Find out how to navigate security, what facilities there are for nursing mothers and little ones, where to eat and how to entertain kids in the airport…
It is a fair assumption that the old Taoist saying, “the journey is the reward”, was not written with parents of young children in mind! As most parents will testify, it can be pretty stressful travelling anywhere with kids. But add to the equation the nightmare of negotiating airports with all their queues, delays, crowds and bureaucracy and suddenly that relaxing family holiday does not seem such a good idea after all.
Planning ahead and having information at your fingertips can, however, ease the stress – so read on for a guide to Heathrow for families.
Arriving and parking at Heathrow
If you are driving to Heathrow in your own car, it may be worth looking into the costs of valet parking, which can often work out as being little more than other parking costs and a lot less hassle when travelling with children and all their equipment.
If you are using an airport car park, look out for the wider-than-normal spaces designed for families. These are all conveniently placed close to the bus stops.
If you have a particularly early departure or a late arrival, it can make sense to book a hotel with a parking package rather than cope with tired and grumpy little ones. There is an excellent choice of hotels near Heathrow.
If you need to park at Heathrow, visit secure.heathrow.com to book your parking now.
Facilities for nappy changing are available at all terminals, both before and after you clear security. Just look for the appropriate sign and bear in mind that the changing facilities are often located near the toilets.
If the unthinkable happens and you have forgotten to pack supplies of nappies, wipes and so on in your hand luggage, head to Boots which has a branch at each terminal after security. It is even possible to pre-order essential supplies before you travel (including formula milk) and pick them up before boarding your flight.
Read our guide to buying baby milk at UK airports.
For those with slightly older children, special family toilets are provided in Terminal 1 (pre and post-security) and Terminal 3 (post-security).
Look out for Heathrow’s Fast Track family lanes which allow those travelling with children to by-pass the queues at security.
Although there are restrictions on carrying liquids through security, there are different rules which apply to baby milk and food. The 100ml rule does not apply although you should be prepared to open the containers and also to taste the food/milk.
Children’s medication can be taken through in containers of over 100ml so long as you have a letter from your doctor, confirming that the medication is required for the journey.
Pushchairs must be folded up and they, along with other pieces of equipment such as car seats, will be x-rayed. Toy guns or anything resembling a weapon are banned!
There are designated play areas for babies and children plus plenty of comfy seating for parents in Terminals 1, 2, 4 and 5. Variations in age limits apply, so check the airport’s website for more information. Entry is free and they are open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Facilities such as soft play areas, slides and separate baby and junior zones are provided. Children must be accompanied by an adult. All play areas are situated in the departure lounges after you have cleared security.
Terminal 3 has a Family Lounge which provides a play area, a quiet room and a games zone for 10 to 15 year-olds. The lounge is open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. but a time limit may be imposed at particularly busy times.
Eating with children
There are a vast array of eating places at Heathrow, from familiar highstreet names such as Cafe Rouge, to gastro-pubs and even a sushi bar for families whose kids’ tastes are more sophisticated.
Almost without exception the airport’s restaurants provide high chairs and children’s menus with many also providing activity packs to keep the kids amused. Whether you want a main meal, just a doughnut and a drink, or sandwiches for the flight there should be no problem finding something to suit even the fussiest of junior palates.
Rooms for breast-feeding are available at Terminals 1, 3 and 4, and the Family Lounge at Terminal 3 also has an area for nursing mothers.
For a more detailed overview of Heathrow facilities and services available to families visit Heathrow Airport Guide, the definitive resource designed to make your trip as easy and fun as possible.
Find your comprehensive guide to surviving the world’s busiest airport: heathrow-airport-guide.co.uk
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For a stress-free airport experience, take a look at our guide to family actitivies at UK airports and swot up on how to navigate airport security with the kids in tow