Kids Airport Activities | 9 Fun Activities For A Layover

The flight is delayed – again.  Now what do you do, especially if you’re traveling with children?

This is yet another great reason to take a small carry-on.  Sometimes you might end up spending more time in the airport than you plan – or want!  If you’ve maxed out your carry-on capacity, you might just regret it when it comes to entertaining your children in the airport because you cannot leave your luggage unattended.

9 Great Activities for Passing Time in an Airport Terminal

1.  Find a family-friendly area. 

Many airports are equipped with little play areas for families with young children.  These are nice because it gives your children a place to play and even run off some of their energy.  Let them play and play so they’ll be more likely to sleep on the airplane.  My favorite airport (for kids) is the one in Tokyo, Japan.  They have an amazing little area for children that has a mini-park, complete with restrooms with child-sized toilets. 

2.  Take advantage of all the moving stuff.

Find the nearest (or farthest, if you have lots of time) moving walkway, escalator, or elevator.  Take a few rides with your children.  My children are especially fascinated with these types of things since there are none in our hometown of Alotau, Papua New Guinea.  But even children accustomed to seeing moving walkways would probably still think it’s great to ride back and forth, back and forth …

3.  Look at the planes.

They make those huge windows in airports for a reason.  I often see a group of children standing in awe as they watch huge planes come to the terminal.  Stand at the window with your child and tell them everything you know about the airplane.  Show them where the passengers board, how they load luggage, and how workers check the plane.  This will keep your child occupied for at least a few minutes.  When he becomes disinterested, move on to another airport activity.

4.  Walk.

A good old-fashioned stroll might be just what you need for a change of pace.  If you intend to walk for a while and there is more than one adult traveling in your group, you may want to divide and conquer.  One person can sit and watch the bags (aka relax and read a book) while the other walks with the kiddos.  Don’t forget to take turns.  Encourage your toddler to walk or to push her own stroller – especially in a part of the terminal that’s not crowded.

5.  Eat a snack or meal.

If you brought along any extra snacks, this may be a good time to use them.  Eating a snack can help pass the time.  If you will be in the airport during a meal, consider one of the sit down restaurants (as opposed to fast food) just because it takes longer.  If you’re trying to keep your costs down, consider splitting an appetizer or dessert instead of ordering a whole meal.

6. Find displays in the airport to look at.

In most airports I’ve been in, there are interesting displays or works of art – sculptures, fountains, unique lights, or something of the sort.  Find those things and enjoy them with your children.  You’ll probably be amazed at the interesting things you’ll find that you’ve walked right on by in the past so you wouldn’t miss your next flight.  Airports are kind of like free museums!

7.  Play a game of cards or read a book.

A deck of cards takes up very little space in your carry-on and can be versatile for all kinds of games, even with a very young child.  If the game gets redundant, read one of your toddler’s books to her.

8.  Sleep.

If you can, take a little snooze.  But be sure that one adult keeps an eye on the luggage and children!

9.  Ride the airport train.

Airports all have different layouts, but some require you to ride a train or shuttle from one terminal to another.  If you have plenty of time, take your children on an extra train ride – even if that means going away from your terminal destination.

One thing to consider when you take long walks or ride trains to different terminals is you may end up going through security more than one time.  Plan for plenty of time to get back to your gate in time to board.  After all, how embarrassing it would be to miss your flight because you were just playing around somewhere else in the airport!

By the time you’ve done all of these things, I hope that your gate agent will be calling your flight to board.  Happy flying!

What do you do with your children in an airport when a flight is delayed or when you have a long layover?


  1. Bruce says

    Parents can often find a gate area that is not being used in the near future, which means the entire seating area is empty of people. That’s a good place to relocate to, and let the kids have some room to run around, crawl over the seats, be a little loud, etc., without disturbing anyone.
    Just remember to keep an eye on the time, as you are not likely to hear announcements regarding your next flight at whatever gate fro which you are departing.

    • Jeri says

      @Bruce – That’s a great idea. We’ve done that in the past. Even when we choose to sit and wait for our flights, we rarely sit at our designated gate. We prefer to wait in less occupied areas so the kids can feel free to play without disturbing people. And, yes, don’t miss the flight!!

  2. says

    My son is older now, but I remember having fun at the airport when he was young. Some of it we were told off for – like riding the trolley around the terminal! :-)
    Another great thing to do at the airport is to make friends. Kids are sociable creatures and we have met many interesting people due our kids interacting with their kids.
    Catching up on the coursework with older kids is also not as bad as it sounds. “Would you rather do it now or would you rather do
    on holiday while everybody else is having fun?” usually does the trick.
    .-= Juliette´s last blog ..Can you really visit Sri Lanka on a budget? =-.

    • Jeri says

      @ Juliette – I really like your idea of making friends. I’m not a very outgoing person, but it’s certainly easier for me to talk to other people with children. That is a great way to pass the time anywhere – the park, the airport, etc… Thanks for your comment!

  3. Jesus says

    These are awesome ideas to keep kids occupied while waiting for a flight, but I have one suggestion. Sometimes nothing seem to settle the little tykes down, so I recommend the Sling adapter from DISH Network. I actually work at DISH and with the Sling adapter you can stream live and recorded TV to your android phone everywhere you get 3G coverage or WiFi. That way when they are done coloring, they can watch their favorite cartoons. Check out the Sling adapter at!

  4. Cory says

    I did a 5 hour layover in Atlanta several weeks ago with my 9 and 7 year-olds. Before we landed I wrote up a scavenger hunt for them, promising a prize for completing it (I think they got ice cream). It took them at least 3 1/2 hours to get this list done, and they took it as a challenge. The time flew by pleasantly, and they were ready to sit still again for a couple of hours on the next flight.

    1. What concourse are we in?
    2. Find a restroom and count how many toilets it has.
    3. How many gates are there at this airport?
    4. Go to a newsstand and buy a pack of gum. What flavor did you choose?
    5. What flight (number and destination) is departing closest to 12:00 noon today?
    6. What temperature is it outside of this airport?
    7. Take a picture of your sibling with an airplane in the background.
    8. Read the billboard advertisements in the terminal and take a picture of the worst one.
    9. Find the arrivals & departures monitor and read the list of cities. Wrtie down one you’ve never heard of before.
    10. Find a moving walkway or escalator. If it’s not crowded, go down/up it in the opposite direction (i.e. up the down escalator).
    11. Look at the airplaines and pick the prettiest one. Draw a picture of it.
    12. Write in your journal about what you’re looking forward to on this trip.
    13. Get your prize!!!

    I’m sure you can think of many more to add to this list – may vary the tasks based on age, of course!

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