Kids and long airport layovers

I was wandering the wide halls of Chicago O’Hare’s Terminal B early this morning when I spotted for the first time an enormously tall dinosaur skeleton. The parents of a young toddler tried to occupy their daughter by shooting photos of her standing next to the dinosaur’s feet.

It was 5:45 in the morning, and this young family were by far the most chipper travelers I’d seen. This got me thinking: what other fun things are there to do with kids at airports during long layovers? Who said long layovers had to be boring?

If you’re stopping through one of these airports, bring your kids to one of these fun spots.

  • Chicago O’Hare: There is a “Kids on the Fly” exhibit in Terminal 2 that features a mini-helicopter, cargo plan, and luggage station. Over in Terminal 5, you can visit the “Play it Safe” exhibit dedicated to teaching children about safety. Let’s not forget the four-story, 72-foot-long brachiosaurus skeleton on the upper level of Terminal 1 (jast as you pass through security in the B Concourse).
  • Seattle-Tacoma: There is a 1,400 square-foot play area filled with aviation-themed foam toys, including a baggage cart that can prepare little ones with adult flying.
  • San Francisco: Take a nine-minute ride on the AirTrain Red Line to the Aviation Library and Museum, where children can play in the Kids’ Spot and enjoy interactive weather-related exhibits.
  • Singapore Changi: Kids can take a dip in the Bali-themed rooftop pool.
  • Munich: The ball pit and giant LEGOs at Kinderland are a huge draw for kids. The advantage for parents: your child can be left there free of charge and watched by airport staff.

Photo of the Day (5.16.09)

The Gadling crew is here in Chicago for a team summit and the weather is working in our favor! There’s a Cubs game this afternoon, and then several cool events going down this evening, including a meet-and-greet with our team.

WHERE: The Goose Island Clybourn Brewpub, 1800 N Clybourn
WHEN: Saturday, May 16th, around 10:30 or 11PM
HOW YOU WILL FIND US: We’ll be the loud ones.
This is my first time in Chicago and, having been here for less than 24 hours so far, I can say this town really rocks out! I hope some of you will join us in the festivities this evening.

This photo, which comes to us from urbanwonder, really captures the electric and vibrant nightlife here in the Windy City.

If you have some great travel shots you’d like to share, be sure to upload them to the Gadling pool on Flickr. We might just pick one as our Photo of the Day!

Travel Read: Step Back from the Baggage Claim and book giveaway

To win a signed copy of Step Back from the Baggage Claim, follow the directions at the end of the post.

For Jason Barger, an airport is not only a place where people depart and arrive on airplanes in their quests to get from one location to another. Airports are a metaphor about life. In his book, Step Back from the Baggage Claim, a slim volume that is a perfect size for slipping into a carry-on, Barger does a tidy job of illustrating how we might make the world a nicer place by starting at the airport. Airplane behavior is included in the mix of what can make or break us as a society.

To test out his theory about the power of air travel and airports, Barger hatched out a plane to travel to seven cities in seven days with the goal of never leaving any of the airports. Along the way, he’d be the observer, testing out his ideas. He figured that in in the midst of airport activity he’d find people from different backgrounds, cultures and ages–all going to or coming from somewhere for a variety of reasons. In the process of their arrivals and departures, Barger theorized there would be behaviors that would illustrate each person’s version of the world.

The result was he logged 6,548 miles, 10,000 minutes, 26 hours and 45 minutes of sleep, and a whole lot of writing fodder to condense into palpable bites. Throughout the book–which I’ve read twice, Barger weaves in details about his life that prompted this undertaking.

Barger is is a guy who notices things. Like when the ding goes off on an airplane to signal that retrieving bags from the overhead bins is a-okay, who leaps up, who stays put and who helps others? It’s not just about what other people do, but what do we do?

At a baggage claim, who lets the older person struggle, and who offers a hand? In Barger’s world, wouldn’t it be a lot easier for everyone if we all just took a few steps back from the conveyor belt and worked together? He saw that system work with a group of adolescents he traveled with. Instead of each elbowing his or her way to the circling bags, those in the front, passed bags back making the task easier for everybody.

