After passing through Heathrow Airport with my daughter, I can whole-heartedly say its reputation as one of the world’s most family-friendly airports is well-deserved.
Having amenities that entertain kids is important, of course, but this London airport has taken some extraordinary measures to ease the stress of flying with babies and kids. This help actually starts before arriving at the airport and extends to well after departure.
After reading this list of family offerings, you may actually look forward to a layover or actually want to arrive at the airport earlier than necessary.
Amenities for Parents Flying with Babies
Today’s regulations limit the amount of liquid that can pass through security. At Heathrow Airport, parents can take enough baby food, sterilized water, prepared baby milk and expressed breast milk (up to 2 liters) for their journey in carry-on luggage. This alleviates the worry of how to feed baby on the plane. Additional liquids may be packed in checked luggage.
If parents don’t feel like taking baby food or milk through security, they can take advantage of Heathrow Airport’s reserve and collect service. Boots pharmacies are located after security in every terminal. Up to 48 hours in advance of collection, you can place an online order of baby food and necessities to pick-up and pay for at the Boots in your departure terminal. So easy.
And, even if you’re traveling without your baby, you may still travel with up to 2 liters of expressed breast milk. For more details, read Heathrow Airport’s FAQ about how to travel with baby food and liquids.
Porter and Meet and Assist Services
These are two services I used quite a bit as a new mom flying with a baby across oceans in our past life as expats.
Meet and Assist services guide arriving and departing passengers through check-in and immigration as well as help with bags. This service is particularly useful when flying with kids as they can bring a stroller to the gate, help you rush through security lines, serve as an airport concierge or take you in a cart from the plane to immigration… avoiding a long walk with tired kids in tow.
For simpler needs, Heathrow Airport’s Porter Service assists with bags during the times when juggling a stroller and checked luggage is too much.
The New Mr. Adventure App
Gone are the days of bored kids who are less-than-willing to walk between gates. Heathrow Airport’s very cool Around the World with Mr. Adventure app keeps kids happily moving through the airport.
My 10-year-old daughter downloaded the app and happily searched for Mr. Adventure and Little Miss Adventure badges around Terminal 5. The device’s camera tells the app when a badge is reached. The app then plays a 3D animated video that is funny to watch because it inserts the characters into what is currently happening in the airport. Kids can even take photos of themselves with the characters.
If you happen to be passing through Heathrow before September 10, you just might spot Mr. Adventure and Little Miss Explorer in real-life wandering the terminals!
Kids can still use the Around the World with Mr. Adventure app at home by downloading a bookmark and scanning it with the app to interact with the characters.
Play Areas Scattered Throughout
All terminals have designated play areas for kids including soft play areas, slides, games to play and more to keep kids entertained while waiting for a flight. This little area was right before the check-in counters at Terminal 5.
Terminal 3 is home to a Family Lounge with play areas for kids 0-2 and 3-9, nursing facilities, a game zone for tweens, coffee, and vending machines, seating for adults and more. And, get this, there is no cost to use it.
Family-Friendly Dining (with Kids Eat Free Promos)
After locating various Mr. Adventure and Little Miss Adventure badges across Terminal 5, we sat down to lunch at Giraffe, one of the airport’s many family-friendly restaurants. As you can see, it’s popular.
In an attempt to counterbalance the plethora of fish and chips, English breakfasts and scones I’d eaten on holiday, I opted for a Chicken, Prawn and Mango salad that exceeded my expectations.
My daughter chose the Smoky Joe (beef patty, smoky bacon, smoked Cheddar, mixed leaves and tomato with Giraffe’s special burger sauce) and one of their delicious smoothies.
Service at Giraffe is incredibly friendly and quick. We were in and out in about 30 minutes, important when there are flights to catch.
Some Heathrow Airport restaurants are participating a kids eat free promotion on select dates so be sure to check this list before traveling.
