Before kids, I believed in cutting time short, showing up for flights at the last minute to avoid spending time sitting in an airport. But once children arrived, everything from check-in to security clearance to simply stocking up on snacks for the flight (and sixteen last-minute potty trips before boarding) took more time. Plus I can’t bear the thought of missing a flight and trying to reschedule us all. So we follow procedure, arrive two hours early, get our chores done...then sit. It’s boring, and I try to save the screen time and battery life for in-flight entertainment. So what to do to ease the pre-departure and layover time? A few amenities have popped up in recent years that make the airport experience less trying for parents. These are five of our favorites.
Nursing and Pumping Pods
Mamava, where have you been all our lives?! These pop-up pods offer privacy to breastfeeding and pumping moms who need a quiet space to get business done on the fly. The suites include electrical outlets for plugging in your pump (or your phone) and enough space to fit your stroller, luggage and extra children. Anyone who has ever pumped in an airport (or worse, airplane) bathroom may cry tears of happiness when they try Mamava. Ditto for nursing mamas who have chased down a toddler while feeding baby and given everyone within a three-gate radius a major peep show. Check Mamava’s website to find current locations.
Fresh air in a major airport? It may sound unlikely, but it’s not—at least not in two of the airports we regularly fly, JFK and Barcelona. For JFK, you’ll need access to Delta’s lounge, where you can eat your dinner or have a cocktail al fresco while kids watch the airplanes departing and landing. In Barcelona, there’s a central plaza with a decent coffee counter and cafe tables, a place I’ve passed plenty of layovers with my own children.
Boston’s Logan International brings the Children’s Museum experience on the road with Kidports in every terminal. Designed by the museum, the spaces include hands-on exhibits as well as airplane climbing structures and slides so tots can burn off energy prior to boarding. O’Hare has a similar playground, also designed by the city’s children’s museum, in Terminal 2, but Heathrow beats everyone with Stay & Play spaces throughout the airport and a massive family lounge in T3 with separate zones for different ages, a Game Zone for teens and space for mom and dad to sit and relax for a minute.
Another shout out to Spain, this time Madrid’s Barajas airport. The walking distance between gates can be vast here, and families who have checked their stroller (or traveled without one and then regretted it) can borrow strollers to make the dash to their connecting flight or to provide seating while waiting their way through customs. Emirates Airlines offers a similar service to their passengers in Dubai’s airport.
What’s Missing: Formula
Two experienced moms I know recently arrived to the airport without enough formula in the diaper bag. No judgement, it happens. So why can’t it be easier to stock up en route? Someone on Quora says that Boots in Heathrow carries it, but I can’t turn up anything stateside. Turning this one over to the community. Has anyone found baby formula on the go?