If you fly with your kids, and you prefer not to pay out the nose for airfare, chances are you will experience a long layover at some point.  Sometimes this is scheduled and sometimes it’s due to circumstances out of your control like weather or plane troubles.  A long layover can strike panic in the heart of a parent but it doesn’t have to.  We are budget flyers, meaning I almost always will purchase the cheapest ticket even if it means a layover, or flying out of the direct flight path.  To me the journey is just as much fun as the destination, most of the time.  We have gotten to see Paris, London, and Madrid thanks to long layovers. This also means that we have experienced many planned and unplanned layovers.  If you’re facing this situation here are some ideas to help you.

long layovers with kids

Get a Hotel

I am adding this tip first because I think it’s really important. We’ve had some really long layovers, in fact whenever we go back to the US from Morocco it’s almost a guarantee that we will have an overnight layover somewhere in Europe. But, often taking these long layovers can save hundreds (and sometimes thousands) of dollars.  Instead of forking over all of the extra money, we find a hotel and consider it a bonus! When our kids were younger, this layover often just meant a restful nights sleep and maybe a pool swim. Now that they’re older it means we can explore! I know that most people don’t enjoy the process of getting to or from their destination, especially when a layover is thrown in the mix but really embrace it – and get a good nights sleep. You can read about a layover experience I recently had in Spain – although I was alone I would have easily done this with my kids.

Airport Scavenger Hunt

This requires little to no prep. Make a list of items to “find”. If you’ve got bigger kids, they could be things that they might need to walk around a gate or two to find, they could be items that are in sight outside on the tarmac, or find something that starts with every letter of the alphabet.  There are endless ways to expand this.  While on the topic, games in general are a great way to pass time, and especially games of the non-electronic variety.

Take A Walk

One thing that we have discovered as we’ve transited through airports throughout the world is that there is generally quite a lot to see. In one airport we found an area that had rocking chairs and a kids play area. In another a very cool art installation. In another giant corridors of moving sidewalks that frankly amused the kids for longer than I care to admit. You can go online ahead of time to do some research to find any highlights (or play areas). If you’ve got several hours before your flight, don’t sit at the gate. It’s boring as an adult, it’s mind numbing as a kid. 

Have a Picnic

Whenever we travel I am well prepared for my boys appetites, because it never fails that that are famished by the time we get through security checks. If we have to sit through a long layover their hunger only grows. I know you probably think airport floors are dirty and disgusting (and yea to some extent you’re right) but try to ignore that, pull up a square of carpet, sit down and have a snack/meal.  Share stories, talk about the trip, what they’re looking forward to, etc. We spend a lot of time chatting while we share food and it does help pass time.


This is my final resort. You want to save your best weapon for last.  For my boys it’s electronics.  So once I’ve exhausted all other options, I let them play their DS or watch a movie.  I say this is last because this is also most likely the activity they’ll choose on the plane when there are far fewer choices.

What other suggestions do you have to handle long layovers with kids?