Making The Most of Family Time in the Airport

In the two weeks leading up to Christmas, over 980,000 passengers will fly in and out of Brisbane Airport! Catching a plane to your holiday destination is exciting for children, and the holiday starts when you get through security into the airport. In my experience, it’s a good idea to get to the airport early, especially for international flights, and then have a flexible plan with how to manage family time. There is nothing worse than being in a rush before a flight with kids! In collaboration with Brisbane Airport, I’ve put together a guide for making the most of the time before your flight. 

Before You Leave

Having travelled internationally before with my four children, I find it helpful to provide each child (older than four or five years of age) with a small backpack to carry with items that will be useful on the plane trip and while waiting at the airport.

What to take in a kids backpack when travelling

Kid Travel backpack list:

  • Small backpack – make sure it is small enough for them to carry
  • Empty drink bottle because you’ll need to comply with PLAGS rules through security and you can fill up at bubblers on the other side
  • Jumper (or something warm) – it can get chilly in an airplane
  • Small toys – for younger children, I pop in a few small toys, like Matchbox cars or small dolls. For older children, travel games are a good idea. News Travels (inside the International Terminal) has heaps of dedicated travel games and toys so you can get something at the airport to include.
  • Drawing items – search online for free colouring pages or printables that are available for many regions and countries. Otherwise pick up a colouring book or two from News Travels.
  • Spare clothes – a pair of undies, jersey shorts and a tee will fit rolled up in a sandwich sized zip lock bag.
  • Book – it’s a fun idea to allow kids to pick out a book at the airport (News Travels to the rescue again) to fill in time.
  • Something chewy/snacks (non-perishable) – gives kids something to do if their ears get uncomfortable during assent or descent.
  • Lip balm – great for long flights
  • Head pillow – look for a pillow with a button loop so it’s easy to hang off the backpack. You can see in the image below, my daughter carrying her backpack, the head pillow buttoned on and her suitcase (with four wheels). These can be picked up in both Australian Way and News Travels.

travelling with kids

Through Security

Going through the departure security process is usually quick at Brisbane Airport, but if you do need to wait for a significant period, keep kids occupied by playing eye spy or talking about what you’re looking forward to.

Making the Airport Fun

Once you’re through security, the holiday starts! Especially for international flights, you’ll need to be at the airport early, so I find it’s a good idea to have a flexible schedule of how you will fill the time. Every trip is a little different, however generally speaking, it can look like this:

  1. Security
  2. Regroup – I like to find a space to sit, organise passports and have a small family meeting about the plans
  3. Pick a travel activity (book or game) – provide a budget for this and the kids can pick something
  4. Eat
  5. Chill – kids are fed and have an activity to do.
  6. Fly

We do a big travel holiday every once in a while, and so I like to invest in making it extra special. An idea is to allow the kids to pick a new book to enjoy on the holiday. News Travels (located inside the terminal) has activities, toys and books that are specifically targeted for travel. There are a lot of great books including titles from Lonely Planet, children’s classics, plus travel journals for kids. 

I treat myself to a new book when I go on a holiday too. Taking time to browse and pick a book at the airport is something I look forward too. The last holiday book I purchased was The Dry by Jane Harper. 

what to do at the airport with kids

travel books for kids

I spotted this Magic Eye book which took me back to the 90s! This is the kind of book that will keep kids occupied for ages!

travel books for kids

brisbane airport


If there is something I have learned from 17 years of parenting, keeping people fed is the big secret to family harmony – ha! It is always a good idea to schedule in time to eat somewhere along the line before take-off. There are a variety of affordable food options at the Brisbane Airport’s International Terminal, depending on if you want to eat at the food court or at one of the restaurants.

Food Court

If you want to get something fast, affordable and non-greasy, the Subway kids packs or a Boost Juice are a good pick from the food court.

food at brisbane airport


  • The main restaurants (all have a kids menu) inside the International Terminal (after security) are as follows:
  • Windmill & Co – bistro and bar, plus they have colouring in books for kids to do while they wait for their meals
  • The Coffee Club – café style food
  • Brisbane River Grill – relaxed atmosphere, TV sports, bistro food and share plates

Brisbane River Grill

I like the relaxed atmosphere of the Brisbane River Grill. They have delicious share plates (corn, chicken wings, pies, bread and dip, sliders and more) which is great if you want to share. When you look at the menu, there are certain items marked Express, which means they will come quicker. 

Brisbane River Grill at Brisbane Airport

Brisbane River Grill at Brisbane Airport

Below is the kids cheeseburger meal.

cheeseburger at Brisbane River Grill

cheeseburger at Brisbane River Grill

The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. This is the chicken salad.

cheeseburger at Brisbane River Grill

The Village Green

Once everyone is settled, it’s a good idea to find a nice spot to chill. The Village Green is my favourite part of the International Terminal. (There’s a snippet at the start of this video of my daughter and her friend chilling on The Green on our way to Japan). I like it because there is a spacious section for kids to move about, a variety of seating all around and plenty of greenery. The way the chairs are positioned means you can find your own nook to plant the fam.

What to do to kids occupied while you are at the airport

What to do to kids occupied while you are at the airport

What to do to kids occupied while you are at the airport

Younger kids can play, read or play games, and there are digital screens with games to keep them occupied too.

What to do to kids occupied while you are at the airport

Our older kids like to browse the shops, sit and chat, or read.

What to do to kids occupied while you are at the airport

If you need anything else – for example, an SD card or snacks for the plane – you can grab it from JR/Duty Free. Usually one of us will stay with the kids, and the other will get any last minute items if needed. If travelling close to Christmas, the JR/Duty Free shop is a great place for gifts, think: perfume, champagne and Toblerone chocolate.

What to do to kids occupied while you are at the airport

The secret to making the most of family time at the airport before your flight is to break up the time period into different slots. Check out the Brisbane Airport website for where to shop, dine and explore and make a flexible plan before adventuring on. 

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