Airports with their queues, crowds, bureaucracy and delays can make travelling with children even more stressful. We are frequent visitors to airports throughout the year and with some careful planning I find that the following helps to make your airport experience much more enjoyable.
Valet Park / Twilight Check-In
A lot of airports now go the extra mile to make things easier when travelling with children. In particular we use the valet parking service offered at airports together with family check-in areas or twilight check-in, all of which help get you off to a stress free start to your journey.
Use Fast track security
We are big fans of airports such as Edinburgh, Heathrow and Gatwick that offer a dedicated fast track security lane for families which stop the long wait times and more importantly is a much quieter and calmer airport experience.
If your airport doesn’t have a dedicated family lane its worth paying the extra (which can start from just £3 per person) so you can skip the queue and go into the VIP lane instead, getting your journey off to the best possible start.
Travel Games & Books
We always take a selection of compact travel games or books with us on our journey to keep the girls entertained. We are big fans of Orchard Toys and Galt and some of our favourites are Little Bug Bingo, Animal Families, Travel Foil Art and Travel Mosaics to keep the girls entertained.
Another fun game to play in the airport is Airport Bingo (Thomas Cook have a free version that you can print out ) where you cross off the airport items on your card until someone calls bingo!
Take in the views
The majority of airports have large floor to ceiling windows (The no1 Lounge at Gatwick and the departure lounge in Edinburgh are my favourites for this) where you can take the kids to watch the planes taking off and coming in to land.
Guess the airline
Play a game of guess the airline, seeing how many different airlines you can spot and which country they are from.
Children’s Play Areas
Children’s play areas are a tried and tested way for kids to burn off some energy before boarding your plane. Lots of airports now have dedicated children’s soft play areas at different sections of the airport for children to have fun. At Edinburgh airport the girls enjoy the soft play area so much we have to coax them out to board the plane.
Do a little shopping
The shops on offer at the majority of airports rival that of many high streets and it can be fun to do some airport shopping or just browsing with the children.
At Heathrow Terminal 5 we loved the Hamley’s toy store where we picked up some last minute toys for the plane whilst the iPads on display at Dixons stores are always a popular stop off for children to play the latest games. A favourite activity for the girls when passing through the duty free section is trying on their favourite perfumes.
Some of the airports outside of the UK offer unique shopping experiences based on the country you are visiting, for example in Dubai we loved browsing the gold souk and in Orlando the Disney and Sea World stores in the departure lounge were very popular.
Download and play games or watch videos on your tablet
Most airport terminals now offer free wifi, so it’s the perfect opportunity to download onto your tablet such as an iPad a brand new game related to your trip to keep your children entertained such as Dr Panda’s Airport.
Download your child’s favourite movie or TV programme from an app such as Amazon Prime, Netflix or Sky Go Extra. Alternatively you can sign up to Disney Life for a free month trial which offers a wide array of movies, tv shows and games.
Take advantage of executive lounges.
If you are able to take advantage of the airport executive lounges then do so. Over the past few years these have been transformed into more family friendly environments with complimentary drinks and snacks, lots of comfortable seating areas, games rooms, magazines and kids tv channels.
Another bonus of using airport lounges is that the toilets are much cleaner than in the main terminal area. Pricing and availability varies dependent on the lounge and airport however, you can purchase day passes or if you have Priority Pass benefits offered with some cards such as AMEX platinum, or have certain status with airline’s frequent flyer programs you can enter the lounges for free or at a discounted rate.
Ride the train
In airports such as London Gatwick if you have time before your flight, take a free ride on the transit train which runs every 3 minutes from the north and south terminal.
Have a meal
Most airports (apart from Cardiff which we flew from recently) have a great range of family friendly restaurants and having breakfast/lunch/dinner or just having a warm drink and cake before your flight is a great way to pass the time. It’s worth checking the airports website before you fly as many restaurant chains such as Giraffe offer discount vouchers.
At the Gate
If you are travelling with babies or infants many airports will allow you to take your buggy right up to the entrance of the aircraft. When you arrive at your departure gate its worth asking the airline staff if they offer priority boarding for families with younger children, which allows you to board the plane before the rest of the passengers.