"They waste so much space. They don’t cater to families and family pets. Such a missed opportunity to get the public back on their side.”
But in putting together the survey, we found several that are family friendly that include ample changing stations, kid-friendly food options and clean – and enticing – play areas, if not something as exotic as an amusement park.
Leading the way was Orlando International, not a surprise given the airport has major shopping areas that reflect the theme parks, such as the Disney Store, Universal Store, SeaWorld, and two different shops dedicated to the nearby Kennedy Space Center.
“Orlando is the best when it comes to families,” wrote one respondent.
“Orlando, being so close to all the theme parks, seems to be the most family-friendly,” said another.
But it’s more than just the theme park themes. Orlando also has a very kid-friendly food court anchored by a 3,000-gallon aquarium in the Main Terminal, post-security, with more than 100 different sea creatures.
There’s also the King of Kong Arcade in the Main Terminal with the usual suspects when it comes to games.
Minneapolis –St. Paul came in a distance second in this category, but not for a lack of kid amenities. They include mock airplanes and control towers in both Terminal 1 and Terminal 2, three difference video arcades, free WiFi, and charging stations for adults who want to plug in and watch the kiddies at the same time. Terminal 1 also has one of the best features we’ve found – a vending machine called Diaper Bag Basics that dispenses anything you might have forgotten.
Just behind MSP is a tie between Atlanta and perhaps the biggest surprise – the always crazy, always busy, always bustling Chicago O’Hare.
Yes, O’Hare is family friendly.
“Basically, the key to a good family-friendly airport is having somewhere to take the kids and Chicago pretty much leads the way in this with a Children's Museum,” said one survey respondent.
The Children's Museum of Chicago has designed a playground called "Kids on the Fly" that sets up kids in their own aviation-themed exhibit.
“O'Hare also has a nursing mothers’ room as well as a nice atrium with a yoga room,” another respondent said.
Rounding out the top six in this category was another tie between Charlotte and Baltimore-Washington.
Surprisingly, there really was no true bottom five in the family-friendly category. Dozens of airports were given negative marks in the survey, but nothing as drastic as the responses to other categories such as ease of access and amenities.