I remember flying to Amsterdam on my own last year. I was without Mae and without The Stuff. (We’re talking iPad, 29 felt tips, Peppa Pig magazine she won’t read, Tupperware-of-carrot-sticks-she-won’t-eat, gargantuan stuffed dinosaur – that gets abandoned 14 minutes into journey – and 11 changes of clothes in case of every emergency.)
That one toddler-free 45-minute flight felt like a veritable mini break – nay, a two-week all-inclusive deal to The Bahamas. I even had a cheeky G&T and a packet of dry roasted, which is the parental Dream. But while airports give me low level palpitations with the offspring in tow – “Are we nearly there yet?”; “I need a wee. NOW”; “I don’t like holidays” – it can be a seamless experience if you know the right nooks and crannies.
Over at Heathrow, they have a full stable of kid-friendly, well actually more parent-friendly activities that can keep your eye twitch at a manageable level and the kids shtum. Here sits a line-up that will keep your parental sanity in check and those toddler meltdowns banished. (Until, of course, you get on the flight and all hell breaks loose – then you’re on your own team. Strength.)
Off the rails
If your brood hits a brick wall before you’ve left the house and you just need to get to Heathrow asap, slip everyone onto the Heathrow Express at Paddington and get there in 15 minutes – with wifi and phone chargers in position to sort all your digital needs. Kids travel for free so it’s just the old folk who need to grab a ticket.
Like to move it, move it
Never underestimate the power of the travelator to get the team from A to B at speed. Heathrow has them in abundance and if you enter with the kid sitting on a Trunki you can overtake The General Public. We covered the length of the airport in approximately 9 minutes 34 seconds flat. Mo Farrah, move along.
Get into character
Who doesn’t love Mr Men? Well, Heathrow has their own dedicated Mr Adventure who can be found ambling around the airport ready to offer up a bosomy hug and raise a smile. We came across this sunshine-fuelled figure as Mae was on the brink of a meltdown. Nothing like it for popping a coat hanger smile on the toddler’s chops.
Do you like food? Do you like free food? This has to be a double yes, otherwise I am concerned. Well, for every adult that eats at The Perfectionist Café – and many of the other restaurants at Heathrow – the kids eat for free. Yep, that’s a whole lot of saving right there and usually a steaming plate of spag bol can quash the toddler hanger (hunger/anger) from rearing it’s inconsolable head. To check out which restaurants offer free kids food, and when go here
Play it cool
There is a dedicated soft play area in all Heathrow terminals. I repeat: a safe, supervised area where the kids can gallop about a bit while you catch up on Instagram. This was an absolute godsend when we travelled to Portugal a few weeks ago. The only issue is getting them out of there. “Noooo Mama, I don’t want to go on holiday.”
As I’m getting ready to have baby number 2 (“splash down” as Matt affectionately refers to it), I’m all eyes on the breastmilk prize. Apparently new regulations say that when travelling with a sprog, you’re allowed to take enough baby food, milk and sterilised water for the journey – and in some cases this will be over 100ml. Boob milk – unfrozen – can be carried in hand luggage even if you’re not travelling with the kid but baby bottles must no go over the 2,000ml mark and it will need proper screening by the airport folk. Essentially your kid can have a snack and the airport won’t make you feel like a maternal pariah. Try not to slip a Baileys through this way: even if you are on a long haul flight with three hyperactive kids.
This content was created in association with Heathrow Airport.