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The best U.S. airport lounges to keep the kids happy

Jan. 29, 2020
11 min read
The Club at MCO
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Most airport lounges can be pretty boring places for young kids. While they are typically allowed inside, they are asked to stay seated, not bother other guests and offered food that doesn't include typical kid favorites like macaroni and cheese or chicken nuggets. So knowing which lounges offer "family rooms" -- packed with toys, kids' movies and video games -- can be a game-changer. Your kids can play and relax, while you sit with a drink in hand.

Related: Best airline credit cards for families

Here are the lounges at U.S. airports that offer a family room:

Centurion Lounge

American Express' Centurion Lounges are some of the best you'll come by. With an open and welcoming space, you'll find an abundant amount of locally inspired food (for kids and adults) plus premium spirits for adults who want a drink. Its family rooms, which often include frosted glass, soundproof walls that separate them from the rest of the lounge, include toys and books for little ones and a TV and game console for slightly older ones.

Family room (Photo by Zach Griff)
A Centurion Lounge family room. (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

There are nine lounge locations in the U.S., and four more stateside locations -- CLT, DEN, JFK and LAX -- slated to open in 2020, and a majority of them offer (or will offer) family rooms. Here's the list:

Related: TPG's ultimate guide to Amex Centurion Lounges

Accessing Centurion Lounges

Access to Centurion Lounges is only available to those with The Platinum Card® from American Express, The Business Platinum Card® from American Express and the Centurion Card. Additionally, if you have a Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card or Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card you'll also be able to access a Centurion Lounge as long as you're flying on a Delta-marketed or Delta-operated flight and pay your fare with any U.S.-issued American Express credit card.

Related: Best credit cards for airport lounge access

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Unfortunately, you cannot purchase a one-day access pass or separate membership to these lounges, although travelers with access can bring in guests. Platinum cardmembers can bring up to two guests and Centurion members can bring up to two guests or immediate family (spouse or domestic partner, and children under 18) at no additional charge. Additional guests will be charged $50 each; children under 2 are free.

Priority PASS Lounges

Priority Pass offers many opportunities to visit partner lounges throughout the U.S. and internationally, but only three within the U.S. offer family lounges:

These family rooms are small and only offer a few toys and a video game console. These clubs will not occupy your kids for hours, but at least they are something.

The Club at MCO. (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Accessing Priority Pass lounges

While you could pay a daily rate to enter a Priority Pass lounge, many credit cards offer complimentary Priority Pass membership. The best credit cards for this include Chase Sapphire Reserve, Citi Prestige® Card, The Platinum Card® from American Express, The Business Platinum Card® from American Express, Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card and Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card. Enrollment required.

These cards give you unlimited access to Priority Pass lounges throughout the year and allow two guests to access the lounge with you for free. (The Citi Prestige allows two guests or immediate family). Additional guests can be admitted for a fee. Note: Many lounges allow kids under a certain age complimentary access, but you'll have to check your desired lounge for its specific policy. (The information for the Citi Prestige card and the Hilton Aspire Amex card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.)

Related: Priority Pass airport lounges your kids will love

Admirals Club Lounges

Over the past few years, American Airlines has invested a ton of money in revamping its existing lounges and opened some brand-new ones (my favorites being the Flagship lounges). There are a handful that offer a dedicated children's room, but many others offer a separate movie-theater style area — perfect for those who can sit and watch television.

The family room at the Miami Admirals Club. (Photo by JT Genter/The Points Guy)

These lounges within the AA network have a dedicated children's room:

The family room at the new Admiral's Club lounge at Boston-Logan International Airport. (Photo by Jennifer Yellin/DealsWeLike)

Accessing American Airlines Admiral Lounges

Instead of paying the $59 one-day pass cost (which covers yourself and up to three children under 18), you can receive complimentary access to one of the many Admirals Club lounges based on membership, class of service or elite status.

