Let’s be honest, travelling with your kids, along with endless baggage, can be a right old palaver, can’t it? Is there any chance you’ll actually savour and enjoy the experience wherever you’re heading and whichever airports you frequent? Not likely. Well, actually; not so fast. Should you be visiting Heathrow Airport you may find it the exception in this case, given London’s major airport hub offers a number of helpful facilities tailored for the kids. Here are some useful examples…
Thought airport lounges were only for those in business class wanting to squeeze in some work before the flight or a cheeky flute of Champagne ahead of take-off? Think again. No.1 Traveller’s flagship lounge in Terminal 3 features fun and lively family room that’s bound to keep little tykes entertained with showings of TV shows like Bob the Builder, as well as those all-important beanbags to sit on. Bookings should be made in advance. Meanwhile, Servisair’s lounge is also open to children, so long as they’re accompanied by an adult, those up to one-year-old get in free.
Unsupervised, soft play areas (‘Stay & Play’ areas, as some are called) are also dotted about the airport; they’re definitely among the best Heathrow children facilities and could prove a life-saver in keeping your kids engaged, entertained and quite – or, well, maybe not so quiet. Either way, you’ll find them in:
• Terminal 2 – in the departure lounge; plus, the Queen’s Terminal plays host to a programme of kids’ activities, such as the chance to meet popular cartoon characters
• Terminal 3 – features a dedicated but unsupervised ‘Family Lounge’, split into two sections for kids up to two years-old and the other for those between three and nine years-old; there’s also a ‘Game Zone’ for 10-15 year-olds and a quiet room – it’s all open from 6am-9pm
• Terminal 4 – the ‘Stay & Play’ area in the departures section’s open from 9.30am-8pm daily
• Terminal 5 – the ‘Stay & Play’ area here’s open from 8.30am-7pm daily, while you’ll also find arcade game facilities and, handily, the BAA information desks dish out free colouring books and crayons, while shops may do the same with magazines, comics and puzzle books – ask and you may just receive whoever you’re flying with and whoever you’re shopping with!
For a small fee, you can call on help from some airlines to aid you through your journey with your little ones. Such a service as this could prove invaluable in easing the challenge (once you’ve left a budget hotel near Heathrow airport) of shuttling your kids and your luggage through the airport and on the plane – or alternatively, of course, off the plane and through the airport.
Airlines known to offer such help include Air France, ANA (All Nippon Airways), Austrian Airlines and JAL (Japan Airlines). You might also be lucky and find a separate company operating a meet-and-greet service, which will be prepared to guide you and yours through departure and do the same for you through baggage claim and customs at the other end.
Baby-changing/ feeding facilities
These facilities are indicated throughout the airport’s five terminals by ‘baby care’ or ‘bottle’ symbols. Many male and female toilets also feature fold-down tables.