You've done all of the hard work booking and planning your family holiday, and now is the time to relax.
Many parents are filled with dread at the prospect of being stuck in an airport for hours with an easily-bored child, or being the mother or father of the energetic toddler constantly kicking the seat in front on a plane. However, going to the airport and flying can be very exciting for children and, with a little preparation, needn't be stressful for parents.
Arrival at the airport
Make sure that you allow extra time to travel to the airport itself - you don't want to start the whole journey off running late.
When booking airport parking, consider using the airport's meet and greet service. It will allow you to drive right up to the terminal building where a member of the meet and greet team will be waiting to park your car. When you return, you will be able to present your ticket/receipt in the meet and greet office to get your car back. This will not only save you time but it will also prevent you having to park a long distance away from the terminal building and having to carry pushchairs, bags and children all the way there.
Be prepared for things to go wrong whether it is a delayed flight, a tantrum or food spilt down your child's travelling outfit. And, if they do, try not to get stressed as your child will pick up on it and will be anxious too.
In the airport
If you have a young child, make sure you are prepared to travel through the airport carrying them as well as any hand luggage you have. A sling may be a good option for babies whereas reins will allow energetic toddlers to walk on their own without being able to wander off. If you plan on taking your pushchair through the airport, confirm with your airline when you need to check it in and what the procedure is for putting it on to the plane.
Look at the airport's website before you travel to find children's play areas and family-friendly restaurants. This will save time when looking for somewhere to eat and, if your plane is unexpectedly delayed, you will know where to take your children to keep them entertained.
Make the airport an adventure for children by writing a list of things for your children to spot and tick off. Have a look on the airport's website for inspiration before you set off. Manchester Airport, for example, have a fun activity pack on their website guiding children through the whole process from arrival to the departure gate with a list of things to look out for.
Passing through security
You are allowed to pack enough baby milk or food for your child in your hand luggage - although you may be asked to try some to prove what it is at security. Another option is to pre-order cartons of baby milk or other travel essentials - such as nappies - from a pharmacy in the departure lounge.
Getting on to the flight
Before you travel, check what your airline's policy is on family boarding. Some airlines will seat parents with young children before the rest of the flight so you can get a seat together and there is no need to pay for priority boarding. However, not all do. British Airways offer a family check-in service that allows families to check in (up to six people) 24 hours before your flight, choose your seats and to print your boarding passes out.
If you have a small child, it is a good idea to change their nappy just before you board the plane - especially on short-haul flights.
On the flight
Bottle feed your baby during take-off and landing to prevent the discomfort caused by changes in the cabin pressure from affecting them. This may also help your child to drop off to sleep.
Make sure that older children drink plenty of water during the flight to prevent possible dehydration and grumpiness.
If you are travelling with a toddler and they have their own seat booked, check whether the airline provides a booster seat for them. Some airlines such as Virgin do (as well as activity packs and complimentary nappies) while others such as easyJet ask you to take your own.
Have a familiar toy packed for babies to keep them entertained on a flight. It may also be worth packing a new, surprise toy to distract them on a longer flight.
Activity books, magazines, travel games and hand-held devices are all good things to pack to keep older children entertained on a flight. And, don't forget the old favourites such as I spy and word association games.