Related: AA, Delta and United lounges have limited access to customers flying with them: Here's what to do

Here are the options:

Access with a credit card

The Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® is the only cobranded credit card that includes complimentary club access. This card has a $450 annual fee, which is much less expensive than paying for a yearly membership. Not only that, you can add authorized users for no additional fee (up to 10), and those cardmembers can also access club lounges even when traveling without the primary cardholder. Cardmembers can bring immediate family or up to two guests into the lounge with them for free. Even with this credit card benefit though, you need to be flying on a same-day American Airlines (or partner) ticket to gain entry into the lounge.

Related: Current welcome offers on Citi/AAdvantage credit cards

Pay for a club membership

American Airlines sells annual Admirals Club memberships, but the cost is quite high. The fee ranges between $550 and $600 for an individual to between $1,100 and $1,250 for a family.

Alternatively, you can also redeem miles for this membership: 50,000 to 65,000 miles for an individual and 110,000 to 125,000 miles for a family. Since TPG values American Airlines miles at 1.4 cents per point, this is not a great use of points.

Annual club membership pass holders also are allowed to bring in up to two guests for free.

Earn elite status for access

American Airlines members with AAdvantage Executive Platinum, Platinum Pro and Platinum status can access these lounges if flying on a qualifying international flight marketed and operated by American or a Oneworld airline. Oneworld Emerald and Sapphire members also can access the lounges if flying on a flight marketed and operated by American or a Oneworld airline.

An eligible customer can bring in one guest for free under these circumstances.

Related: Complete guide to American AAdvantage elite status

Fly in a premium cabin

Customers traveling in first or business class on a qualifying international or transcontinental flight marketed and operated by American or a Oneworld airline receive complimentary access to an Admirals Club lounge. Those customers also can bring one guest into the lounge for free.

Related: The ultimate guide to American Airlines Admirals Club access

United Club Lounges

There are only three lounges within the United network that offer a separate area for kids to play. These include:

  • Cleveland Hopkins International Airport (CLE) — Concourse C
  • George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) — Terminal C
  • George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) — Terminal E

Accessing United Club lounges

If you live in a United hub, access to a United lounge is probably pretty important. Similar to American Airlines, the only way to access a United lounge is to hold a same-day boarding pass on United or a partner airline. Having a United membership but flying another airline will no longer get you in the door. (The requirements below do not include access to the United Polaris lounges — those have separate requirements).

Here are some of the many ways to gain entrance into a United Club lounge:

Credit card with club access

Two credit cards grant access to United Club lounges. The United Club Infinite Card with a $525 annual fee, will give you an unlimited full United Club membership. With this membership, you can bring in two guests -- or one adult plus your dependent children under the age of 21 -- for free. The United Explorer Card will give you two annual, one-time United Club passes. Unfortunately, those passes do not grant complimentary guest access. If you do not fly United often, however, this could be the perfect way to enjoy the club without paying a high annual fee.

Related: The 9 best credit cards for flying United

Pay for a club membership

If you prefer not to open up another credit card, you can purchase an annual membership. The cost is quite high, though, and more expensive than paying the annual credit card fee. You can always use your United miles to offset the cost, but it is not a great value. The price (in cash or miles) depends on your United elite status and ranges from $550 (or 75,000 miles) to $650 (or 85,000 miles).

Earn elite status

If you have at least United Premier Gold status and are traveling internationally on any Star Alliance carrier, you'll automatically receive access to any of the United Clubs. You can bring one guest with you at no extra cost as long as the guest is traveling on a Star Alliance carrier.

Related: Complete guide to United premier status

Fly in a premium cabin

Customers flying on United Polaris first or business class tickets, as well as those flying United business class internationally, can access United Club lounges at departure, connecting and arrival airports. Only those flying on a Polaris first-class ticket can bring in one guest for free.

Customers flying United premium transcontinental flights can access United Club lounges at the original and destination locations. Unfortunately, no guest passes are included in this access.

Related: The ultimate guide to United Club access

Bottom Line

When traveling with kids, finding a spot to entertain them without bothering others is a nice bonus. With so many airport lounges throughout the United States, it's nice to know in advance which ones provide these spaces for your family.

Featured image by (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.