Is There Such a Thing as a Kid-Friendly Airport?

When it comes to traveling with tots, PDX ranks high. But the family-friendliness goes beyond the number of play areas.

By Margaret Seiler May 22, 2013

A recent study conducted by ranked Portland International as the second-best airport in the country for traveling with kids, based on two play areas and eleven designated nursing/pumping stations.

Tripster agrees. PDX is a great airport for kids, but for reasons that go beyond Travelnerd’s simplistic criteria. Here are a few ways our humble airport makes life just a little easier for families on the go:


One play area is outside security, which means you can use it even you’re just there to pick someone up. The other play area, complete with a TV airing kids’ programming (The Powerpuff Girls was a recent draw), is just for fliers. Its location, though, at the far end of Concourse C, means a parent killing time before, say, a Delta flight in Concourse D would have to lug kids and carry-ons quite a way to take advantage of it. The nursing stations are located throughout the airport (many are just a bench and an outlet, but the airport’s conference center offers comfortable private rooms, too).


PDX’s “street pricing” policy requires restaurants to charge about the same for their food and beverages as people would pay elsewhere. Great news for parents buying food and other distractions for their kids. Sure, Minneapolis’s airport (at no. 9 on Travelnerd’s list) has a Snoopy statue to climb on, an in-airport train, and an awesome enclosed play area, but lunch can bankrupt you—as will the mark-up on their vending-machine diapers.


Unlike at some airports, there’s no cost to get online at PDX, so device-toting older kids (and their parents) can plug in and tune out if they need to. 

Concourse C at Portland International Airport


There are plenty of places for Mom to unwind with a locally brewed cold one (Laurelwood or Rogue) or fill a post-security growler before leaving Beervana. And from a stool at Sandoval’s Tequila Grill in Concourse C (see our coverage of their 200 tequilas here), Dad can keep an eye on the kids in the nearby play area as they build towers on the Lego table or watch Cartoon Network.


Once through the security line’s cattle maze, the wide corridors and soaring skylights give kids plenty of room to run around and make it easy for parents to keep watch from a comfortable perch. The Concourse Connector, which lets people get from one end of the airport to the other without having to go through security again, doubles as a race track to expend any last-minute energy before boarding. Moveable tables and chairs (and high chairs) in restaurant seating areas are easy to navigate even with strollers and roller bags.


There are three well-placed family restrooms (private rooms with locking doors). Even in the regular shared bathrooms, the stalls are generously sized, and the green-handled dual-flush toilets give kids a quick lesson in water conservation. The toilets are manual-flush, which means no constant loud whooshes to wake sleeping infants or startle new potty-trainees.


OK, so maybe PDX can’t compete with the on-site aviation museum at San Francisco’s airport (no. 1, according to Travelnerd). But an art display in Concourse E still gives the kids something to ogle while Dad puts his belt and shoes back on after the security check, and the huge river map on the floor in Concourse C can entertain and even educate. Kids love trains— the Red Line MAX shuttles families easily between the airport and downtown. Powell’s has locations both inside and outside security to stock up on reading material and games, and the airport’s many locally based restaurants set a high standard for “airport food” (Flying Elephants, Gustav’s, Laurelwood Brewing, and a Burgerville on the way this winter).

What are your favorite airports for arrivals, departures, and layovers? What matters most to you when traveling with kids in tow? Tell us what you think below!

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