Travelling for right away

Does your pre-holiday headache start the minute you get the suitcases down from the top of the wardrobe?

From the frustration when the zip won’t close on your bulging suitcase to losing the directions to your airport car park, it can all feel a bit of an endurance test. But I always seem to arrive on the plane with seconds to spare, after a sprint through departures with a toddler under each arm, others seem completely serene. They’ve got plenty of time to relax and enjoy all the airport has to offer. So what’s their secret? I’ve been doing some research and here’s what I found:

Pack like a pro

Wouldn’t it be lovely to arrive at your destination with all your clothes well organised and wrinkle-free? It doesn’t have to be some crazy pipe dream. Here’s how to do it: roll knitted items and put these on the bottom, leaving a space at the wheel end for shoes. Then lay all your non-knitted clothes flat on top of the rolled layer, putting what you want to wear on the first day on the top. Then put pyjamas and toiletries on top of that. Fill zip-lock bags with pants and socks, expelling the air before you put them in. Et voila! You’ll never have to worry about your case bursting open, leaving your underwear trailing on the luggage conveyor ever again.

Organise the kids

When it comes to kids, packing can feel like an overwhelming nightmare of forgotten sun hats and much-loved soft toys. There’s just too much for the human brain to remember. So for the sake of your sanity, repeat the mantra “spreadsheets are your friends”.Mumsnet has some really handy checklists for different types of holiday that you can download as a starting point. Once you’ve got a checklist that works well for you, you can use it time and again, whenever you’re packing for a holiday.

Get the airport parking sorted

Nothing tests a relationship to its limits more than a journey to the airport, particularly if you’re already late and you chose the ‘cheap’ airport parking option with its shuttle bus ride in from miles away. The obvious point is to make sure you leave home really early – allow a good margin for unexpected delays. Think it’ll take you two hours? Give yourself at least three. Don’t worry about the kids being bored at the airport, either, as one way of getting into the holiday spirit at the airport is by pre-booking a child-friendly airport lounge to wait in. They’re surprisingly reasonably priced. Once there, the kids will be entertained and you’ll be able to put your feet up (and maybe enjoy your first drink of the holiday).

If you’re still absolutely dreading the stress of parking at the airport, think about valet parking – sometimes also called meet and greet. Gatwick, Heathrow, Stansted, Manchester, Edinburgh – pretty much all the major UK airports – let you drive up to a passenger drop-off point, unload your car and just leave it for someone else to take care of. They then track your return flight so your car’s ready and waiting for you, as soon as you come out of the airport. The cost of valet parking like this is sometimes only a small amount more than parking the car yourself, particularly if you’ll be away for a couple of weeks.

Do your research

You spend hours poring over holiday brochures and reading reviews online before you choose your holiday destination. Why not apply that to your airport too? Choosing which airport to fly from can make a big difference to your stress levels. Yes, that flight may be cheaper, but if it means five hours to get there and long shuttlebus rides once you’ve parked, is it really worth it? I live in the south of England and my closest airport, Gatwick, is a surprisingly relaxing place to fly from. You can park at Gatwick in the short-stay car park which is right at the terminal, or get just a five-minute shuttlebus ride from one of the long-stay carparks – which usually work out cheaper. If you’ve got an early flight, I find that park and stay at Gatwick can be a good option too. Pitch up at an airport hotel the night before and get a decent night’s sleep. You can all just take your time as you roll out of your comfy hotel bed and straight into the airport next morning. No more waking the kids at some ungodly hour and bundling them into the car in the dead of night.

Now, where did I put my passport?