Gourmet and Kid-Friendly In-Flight Picnics
A long list of Heathrow Airport restaurants offer in-flight picnics including Giraffe, Wagamama (a favorite of my daughter’s for Asian noodles), Yo! Sushi, Pret a Manger and Gordon Ramsay Plane Food. While plane food on many airlines has improved, I think that letting the kids pick out their own meals in advance can reduce the risk of them not liking what’s served on board. And in cases where no food is served on board, this way they’ll have something fun to eat.
Fortnum & Mason, one of my favorite stores in the world, packs in-flight picnics in insulated bags. My daughter became a Scotch egg enthusiast on this trip so was eyeing the Picnic Plate full of traditional British favorites. I got a kick out of the First Class Box which champagne and caviar which would certainly be a perfect post-flight treat.
Glorious Airport Lounges
For those who enjoy the comforts of an airport lounge. Heathrow Airport has pay-in lounges in every terminal that offer plush seating, food, cocktails, and other amenities. Kids may join you in the lounges and it’s possible to pre-book entry online.
I like heading into airport lounges before my flights also because they usually offer something even picky kids will enjoy eating and drinking. I personally think that Heathrow’s lounges are among the best, especially those operated by British Airways. We stopped into their Galleries lounge which had a lovely, family-friendly Kew Gardens set up complete with a gin bar.
Duty-Free Shopping (Including Toys)
Last-minute souvenirs and gifts for kids are seriously abundant at Heathrow Airport. Almost all Terminals have the famous Hamleys toy store. If flying internationally, you’ll likely be able to enjoy duty-free shopping and pick-up Paddington Bear at a tax-free price.
Or, maybe a Harrod’s bear will do.
The Harry Potter Shop
“Is that a Harry Potter wand?” the man at airport security asked as my daughter as her bag passed through the scanner.
She said yes and he waved her through. And then I laughed at how common this situation probably is at London airports.
Needless to say, my daughter was over the moon to learn about The Harry Potter Shop in Terminal 5. Last-minute wands, anyone?
Note that items are not duty-free but my daughter did notice some things she hadn’t seen at Warner Bros Studio Tour London and Platform 9 3/4.
It’s a mix of items from the Harry Potter movies, ‘Harry Potter and The Cursed Child Parts One and Two’ as well as Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. She bought a stuffed Niffler that rode home in her seat on the plane.
Especially if you are looking to buy luxury goods (I have had friends use this service when buying duty-free handbags), enlist the help of one of Heathrow Airport’s personal shoppers. They can save you time, which is tremendously important when traveling with kids.
The can check stock, reserve specific items for you, and have them brought to your gate. If necessary (and if time permits), they can take you to other terminals to visit stores or you may enjoy a styling session in one of the private lounges.
Kids Can Ride the Airport Express for Free
The Heathrow Express is the easiest way to get to Central London. It takes just 15 minutes from Terminals 2 and 3 and a few minutes more from Terminals 4 and 5 aboard the nonstop train. Business First is incredibly quiet with wider seats (pictured below).
And, even in Business First, kids ages 15 and under can travel for free on the Heathrow Express with a paying adult. Unaccompanied minors can travel for free in Express Class with a boarding pass or valid flight booking.
From Paddington Station, it took us about 10 minutes by cab to reach Brown’s Hotel.
Tips for Spending Time at Heathrow Airport
Download the Heathrow Airport app. There are plenty of boards showcasing departure information but it’s nice to have this kind of info in the palm of your hand.
Frequent visitors should look into Heathrow Rewards, the airport’s loyalty program that allows members to collect points on nearly everything bought including foreign currency exchange, airport parking, shopping and more.
The British Airways flight from San Diego to London Heathrow Airport is quite easy. It arrives to and departs from Terminal 5 (as of the time of this writing). I keep an eye on pricing in order to grab business class on sale.
How do you like to spend time at Heathrow Airport?
*Written in partnership with Heathrow Airport, our primary airport for the two years we lived in London.