Travelling Through UK Airports With Kids
Going on holiday is an exciting time, especially for children, but parents can fear the stress of travelling with their offspring especially when it comes to navigating the busy airports scattered across the UK.
Noisy, busy, full of queues and often with a complicated layout, airports can provoke meltdowns with your little ones unless you are prepared and have planned every step of getting through them. Lets start those preparations with some help and actionable advice about travelling through airports in the UK with your kids.
Before you travel
Explaining what’s going to be happening every step of the way to children (when they’re old enough to understand) is key to preparing your kids for travel. To start with, how you’re getting to the airport should be decided on and booked where necessary. There are numerous way of travelling to the airport which all depend on how far you are from the airport, the cost and the ease of transportation.
Using a taxi or friend to drop you at the airport could be the easiest solution but it all depends where the drop off point is. Most airports have drop off points very near to check-in so this should not be an issue.
Taxis, however, can be expensive especially if you use black cabs. Call around a few companies and get a price – make sure you have told them how many passengers are travelling and tell them you need space for suitcases too. Ensure you book in advance, and don’t be shy about confirming the booking again the day before you travel.
Heathrow, Gatwick, Bristol, Birmingham and Manchester all have trains running into or near to the terminals which can make it easy for you to depart into the airport and then straight to check-in. Cost can be an issue but if you book your tickets in advance, there are many deals to be had. Heathrow Express advertises children under 15 can travel free on their trains, which can really help with costs.
If you decide that you want to drive and leave the car in an airport car park, this can also be accommodated at the airport. Most airports have special pre-bookable parking spaces, which are perfect for families. Many UK airports also have long stay car parks on site or just a short shuttle ride from your terminal - the shuttles are quick and regular so don’t worry that you may be waiting around with the children.
Do ensure when booking that your chosen car park has 24-hour security so you can feel safe in the knowledge that your car is secured. Long term costs range from £5.99 per day at Heathrow and Birmingham from £3.99 a day.
Do remember to pre book airport parking early, especially if you’re travelling in the summer holidays, as they do get booked up early.
At the Airport
The facilities between airports differ wildly, but most facilities are listed on the specific airport websites. Here, we’ll look at a few airports to give you an idea of what to expect from some of the UK’s most popular airports, but it’s also important to do a little research as to your specific needs.
It makes sense to start with the largest UK airport, which has on average 201,000 passengers arriving and departing each and every day. If you have young babies you will be relieved to hear that you can pre-order baby milk and food for collection at Heathrow. This service has become really popular as it takes away another hassle of travelling with young children.
For toddlers and slightly older children, there are play areas in terminals 2, 4 and 5 after security so your little ones can burn some energy before getting on the plane. It also gives you time to grab coffee and take some time for yourself - it is your holiday too!
Terminal 3 boasts a Family Lounge consisting of a quiet children’s room, a game zone and discreet areas if you need to breastfeed. The great thing here is that all the areas are free to use which will come as a welcome relief to many families.
Eating with the family has been made simpler by listing restaurants on their websites in each terminal with what they have for example in Terminal 2, The Flying Chariot has milk warming facilities along with highchairs and colouring pencils while over in Terminal 5, The Five Tuns has an interactive menu, kids games and menus, highchairs and milk warming.
There are baby changing rooms as standard located next to all the toilets making it easy to change younger children too.
You may want to look at our Heathrow Airport page for more information this airport.
Gatwick Airport is the first airport to be given the status of a Family Friendly UK Airport. They have even put together a booklet detailing how to make your time at the airport with families a relaxing and smooth process.
On arrival you can loan a complimentary buggy to keep your little one from running off, there are kids zones fully equipped with games, toys and televisions to keep your little ones from getting bored while they wait for the flight and milk is available for purchase from a number of stores. (Boots allows pre-ordering to ensure you get the milk you need before you travel).
You'll find more information about this airport on our Gatwick Airport page.
Once through security, there are milk-warming facilities in Pret a Manger in both the North and South Terminals. Most of the restaurants offer kids’ menus and all of them will give free water to all customers if they need it. Baby changing is available throughout both terminals, making Gatwick top notch when it comes to travelling with the little ones.
Birmingham airport eases you into the holiday spirit the moment you enter the terminal, with pushchairs for hire from just a £1 refundable deposit. All the restaurants in the airport welcome children with kids’ menus available in most establishments along with colouring packs to keep them amused while their food is being prepared.
There are changing facilities throughout the airport where you can also feed young children in relative peace. It is also possible to pre-order milk just like the aforementioned airports. Birmingham also sports a Sky Zone, which is basically a large play area for children of all ages with soft play for the younger ones and computer games for the older ones, and there is even the chance to meet their Sky Cadet Mascot Zoom for a photo.
Our Birmingham Airport page will give you some helpful details regarding this airport, it might just help you get around with the kids a bit easier.
Manchester Airport has all the basics when it comes to travelling with children and thankfully, they seem to realise the pain of losing baby’s buggy too early and so allow you to keep it with you right up until you board. There are baby changing facilities dotted around the place making changing simple.
Milk can be pre-ordered as seems to be the norm in most airports, with a map listing where you can heat baby milk along with restaurants that cater for families with kids’ menus and activity packs to keep them amused.
Because you need as much help as you can get when travelling through airports with kids we have created a page specifically about Manchester airport, which will offer up some helpful information to hopefully help you get around the airport a bit easier.
Although smaller than most, Bristol Airport still caters for families. There is a children’s play area in Burger King and many of the shops stock a great range of toys and accessories. You can pre-order milk and nappies for pick up in Superdrug and the baby changing rooms are located near or in the ladies toilets.
Check the website for details or some minor issues you may come across – including whether you’ll have to navigate stairs (if you are boarding at gates 8 – 16 it’s a yes) allowing you to plan for this before arrival and secure assistance if you’re likely to need it.
Although Bristol airport is relatively small we still think that our guide to Bristol Airport may help you get around with the kids a bit easier.
Research & Plan before You Go!
Travelling with children need not be a hassle with all the airports in the United Kingdom now catering to some extent for the arrival of families. Play areas, changing facilities, milk and food catering all go a long way in ensuring you and your family enjoy a safe and smooth visit to the airport before flying off on a well-deserved holiday.
Obviously we havn't covered every UK airport here, the simplest thing to do is to just enter your airport name in Google and you'll easily find their own guides to things like places to eat for kids, kids entertainment, baby changing facilities etc.
Take a look at our recent blog post which gives even more practical help when travelling with kids through airports and on the plane.