Family travel over Christmas can be exciting but it is also a busy period and with queues, long distances to walk and a lot of waiting around, it can be a pretty exhausting time to travel with your family!

UK airports have started to realise that helping families navigate the experience is of benefit to everyone, so they need to offer additional or different services than normal.

We have rounded up what’s going on over Christmas at Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester so you can feel prepared and enjoy the experience (as much as possible!)

Heathrow Airport

In recent years Heathrow has started putting a big focus on family travel during the school holidays and this Christmas they have added even more to what they normally offer!

From guest appearances from Santa Claus as well as Mr Adventure and Little Miss Explorer to kids’ craft sessions and carol singers … there’s something happening every day in the run-up to Christmas. You can find out what’s happening the day you are travelling here.

As well as keeping your kids entertained, there are more practical offers and services as well:

Kids eat free in school holidays

From the 6th December  2018 to the 6th January 2019 kids eat free at the majority of restaurants across all the Heathrow terminals! There are some T&C’s to be aware of: most restaurants count children as under 12, although for some it is 11 or 10. An adult must buy a meal to get the children’s meal free and it doesn’t apply to drinks, starters and desserts. Overall, if you want a big meal before you fly and don’t have access to a lounge, this is a great option to keep costs down!

Family lounges

If you prefer to start your holiday in a slightly calmer environment, Heathrow offer family-friendly lounges in Terminals 1, 2 and 3. Services vary between lounges but may include: Complimentary freshly-prepared food and drinks including prosecco, craft beers, premium spirits, Wi-Fi, games rooms and cinema and a family room.

Kids travel free on the Heathrow Express

If your children are 15 or under, they can travel on the Heathrow Express for free when travelling with an adult. They run every 15 minutes between Heathrow and Paddington Station and take between 15-20 minutes, depending on which terminal you are going to.

Play areas

Every terminal has a stay and play area with slides, soft play areas and separate baby and junior zones. All of these areas are after security and are aimed at children up to 9 years old. (Note – parents must stay with their children, there is no supervision service)

Meet and Assist

Heathrow offers a meet and assist service if you would like some help getting through the airport. This can be prebooked, along with the Heathrow Porter service which is a must-have if you are going skiing and are juggling a lot of bags and children!

Gatwick Airport

If you are travelling from Gatwick and have an early flight or have to travel a long way to get there, you might want to look at staying at an airport hotel the night before. The Gatwick Holiday Inn has an offer on where kids stay and eat free. How does it work? Kids under 18 stay FREE when sharing a family room, and kids under 13 also eat free from the special kids menu, when accompanied by at least one full paying adult.

Gatwick Airport has information and tips about travelling with your family through the airport (look out for the play areas and the dedicated family security lanes) but there aren’t any advertised entertainment or Christmas themed activities.

Manchester Airport

Similarly to Gatwick, Manchester Airport has information and tips about travelling with your family through the airport but there aren’t any advertised entertainment or Christmas themed activities.

If you are travelling from Manchester and are looking to stay at an airport hotel the night before, the Radisson Blu is a great option with children staying and eating for free, as well as some great activities to keep them busy! They get given a Global Explorers Entertainment pack at check-in, full of things to colour, small games and a pack of sweets. Plus, they (and you!) have access to the 12-metre indoor swimming pool as well as free high-speed, wireless Internet. Full T&C’s on their website but the key ones are under 16’s stay free and under 12’s eat free as well.