It’s a well-known truth that London is a large and extremely busy place, and anyone who is familiar with the city will know that London Heathrow airport is pretty much the same as the city. Add to this a lot of people running between terminals because they’re worried about missing their flight and you don’t have the perfect setting for children, especially very little ones.
For this reason, Heathrow is well-equipped with children’s facilities that should not only keep your kids occupied, but they will also help keep travelling and holiday stress to a minimum – at least when you’re in the airport.
To make your trip even easier you can stay at the BW Plus Park Grand London Heathrow Hotel. The hotel has excellent proximity to the airport and plenty of in-room amenities to make sure your stay is safe and comfortable for the whole family.
Seating and check-in
Before you even get to the airport, the Heathrow website advises that you check with your airline on their policies for travelling with infants. Most airlines will have special seats and seatbelts to accommodate you, but they usually work on a first-come-first-served basis, so you’re best checking with them in advance in case they don’t have adequate space and seating for you.
Checking in at the airport can take a long time, particularly at Heathrow as it’s a very busy space, so you need to factor in extra time if you’re going to be travelling with young children or babies.
Bear in mind that there could be problems with traffic and if you have extra bags to check in this is also going to take some time. The earlier you are there, the less stressful things will be for you and your children.
Terminal by terminal
Regardless of which terminal you’re travelling from, you will be able to benefit from a baby changing facility, dining options, play areas and lounges that are suitable for the whole family.
They are well posted with signs, but if you’re having problems you can ask any of the airport’s staff who are friendly and are trained to be as helpful as possible.
Baby changing facilities
You’ll find these located by the other toilet facilities in the airport, they’re both before and after security control, so you won’t have to worry about waiting a long time to find a toilet.
Each terminal also has a toilet with a baby changing facility, in case you need to use it more than once. In addition, there are two different types of baby facility, one for feeding and one for changing, which are differentiated by a bottle and baby care symbol respectively.
However, if the facility is busy, some male and female toilets will have fold down tables in them, so you shouldn’t be stuck for options.
Heathrow prides itself on its offering of restaurants and bars throughout its terminals, which provide children’s menus and drinks, and include child-friendly seats and high chairs.
The airport website points out Giraffe, a particularly good child-friendly restaurant, which is located in Terminal One and offers meal deals for kids. These can consist of a main course, ice cream and fruit juice for a reasonable price.
There are a couple of play areas throughout the airport, the main one is in Terminal One and is close to Gates 35-56 in the international departures near Caffe Nero. Although these are for children, they are not staffed, so parents will have to keep an eye on their kids at all times.
If something is missing, or you need some help then you will be able to grab a member of airport staff to assist you.
The play areas are build in mind of children between the ages of two and six, which you should know before you head along to one of these. If you have slightly older children however, you will be able to pick up a free colouring book from the BAA information desks.
There are also shops in most of the terminals and there is a Games Grid in the airport that boasts computer and arcade games for older children and teenagers. You’ll also be able to connect to the internet on computers or via various Wi-Fi hotspots if your children are using tablets or iPads.
Lounges – for extra comfort and quiet
The airport has Executive Lounges, which charge a small fee upon entry, but they are more quiet than the rest of the terminals, and often come with light refreshments and extra facilities.
You can head to one of the airport lounges when you get to Heathrow, but they do tend to have limited space, so you’re best to book ahead to avoid disappointment.
Two of the airport’s lounges that are specifically registered as child-friendly are No.1 Traveller and Servisair.
No.1 Traveller opened its flagship lounge in Heathrow’s Terminal 3 almost five years ago. It features a brightly coloured family room with a TV showing children’s programmes and there are fun and comfy beanbags for the kids to enjoy. Although the adults can probably enjoy a quick sit on the beanbags too!
The room costs one set price per adult and is half the rate per child, and bookings must be made in advance. Included in the price are complimentary drinks, snacks and Wi-Fi, if you need to catch up on work or just see what’s happening on Twitter.
Servisair isn’t as expensive but it has less amenities than the No.1 Traveller lounge: it costs less per child and it’s also located in Terminal 3. In the lounge, children are anyone aged between two and 11 years old – if you have a baby or infant with you who is younger than this then you can bring them in free of charge.
If you find that the airport can’t meet your needs, there are several airlines that will provide an extra service for you and your family. Some will be able to help you with your children and luggage through the airport and on to the plane for a small fee.
It’s worth checking which airlines do that, as it will save you a lot less hassle with your bags, as well as having to constantly check that you’ve got all of your travel necessities.
Some airlines offering this service include Air France, ANA, Austrian Airlines and JAL, but there are plenty more that will do this for you if you phone ahead to check.
Specialist companies also act as a meet-and-greet service for families that will guide you through your departure airport and then pick you up from your arrival destination.
This is similar to a hire car/driver, except they will have extra facilities, including car seats and vehicles with wider legroom to accommodate the needs of a whole family.
Heathrow even has a similar service itself called meet-and-greet parking. Book ahead to use this service and when you get to the airport, you simply unload your family and luggage outside the terminal and a rep will take your car and park it for you.
This should take some of the stress out of checking in, particularly if you’re travelling early in the morning or late at night. Similarly, when you come back to Heathrow, the rep will bring your car back to you at the terminal and you can set off straight away for home.