January 22, 2018

5 Ways to Survive an Unexpected Layover with Kids


I was in Colorado over the weekend, spending time with old friends from college and new friends at TBEX, the annual travel bloggers conference. I was able to scoop up non-stop flights both ways between Washington-Dulles and Denver (I try to get non-stops pretty much every time I travel). No problems flying out to Denver, but on the way home, the last thing I wanted to hear the captain say was, “Folks, we’re landing in Chicago.”

Yes, Chicago. There were problems with the air conditioning from the moment we took off and it never really cooled down. So, we had to land and get off the plane in Chicago. We probably sat in the terminal at O’Hare for at least an hour, but then got delayed again on the tarmac. Sigh.

We eventually landed in Washington, DC about three hours behind schedule, and received a $75 e-certificate to use toward a future domestic flight. I was travelling alone and didn’t feel overly inconvenienced, but I had to wonder what it would have been like if the kids were with me, and more importantly, what I would have done to entertain them.

If you find yourself on an expected or unexpected layover in an airport, here are five ways to keep the kids quiet and peaceful.

Get Some Ice Cream: Or, get any snack for that matter. Once we got off the flight in Chicago, I headed for the McDonald’s and got a chocolate-dipped ice cream cone. Yum. Totally hit the spot and it took all my cares away. What delay?

Play I Spy: All kids love the I Spy game, so you should get some enjoyment out of this game. Start looking around the terminal for interesting people and things, and then say something like, “I spy with my little eye a man wearing a purple hat” and wait for the kids to point him out.

Listen to Music: If you have a smartphone or an MP3 player, make sure you’ve got songs downloaded that appeal to your kids. More importantly, make sure you’ve brought along a headphone splitter so two kids can listen at once, and a portable charger, like the iGo Charge Anywhere, so the device doesn’t go dead.

Play Bingo: I always carry a notebook with me and you should too if only to play Bingo in the airport. Create a Bingo board and on each board add squares for people or things you might see in an airport, like “red suitcase” or “man with glasses.” Write each item on a piece of paper, fold each one in half, put them in your hand and then call them out one by one.

Watch TV Shows on Your Laptop or Smartphone: The Disney Channel recently released several new iPhone apps that let kids watch full-length episodes of shows, like “Good Luck, Charlie” and “Shake it Up, Chicago” on your iPhone or iPad These are a great way to pass the time. It’s easy to download movies to your laptop ahead of time too.

Do you have any fail-safe ways to pass the time in an airport when waiting for your flight to take off? Let me know in the comments section below. Safe travels!

Photo Credit: Michael Newman

Disclaimer: This post contains a link to an affiliate. However, the views and opinions expressed in this blog post are purely mine. 


  1. A couple of years ago we got stuck in the Memphis airport for three hours with a tired two-year-old, just as everything was closing (and by everything I mean the Cinnabon, Starbucks and Elvis themed restaurant, which is pretty much all they’ve got). If we hadn’t had an iPod touch (in our house aka “the playgames”) loaded with his favorite videos and games it would have been tough. I’m so thankful to be a parent during this time in history. Our family wouldn’t have made it 20 miles in a covered wagon–we don’t go anywhere if we can’t take a few episodes of Scooby-Doo!

    • Erin Gifford says:

      Sam – Glad to hear you survived. I hear you. In times like these I’m more than happy to oblige when my son says “Mama, I play phone,” particularly when that means a few extra minutes of entertainment for him while waiting for the plane!

      Erin 🙂

  2. When travelling, I make sure that my kids each have a magazine and a couple of books. It is great for the flight and the unexpected layover!

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