Taking the trauma out of travelling with children

Tue, Sep 11, 2012, 01:00

Taking a flight with young kids needn’t be too much of an ordeal – by planning ahead you can ensure that everything goes smoothly when you arrive at the airport

‘FANCY A TRIP to London with the boys?” my sister asked. Great in theory but slightly more difficult in practice. With dad otherwise engaged, the thoughts of bringing an almost five-year-old and a one-year-old through the airport and on a flight to England left me feeling slightly travel sick.

Airport Genie is a service available at Dublin Airport. To my son’s disappointment it wasn’t all smoke and turbans but rather a regular guy in a pink T-shirt. The ability to glide through a priority check-in was pretty magic, however, and without the extra set of hands my Airport Genie provided I would have struggled when it came to folding the buggy, emptying the contents of my pockets, keeping an eye on a distracted four-year-old and holding the baby.

I think the fellow was slightly taken aback when I thrust the baby at him and said, “Erm, can you hold him for me please?!” but he rose to the occasion. He helped to carry my bag and had we chosen to purchase goods at The Loop shopping area he would have helped to carry our purchases also. He escorted us to the boarding gate, using his own system when the public display screens had yet to reveal our gate number, allowing us to make our gate with plenty of time to spare and without wasting money hanging around.

I found the service convenient and we were attended to promptly, the chap was punctual and easy going and for groups or large families the convenience of the priority check-in would be worth the spend.

There are various packages including the Genie Family Care package – valid for up to six people – which costs €45 and includes access to the fast-track boarding channel and help with shopping and hand baggage. The Genie Lounge package may appeal to those wanting space to work or relax pre-flight – it costs €24.95 per adult and provides access to the fast-track boarding channel and to the executive lounge. For €4.95 you can avail of the Genie Fast-Track, which gets you through the fast-track boarding channel. See airportgenie.comfor more details on available packages.

Trunkies definitely take the pain out of travelling with kids. You may have seen kids whizzing around on these hard novelty suitcases at the airport. Not only do they look great, but with 18 litres of space they can hold quite a lot.

Because children can sit on them there’s no more moaning about tired legs and the fact that you can wheel the child along keeps your children under wraps in crowded areas. Trunkies are available from Halfords, Littlewoods and littledreamers.ie.

There is much discussion online as to whether they are allowed as hand luggage on Ryanair as they are slightly larger than the airline’s specified hand baggage dimensions. My check-in attendant said that he had never seen one turned away as hand luggage on a Ryanair flight, so suffice to say it’s probably worth taking the risk.

If you are travelling with kids, be careful what they want to play with during the flight. We bought a foam pirate scabbard at Legoland which was, after consideration, confiscated at Luton Airport by officials. My boy, with quivering lip, was told that he could “take the shield but not the sword as even the shape of it could be seen as a threat". Rule out plastic guns, water pistols and foam swords in the hand luggage for a tear-free journey.

If you’ve paid full price for a child’s seat they have the same hand luggage allowance as an adult, so use it.

The Loop at Dublin Airport offers a number of options for shoppers. You can now shop online at theloop.iebefore your flight, picking up the goods on arrival. The stores have a good selection of items including fragrances and cosmetics with brands such as Jo Malone, Lancome and Benefit as well as alcohol products and electronic devices. You must be travelling within the EU to avail of this service and be over 18 to purchase alcohol. The Loop also provides a “shop and collect” service whereby you can shop on the way to your flight, leaving your purchases to be collected on your return.

We all know that there are limits on the amount of liquids you can carry in your hand luggage. If you want to save hassle and money, abide by the rules. There are no exceptions other than baby food/drinks needed on board – check the airline guidelines when booking.

Plastic bags available at the airport are overpriced, so buy yourself a packet of them before you travel. Place all liquids and medicines – lipsticks, perfume, asthma inhalers and medication – into your sealed plastic bag. Do it before you leave the house to avoid forgetting something at the bottom of your bag. You’ll save time and money this way.

Make life easy for yourself – don’t wear lots jewellery and wear slip-on shoes or sandals for convenience at the security scanners. Try to pack the minimum of what you need and weigh your luggage when you’ve packed. It might seem pedantic but can save time, hassle and money. Luggage scales are available from Amazon, Boots and dealsireland.ie, and can often be picked up inexpensively in shops such as Lidl and Aldi.

Clothing-wise, jeans can be one of the heaviest things in your luggage at around 1.5lbs (0.7k), so remove them first if you’re baggage is overweight at the airport. Consider your return journey too – will you be shopping on your travels? Leave room for purchases or memorabilia.

With Ryanair charging €20 per kilo for any baggage over its 15k limit, it makes financial sense to ensure your bags aren’t too heavy.

TOO POSH TO QUEUE: HOW THE OTHER HALF TRAVEL:

Have you ever wondered how the other half live? When Victoria Beckham used Dublin Airport on a flying visit earlier this summer, chances are she did not have to queue up at a Ryanair desk or take off her shoes as she was given the once-over by security staff in the main part of the airport.

She would have gone the VIP route and the special person facilities in the airport are, by any measure, brilliant, as Pricewatch once discovered. You arrive at the Collinstown Suite, near where the buses for the city centre depart, 75 minutes before your flight is due to leave and are shown to a suite with food, drink, toys for children, leather sofas and flat-screen TVs. Airport staff take your luggage and your passport and check you in.

Then, minutes before your plane is due to take off, they bring you to your own dedicated security check. And when you’re through that, a door slides open to reveal a Mercedes with its engine gently purring. It drives you to the plane’s steps. You are the very last person to board but a seat in the front row has been reserved for you.

It is almost as good on the homeward journey. Your plane touches down, you come down the steps and the high-end car is waiting to drive you to your suite. Staff then go off, collect your bags and drop them to you before you leave the airport that you never really arrived in.

While the service is not exclusive to the rich and famous – us mortals can use it too – it does cost. Using the service just one way costs €160 per person and €260 return. For a couple it is €240 one way and €299 return. The family rate is €299 one way and €399 return for two adults and two children. Each additional child is €25 each way. For groups of five or more its €135 return per person. It is not cheap by any means but is absolutely amazing and after we win the Lotto we’re never travelling any other way. CONOR POPE

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