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Keeping Kids Entertained During Airport Layovers

How to tackle a layover when flying with kids

Flight delayed? Long layover? For many, the thought of being stuck in an airport with nothing to do is a worst-case scenario — especially if you’re already stressed and flying with kids. At Alternative Airlines, we know that waiting at the airport doesn’t have to be boring. And if you follow our clever time-killing tips, we believe we can turn hours of boredom into something quite fun.

child at the airport

Book a lounge

When travelling with your children, you want to ensure you have both comfort and entertainment prepared for the layover ahead. The first reason why you should book an airport lounge when you are travelling with kids is security. When travelling as a family, have you ever wanted a few quiet moments to yourself? Away from the busy crowds in the departure lounge and shops, not worrying about child/children getting caught in the crowd and mistakenly being swept along? Then why not pay to go to a child-friendly airport lounge?

Most have nice seating areas with great views of watching planes taking off and landing. If you or your children want to have a nap before the long journey ahead then we suggest booking an airport lounge for privacy and comfort. Airport lounges are worth booking because they offer complimentary food and drink in case you get hungry during the layover.

We also suggest an airport lounge with little ones for entertainment purposes. Walking through duty-free and browsing shops isn't always fun for children, therefore, when you have lounge access there are soft play areas, games, books and toys. Others include showers, spas, bed cubicles and big sofas. For the adults, some lounges offer free newspapers and wifi. Just make sure you book a family-friendly airport and check the lounge facilities.

Kids at the gate in the airport

Take a tour of the airport

Ever wanted to get a behind-the-scenes look into how an airport is run and the processes? This can be both exciting and educational for the children and is also a way to pass the time.

Believe it or not, some airports, such as Zurich Airport (ZRH), offer guided airport tours. These tours take you through some of the most important areas of the airport, including the check-in desks, and the baggage sorting system and show you some fantastic views of the runway and the aircraft.

Airport tours can be pre-booked online on the airport website.

Packing a suitcase

Plan for kids entertainment

There's nothing worse than forgetting your child's favourite toy or favourite book whilst travelling and it is their only source of entertainment. Plan and remember to pack a few of their favourite things to help keep them entertained throughout the flight for a smoother journey.

Children can become easily bored, and having a variety of distractions at hand will not only keep them engaged but also make the flight time pass more quickly for them. Consider bringing their favourite colouring books, or electronic devices loaded with kid-friendly content. Make sure to pack a device where they can sit and watch a movie or play games.

If you haven't packed anything then you can play games such as cards, Simon Says, Eye Spy or scavenger hunt. Shops such as WH Smiths have colouring books and word searches you can get.

If you're stuck on what sort of things to pack then make a family travel checklist. If you need some tips and tricks before you fly then head over to our page.

family at the airport

Have food and drink

Keep your kids (and yourself) fed and hydrated. While you're waiting, grab a bite to eat at one of the restaurants. There should be lots of selection when choosing where to eat so don't worry if your children are fussy, they will have something for everyone. Don’t forget to check if any restaurants in the airport offer free kids' meals.

If you prefer, you can bring food from home to ensure you and your kids have something to eat during the layover. Skip the sugary snacks and instead go for fruit & veggies or a sandwich if you also want to avoid sugar-drop meltdowns.

Otherwise, the airline should provide a kid's meal and an adult's meal during the flight. If you are flying with a family-friendly airline then they will take care of you and ensure you have entertainment, food and drink.

child at the airport gate

Make sure it's a kid-friendly airport

Research your layover airport before you depart to find out if kid-friendly fun awaits! There are lots of benefits to researching and booking a family-friendly airport and most airports these days have a play area which allows you to relax and keep your children entertained.

London Heathrow Airport has soft play areas for children of all ages. There are also a few penny-saving schemes like free travel for kids aboard the Heathrow Express and free drop-off airport parking for up to two hours, which creates a top experience for families. John F. Kennedy International Airport offers 108 amenities including a spa and children’s play area. Passengers can also take advantage of the airport’s free and unlimited Wi-Fi so there is something for everyone.

Dubai International Airport is great for families during a layover as it offers video games and a trampoline park. Sydney's Kingsford Smith Airport is also great for tackling a layover with the kids as there is a children’s cinema which airs TV shows and offers a comfy place to crash, free Wi-Fi and a LEGO store.

passengers awaiting flight

Pass a bit of time in the shops

Most airports nowadays have a full-scale retail experience, and doing a little last-minute browsing can be fun. Shops like Duty-free have something for everyone therefore, whilst you're looking at sunglasses or perfume your kids can be choosing sweets for the plane journey ahead!

This is also great if you have forgotten to pack something essential as they are guaranteed to have things like toothbrushes, chargers and kids' games in the airport shops. Whether it's buying last-minute bits for the trip, grabbing some snacks or even having a browse, it's something to pass the time while waiting at the airport.


Make sure to do your research on which airport you are flying to or from to know what airport facilities there are and if they offer guided tours. Pre-plan if you are booking a lounge to ensure there's avalibility and check if the lounge is child-friendly. During the time leading up to your trip decide if you want to bring food or eat at the airport, maybe look up the menus and the different restaurants to ensure there is something for everyone. Some restaurants allow kids to eat free so it's worth having a look.

It makes things easier when packing if you make a checklist this way you won't forget entertainment for the children such as toys, games or electronics. This also saves you money from buying things at the airport that you already have at home.

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Why choose a long layover?

When you have a long layover it reduces the stress of having to get you and your family quickly to the connecting flight. Having more time to get your baggage and relax is easier for most people.

How do I book a lounge?

You can book this through Alternative Airlines. First, select your flight then on the passenger details page, fill out all the necessary details and scroll down until you find the lounges selection. Click 'Select Lounge'. Browse through the available lounges at your departure airport using the 'Next' button. Once you are happy with the selection (find out more in the 'More details' section), click select and it will add to your basket. Take a look at our guide for more information on how to add an airport lounge to your booking here at Alternative Airlines.

What is the recommended layover time for international flights?

International flights require longer connections as you will often have to go through immigration and customs upon arrival. For international layover flights booked on one airline, two hours is often recommended to make your connection. For international flights on different airlines, the connection time will need to be even greater as you may have to change terminals between the two flights. You may also have to claim and re-check your baggage. Other factors to take into account include the time of year (is it peak tourist season - you can check the low season dates here?) and the size of the airport you're flying into. If your connecting flight leaves from a notoriously busy airport, it may be necessary to arrange a layover that's at least three hours long.

What is the recommended layover time for domestic flights?

The recommended layover time for domestic flights is normally one hour. However, as previously stated, you may require longer if your flights are booked with two different airlines if you are travelling to a very busy airport or if you require special assistance.