There are some really rubbish airports out there. I’m mainly talking to all those American airports where I expect them to be good (JFK and LAX) but there’s nothing appealing about them whatsoever. If you’re looking for a good time, Heathrow’s Terminal 5 is the place to be. Light, airy, speedy and with a few family friendly features added in to boot.
T5 is slightly elitist in that it’s really only serving those flying British Airways. However, Iberia also snuck in a few years ago.
Getting to T5
If you’re travelling with kids and luggage, there’s no easier way to get there than by taxi or a relative kindly giving you a lift. You could also use the Heathrow Express from Paddington or the London Underground’s Piccadillly line. There are lots of bus options available including RailAir to Reading Station and the National Express ‘Airline’ service to Oxford.
If you really want to drive yourself, here’s a list of parking options which vary in price.
They’ve really tried to modernise check in at T5 with lots of freestanding self-service computer terminals. Once you’ve checked in at the machine (or make it easier for yourself and do this at home 24 hours in advance), simply take your checked bag to the ‘Bag Drop’ desk.
Unfortunately if you’re travelling with an infant, you are unable to check in online or at a machine. You will need to queue up to see an actual live person. This can be a bit confusing as many of the desks say ‘Bag Drop’. Simply check what ‘Zone’ you should be checking-in at and just ask one of the many staff wandering around to point you in the right direction of the check-in desk.
Facilities Before Security
There are a few shops and restaurants available before you go through security. A great family friendly place for a meal is Carluccio’s which has a kids menu and crayons.
There are a few baby changing rooms which have clean nappy tables and chairs for feeding.
Save yourself the hassle of panicking about how much of your baby liquids/food they will open at Security and prebook your baby items to pick up at Boots. You simply go through security and Boots is right next door. The Reserve & Collect Service means you can do this from 4 weeks to 48 hours prior to departure. You can reserve all sorts of items from baby milk to food pouches.
Pick your Security queue by keeping an eye on the display showing North vs South waiting time.
Facilities After Security
As mentioned above, the almighty Boots is the saviour for all your baby needs.
WH Smith carries a huge range of children’s books, magazines and bribery snacks for the journey.
If you need to buy toys etc, check out Hamleys, although it probably won’t be cheap.
Dixons has kids travel pillows and kids headphones.
My two favourites for families are Giraffe and Wagamama. Giraffe is colourful and friendly with a great selection of healthy(ish) food on offer. Wagamama is simply delicious and makes for a fun dining experience with kids chopsticks and better noodles than I ever find in Hong Kong…
I haven’t eaten in there but Gordon Ramsey’s restaurant Plane Food does offer a kids menu.
If you’re looking for something more casual and fast, there’s the usual array of Starbucks, Pret, EAT and Itsu.
Baby Changing & Feeding
There are lots of baby changing facilitities dotted around. Cleanliness is pretty good. The baby changing rooms have a separated room off to one side with a few chairs for mums who want to feed in private.
Kids Play Area
There’s a kids softplay area at Gate 7. It’s quite small but anywhere for kids to burn off steam before a flight is a bonus in my book. Note the name though, it’s ‘Stay and Play’ i.e. you need to accompany your child rather than ditch them and wander off round Duty Free.
Getting To Your Plane
Keep an eye on the departures board for your Gate. Make sure you do know the flight number – I once misread our flight to Hong Kong for one departing about 20 mins later. Thankfully I’m always early to the gate and got there just as my flight was closing!
If your flight is departing from a B or C gate, you will need to hop on a short transit train. This involves 2 long elevators so if travelling with young kids, buggys, Trunkis etc, hop in the lift. Heathrow advises 20 mins to get to the furthest gates at ‘C’.
If you have any tips for Heathrow Terminal 5 from where to eat to where to sleep, please share!