The airport. For most of us, it’s a busy, chaotic, stressful place to be. After the frustration of parking, getting through security and then finally boarding your flight, it’s no surprise you need a holiday.
For children, the airport can be just too much to take. With so much going on, the rich combination of holiday excitement and airport boredom hits fever pitch. That’s a recipe for disaster.
It doesn’t have to be that way. With a little preparation, you can turn the airport into a deserving start to your family getaway. Here are five ways to make life at the airport easier, and make the journey part of your adventure.
1. Pack some airport entertainment
Long before you leave, take some time to think about what your kids will need to stay entertained. From gadgets and portable video games to a good old-fashioned colouring book, let children get involved with packing their own hand luggage.
Of course, snacks are also an excellent addition to your packing. Just be sure to strike the balance between treats your kids will enjoy and an overdose of hyperactivity-inducing sugar.
2. Play games from the moment you arrive
It’s easy to think of airports as boring when you’re a grown-up. But just think of all the exciting things to see and explore around the airport from the perspective of your child.
Again, a little preparation goes a long way. You could make your own airport bingo cards with things to spot and tick off, or plan a scavenger hunt that takes you from the entrance right through to the gate. And if that kind of preparation isn’t your thing, a game like “I Spy…” never gets old.
3. Fast track your way through security
Even with the best of intentions, you’ll never make every moment of your time at the airport child-friendly. Security can often be challenging – a long, uneventful wait that leads to favourite toys being taken and scanned by scary-looking people in uniform.
Our best tip here is to get it over and done with. Most airports now offer fast track passes from as little as £3 per person, so you can skip the queue and go to the VIP lane instead. It’s a small price to pay for getting your trip off to the best possible start.
4. Don’t get to the gate until late
Other than security, the gate itself is probably the most boring, cramped space in any airport. There’s nothing worse than arriving early to the gate and already struggling to get a seat for your frustrated toddlers or teens.
When you arrive at the terminal, get a sense of how long it would take to get to the gate. Be aware that some gates are quite a distance away. Then, forget the gate until the last possible moment and, instead, explore the terminal itself.
At best, you’ll find children’s play areas, a choice of shops, and plenty of restaurants and cafes to choose from. At worst, you’ll probably find a lot more seating and space for your little ones to run around.
5. Look out for family-friendly services
Finally, always keep an eye out for signs that tell you about airport services, or speak to a member of staff when you arrive. A lot of airports go the extra mile to make things easier when travelling with children.
In particular, we’ve made good use of valet parking and family parking spaces, as well as early check-in services. We’re also big fans of airports that let you take your pushchair right up to the gate, then hand it over for last-minute stowing on the plane.