15 March 2017
Lord knows parenting is nature's finest leveller, so when travelling with kids you'd have thought you'd be able to rely on the kindness of strangers to get you through the tight spots right!? Whilst that may be true once you reach your destination, leaving London can feel like a gauntlet of parenting challenges.
Although you can't avoid these trials altogether, if you're willing to plan ahead (most have to be booked 24 hours in advance) and pay a little extra, most London airports operate some sort of 'fast track' service so that you can at least forgo the audience as you wrestle your child's beloved teddy from them to go through the x-ray 'magic tunnel' and figure out what do when your kid says "No" to the question "Is this your Mummy?" at Passport Control.
Gatwick Premium Security costs £5 per adult but kids under 12 are free which means you'll be dodging perfume spritzers airside in no time. Even better is their Premium Passport Control : Rather than screaming (silently - you, implacably - your toddler) in the line for Border Control, you can whizz past the crowds like Leonado DiCaprio in Catch Me If You Can for £12.50 / person. It's quite ouchy price wise and there's no child discount, so if you don't want to shell out for all of you, send your partner through with the kids to pick up the baggage while you catch up on our instagram feed in the passport queue child free. Everyone's a winner! http://bookings.gatwickairport.com/en/default.aspx
To do something similar at Heathrow, you'll need to be flying business or first class; you can't buy in. Bah humbug! You might consider using https://www.airportr.com/ though - they'll pick up your bags from home and deliver them to the airport so that you don't have to struggle with the buggy AND the bags. If you're flying BA, they'll even be able to check your bags in at your home so that you can go straight to the gate.
Luton's Priority Lane is £3 if booked online in advance and there's no charge for little ones under 2 years old. It'll only get you through security though - you'll have to join the masses for the inbound passport control which can be pretty horrendous during peak times. http://www.london-luton.co.uk/priority-lane
Stansted offers fast track security for £5 per person and priority passport control for £7. You have to pay for everyone though - even babes in arms. http://www.stanstedairport.com/at-the-airport/security/fasttrack/
Don't forget City Airport. It's so tiny you don't need fast track priveleges - there are a rarely any queues and no long treks to the gates.
Bear in mind if you have a different family name to the children you're taking through border control that copies of official documents like birth/adoption/marriage/ certificates and or copies of the (other) parent's passports will make things smoother.
If you're lucky enough to have grandparents who'll take your children somewhere exotic, it's advisable for them to have a completed copy of this home office letter of authorisation.
Download our musically narrated Sleeping Beauty from iTunes which I'm told is the best travel CD ever and get some child friendly noise cancelling headphones and May The Force Be With You!