With summer here, it's time for many families to start heading overseas. This can mean red-eye flights, security lines, delays and being cramped into a tiny space for hours on end – not the easiest of tasks if you've got kids in tow.
Many airports are trying to help by incorporating more family-friendly facilities into their design. Abu Dhabi Airport got the ball rolling recently when it installed new play areas, and Dubai International has a Zen garden. Elsewhere, airports have a whole host of attractions to make long layovers as easy as child's play.
Forest adventure in Singapore
Singapore Changi Airport is the world's most awarded airport – and that was before its recently completed multimillion dollar upgrade, which has transformed the Singapore hub into a destination in its own right.
In the Jewel, which is linked to the airport by an air-conditioned walkway, people can visit the Changi Experience Studio, with its state-of-the-art technology and interactive activities such as a singing garden, airport-trolley challenge and a behind-the-scenes look at the airport's development. Canopy Park is a 14,000-square-metre green space where children can whirl down the discovery slides, wander through rainbow-shaped flower beds in the petal garden or check out colourful dragons, crocodiles and iguanas created from plants in the topiary walk. Children will also love the mist garden, where puffs of air magically appear from below the ground.
Older children will be happy on the suspended Canopy Bridge or playing in the Skynets, and the whole family can attempt to conquer the hedge maze. The main attraction is the Shiseido forest valley, which has walking and trekking trails plus the world’s tallest indoor waterfall, towering 40 metres. Child-friendly shopping and eating is also available by the bucketload, including the first permanent Pokemon store outside Japan.
Aviation-themed fun in Hong Kong
Despite looking a little tired in places, Hong Kong International Airport is a great place for family stopovers. There are eight play areas dotted around the terminals, but before you get the children settled there, head to the rear of Terminal 2 to check out the airport's best-kept secret. The Aviation Discovery Centre is an interactive entertainment space where you'll be welcomed by a group of storm troopers and rows of candy and toy-filled dispensers. Inside, kids will love the flight simulator and grown-ups will get a kick out of exhibits that feature model airplanes, replica plane engines and mock-ups of various cabin classes from throughout aviation history. Leave time for a visit to the SkyDeck, where you'll have unobstructed views of the planes coming into land at HKA. And if you still have time to kill, catch a film at the Imax Movie Theatre – screenings are always kid-friendly.
Animal encounters in Canada's Vancouver
Vancouver International Airport is a great stopover spot if you have little ones that love animals. More than 5,000 marine creatures live in the YVR Aquarium, and kids can spot 850 different species, including wolf eels, anemones, kelp, sea urchins and more. There’s also a 1,800-litre jellyfish aquarium filled with Pacific sea nettle jellies. If you’re flying Monday to Friday, then be sure to say hello to the airport’s therapy dogs – Bailey, Soda, Grover, Norman and Mira are on hand for passengers to pet and play with before boarding a flight. The airport’s glass walls not only make the most of the spectacular British Columbia mountains, oceans and forests, they’re also a great vantage point for watching the airport puppy patrol chase snow geese off the airfield, keeping everything nice and clear around airport runways.
Art and Science in Amsterdam
Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport has plenty to keep the whole family entertained and the Holland Boulevard is where most of the action is. Here, Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman installed one of his giant playful creations and children are encouraged to climb all over the stuffed animal sculptures. This is also where you'll find Nemo, an offshoot of the city's popular science museum, which will keep children busy making sound waves visible or taming electricity. At Lounge 2, keen travellers will love peering through the transparent floor to watch suitcases of every shape, size and colour pass below their feet. There's also an aircraft playlet here where children can climb and slide on a replica aircraft. Get some fresh air in the outdoor Airport Park, where children can run around while you power up your devices on the electricity-generating exercise bikes.
Ice-skating and culture in South Korea
Incheon International Airport is one of the world's busiest, and also one of the best for families. Let children wander the Korean Cultural Street where they can see traditional giwajip houses and jeongja gazebos. Take advantage of free craft experiences at one of the many cultural centres – try your hand making bags, fans or folk paintings, while children entertain themselves dressing up in traditional Korean dress. The airport also hosts mini-concerts featuring K-Pop to classical music, masked dancers, replica royal parades and Baby Shark singsongs. Pop outside for some fresh air and a walk along the tree-lined trail that leads to the Oseong Mountain Observatory Deck, a great place for unobstructed plane spotting. As if that wasn't enough, there's also a refurbished kids zone, a cinema and even an indoor ice-skating rink.