A recent survey by Skyscanner showed that nearly two thirds of travellers think aiports are not as child-friendly as they should be, with long queues and lack of entertainment for little people being the biggest bugbears.
But don’t despair! There are a growing number of airports in Europe that are genuinely geared towards family friendly holiday travel. Here’s our advice on which airports will make ‘getting there’ part of your happy holiday experience...
Holiday at Heathrow...
At Terminal 3 you’ll find the Jetterz Kids Club, a fully supervised crèche for kids aged 5 to 14, although at £15 for the first two hours you should build it into your holiday budget in advance. While the kids are safely occupied, why not pamper yourself with a pedicure, massage or snazzy haircut at the No.1 Lounge spa?
If your flight leaves from Terminal 4, treat the family to a VIP stay at the KLM Holideck Family Lounge, with games, toys, TV and the must-see, top floor flight deck with a spectacular view of the action. At the new Terminal 5, there is free soft play too.
Little Miss Sunshine is making guest appearances, guaranteed to brighten your kids’ day!
Hungry little monsters? No problem - kids eat free at some food outlets and you can even reserve shopping online for pickup at the terminal, so you don’t have to worry about getting baby food and milk through security (which, by the way, has lanes reserved just for families)!
The Gatwick pledge...
London Gatwick is so far the only airport to undertake the ‘Family Friendly Pledge’ in the UK. They were the first to create separate security lanes for families with young children, which means more sympathetic staff and less pressure from frustrated passengers behind you.
The ‘No.1’ lounge in the North Terminal is particularly useful, with a separate kids zone for under 6’s, a games area and a cinema room dedicated to youngsters. If you’re on a tight budget then you still have options, as there’s also a free soft-play area, and interactive console tables scattered around the airport.
If you find you’re juggling baggage and babies, a pre-booked Porter may be just the ticket. They can help you check in or reclaim your bags on arrival and help you to your onward transport.
If you’re flying with British Airways, be sure to choose your seats the day before you leave with the special family check-in, and while you’re at it you can order special on-board meals for the kids! On the day, remember to grab a free Paddington Bear Skyflyer pack as extra entertainment ammunition.
They’ll love the free soft play area at Gate 50 in Glasgow, and dotted around the airport you’ll find puzzle tables, Lego and Fingabox consoles to keep the smiles coming!
The kids can channel some of that pent-up energy into clambering around the forest-themed play area, or try out the less physical pursuits such as Lego, computer games and kiddy TV channels - all free!
Does your baby need a quiet place to feed or sleep?
Then escape to the Babycare Lounge, where you can have your own serene and private space to feed and bathe them, and even dim the lights and let them have a snooze in one of the seven bed cabins, while you have a relaxing sit down yourself.
Toddlers and older kids will love the Panorama Terrace, which offers a fantastic view of the aeroplanes, and an exciting Astrojet flight simulator.
And the pièce de résistance: a full-size show plane, where the whole family can inspect the cockpit, listen to reports from traffic control, and check out the baggage hold – an experience the little ones will be talking about the whole holiday!
Lisbon airport has recently gone through a major expansion and refurbishment programme, with family-friendly facilities such as childrens play areas, modern baby-changing rooms, buggy loan and even an airport tour for kids now on offer.
Plus look out for features such as fold-down child seats in toilet cubicles – it’s these little details that will make your journey so much easier!
More good news: pretty much every queue in Portugal can be skipped if you have a toddler in tow. Lisbon airport security queues are no exception, where you will be ushered to a dedicated lane for no-pressure bag scanning. Remember you can skip the passport queue on arrival too!
Fun in France...
The international boarding area at Terminal 3 is a god-send, with original features such as distorting mirrors, interactive world maps, mini-tunnels, hopscotch and TV rooms clad with comfy beanbag chairs.
Spot-on in Spain...
If you’re heading through central Spain this year, then you’re in luck! Madrid’s Barajas airport has one of the best free play areas in Europe, with a brilliant soft-play structure which includes an impressive tube slide and jungle gym.
At this kiddie heaven there are also tricycles, a ball-pit and some quieter creative activities to wind the little monkeys down before the flight.
Plus for very little people (and for you to grab a well-earned rest) there’s a supervised crèche complete with changing areas, baby baths and comfy cots to catch up on any missed nap time.
Stress-free flying all round!