Making Family Travel Easier for Moms

By Meg St-Esprit

Published May 8, 2023

Read Time: 4 mins


It’s no secret that traveling with kids can be stressful. Youngsters can be particular about routines, sleep and food, and travel can disrupt all of these things for kids.

That doesn’t mean families need to sit at home until their children are older, though. From tram rides to play spaces, Pittsburgh International Airport features many experiences that are fun for young kids. With some planning, any trip can still be a success.

Made for kids

Many local parents that travel regularly, like local travel agent Sara Smith, swear by TSA precheck to make air travel smoother.

A $78 fee, which covers five years of pre-check status, allows a parent and their children under 12 to go through security without removing shoes, belts and electronic devices.

For questions about security, call the TSA Cares helpline (855-787-2227) or ask for a TSA passenger support specialist. The agency website is also full of helpful tips for traveling with kids, including information on how to navigate the airport with a disability.

Once through security, there is plenty to much to entertain kids until takeoff.

Pittsburgh International Airport was the first in the country to feature a play area. The airport has since added several features just for kids, as well as a variety of art installations and displays that are as enticing for children as they are for adults, said Elise Gomez, Manager of Customer Experience at the airport.

“I recommend arriving to the airport early to give your family plenty of time, and know there are staff available to help,” Gomez said. “With the many engaging exhibits, amenities and programs PIT has to offer, I encourage families to make their airport journey more of an experience and extended vacation for their children to enjoy.”

The airport provides a wait time calculator online so that families know just how early to arrive before a flight.

In Concourse A, families will find Fraley’s Robot Repair Shop and the airport’s sensory room, Presley’s Place. Presley’s Place offers many different features that are calming for travelers with special needs, including an adult-sized changing table and a mock-up of an airplane cabin to explore before boarding to ease anxiety.

Concourse C features a mother’s nursing lounge and Kidsport, the airport’s play area. It’s perfect for burning off energy before a flight. On Mondays and Thursdays, families can enjoy musical and performing art shows at the Center Core stage.

There are plenty of displays and installations throughout the airport, like Skeleton Mirrors in Concourse B, the Franco Harris figure located in the Landside terminal on the Transit level, and the T-Rex statue when you get off the tram at the Airside terminal.

The airport map is helpful, but any airport employee will be happy to point you in the right direction—just ask. And keep an eye out for PIT Paws, the therapy dogs that roam the airport providing calming cuddles.

Smith says her kids like all of the features at the airport, but love watching planes the most.

“We also like just walking through the terminal and seeing all the different planes, guessing where they’re going and making up stories for their travels,” she said.

During the construction of the airport’s Terminal Modernization Program, kids can enjoy an additional bonus: watching the project in action. View the construction from windows in Concourse D.

Families can enjoy musical and performing art shows at the Center Core stage on Mondays and Thursdays. (Photo by Beth Hollerich)

Be creative

PIT is clearly jam-packed with things to entertain kids, but family travel sometimes involves thinking on the fly (pun intended).

Ria Fruscello, a mom in Pittsburgh, said her family endured a two-hour flight delay last summer. Thankfully, she had tossed a deck of cards in her bag before the trip.

“We sat on the floor and played a bunch of card games while we waited. We even taught one of the flight attendants to play something,” she said, adding that not only did it keep her kids entertained, it created a lasting memory of that trip.

Parents also know it’s all about the snacks. Nothing makes travel worse than hangry kids.

The airport has a long list of restaurants, including kid-friendly Dunkin’ Donuts, which many parents cited as their favorite stop for a good-behavior bribe.

Andrea Yothers, a mom from Beaver, said she travels often both with and without her kids.

“Rite Aid is the cheapest place to buy water that I’ve ever seen at any U.S. airport, and the snacks there are also reasonably priced, too,” she said.

Many local parents say their kids’ favorite things to do at the airport are ride the moving sidewalks and people movers as well as come up with scavenger hunts within the terminals.

Missy McFadden of Oakmont said family trips are all about grace, patience, and understanding.

“As my husband parks the car, I preemptively apologize for anything that I might say once we exit the car until we pick up our bags in baggage claim,” she said.

For a full list of amenities at the airport and tips on traveling with kids, check out the website’s Traveling With Families homepage. The TSA’s Traveling With Children homepage also includes pertinent information.

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