Even though the book is a missive in a way of doing better, but Barger also looks at the circumstances that creates a situation where we might not try harder. Frustration is a big one. (I have to put in a plug for stupidity.)

Seriously, haven’t you wanted to lob a shoe at someone while you’ve been stuck at an airport? I have. But, there is always the high road option of flowing more easily with a smile, no matter our circumstances. Barger saw the pinnacle of great decorum, for example, when one woman’s neatly packed carry-on was rummaged through by TSA as part of a random check and her belongs left in a pile for her to repack. Instead of fuming and fussing, she remained pleasant, repacked and dashed off to catch a flight–still buoyant.

Even if you want to remain a crab when you travel, Step Back from the Baggage Claim offers a glimpse of the various airports where Barger headed, and what it’s like to hang out in them for extended periods of time. After reading Barger’s book, I don’t think I’ll be throwing elbows anymore as I haul my own bag out of the mix of belongings that are circling by. (Actually, I don’t think I ever have thrown an elbow. Maybe growled, but nothing more.)

Oh, yeah. Where did Barger go? He started in Columbus to Boston to Miami to Chicago to Minneapolis to Seattle to San Diego and back to Columbus.

Here’s one of Barger’s thoughts to take with you when you travel. It might help you have a much better day.

“I’m going to embrace the quiet moments an airplane seat offers us. When the ding sends most into a frenzy, I am going to sit still.”

To read more about Barger and the book, here’s an article that was published in the business section of The New York Times.

To win a copy of the book Step Back from the Baggage Claim:

Leave a short comment about an act of kindness you witnessed while traveling. Maybe it was your act of kindness–or someone else’s. Even the smallest act counts. The winner will be randomly picked.

  • The comment must be left before Friday, May 1st at 5:00 PM Eastern Time.
  • You may enter only once.
  • One winner will be selected in a random drawing.
  • The winner will receive a signed copy of the paperback book Step Back From the Baggage Claim, (valued at $14.95)
  • Click here for complete Official Rules.
  • Open to legal residents of the 50 United States, including the District of Columbia who are 18 and older.
  • Exhibit of unofficial Obama inspired art in Chicago

    What is unofficial Obama art? That’s what I wondered when I heard there will be a display of such art in Chicago at the Chicago Tourism Center. Basically, it’s art by any artist who was inspired by Obama’s run for president to create a video, a painting, a poster or whatever to commemorate the occasion.

    This is not just any art, but good art. People whose work is represented in the exhibit sent it in for consideration. The result is more than 100 artworks. Some of the pieces may seem familiar like the Go Tell Mama series of posters or Sol Sender’s Obama ’08 logo–the one that ended up on yard signs and bumper stickers.

    The exhibit is opening on April 1 and will be on display through May 31. Throughout the two months, there will be a variety of talks. You can check the exhibit website for a list of the represented artists and events.

    I’m always interested to see a variety of artwork that turns on one theme. That’s when artists’ personalities and sensibilities are most evident. The variety found in human creative efforts seems to never disappoint.

    Will Chicago get an airport on the South Side?

    In May, I’m flying into Chicago. My friends live in Bolingbrook, a suburb to the south about 35 miles from downtown. According to Map Quest, it will take me 54 minutes to get to their house. I’m thinking, if I’m lucky. Traffic through Chicago can be a nightmare. This summer we drove right by downtown at 1:00 in the morning and traffic was still heavy, so heavy that we missed a toll booth lane and had to send our $1.35, or thereabouts, in the mail.

    In his column in the New York Times today, Bob Herbert outlines the plan in the works for a new airport in Chicago to be built on the South Side. There are stumbling blocks to such a plan. Politics for one. What interests me is the number of jobs an airport produces, both during construction and afterward. The number is well into the thousands.

    From Herbert’s description airports sound like beehives of activity. As he points out, O’Hare has grown to be so massive that it’s unwieldy at times. Although, according to O’Hare’s Web site, it was voted the Global Traveler Award for Best Airport in North America in 2007. Herbert also points out that Midway’s runways are short which poses another problem.

    The airport on the South Side makes sense to me. It would sure make getting to Bolingbrook much easier. Possibly it could help lessen traffic through downtown by people who had to head further north in order to fly out of town.