Tag Archives: airport

First ski holiday with children : Part 1

If you love skiing and love your family the inevitable will happen –  A family ski holiday.

I have been blogging for Alpine Action for many years and have been skiing for even longer. During the five winter seasons I did and the numerous ski holidays I have been on, I’ve been lucky enough to experience much of what the mountains have to offer. From backcountry to park, snowboarding to snowblading, I have never shied away from a challenge despite my limited ability. To be clear I am no Travis Rice or Bode Miller but I expect that even they may have met their match when it came to taking their children skiing for the first time.

I recently took my children, 2 and 4 years old, to Méribel on their first ski trip and it was probably my biggest and most rewarding ski challenge to date.

Part One : Catching a plane with children

Overnight in a hotel

I come from a place where the northern part of the county accounts for less than 0.001% of the UK population. As you can imagine we are not spoilt for choice when it comes to local flights to the Alps. We opted to drive to Gatwick Airport. As this was our first time flying as a family, and the departure time was early, we decided on an overnight stop in a hotel, just a mile from the airport. You can get a family room with 8 nights parking for less than £80.

We arrived at the airport just after 10pm, re settled the children and bedded down to an anxious night sleep. As I lay in the hotel room, semi asleep and refusing to empty my bladder in case I woke a child up, I recalled how we had traveled across Russia several times without calamity or missing a train, and safely navigated around India on public transport. However, we didn’t have 2 children when we did it.

“Can’t sleep to excited”

Getting to the car

As we were staying such a short distance from the airport we set our alarms, allowing ourselves two and a half hours to make our way to the departure lounge via the carpark, baggage drop, security checks and other airport distractions. Surely this was plenty of time.

Top tip : Shower the night before. No one knows why we all decided to shower in the morning. Possibly it was the convention of staying in a hotel room that everything must be used and evaluated. Time stolen 10 min.

Following the showers there was the predictable tantrum from a child that we still don’t really know the origin of. It could have been that she was woken up three hours earlier than normal, or that the only food we saw fit to provide was definitely not breakfast food. Time Stolen 7.5 min.

At home I know that even if the whole family only has shoes to put on before getting in the car it will still take over 5 minutes before we can leave. Somehow the reality never sunk in that room 568, the room we were in, was located at the exact furthest point away from the far corner of the car park where our vehicle was located. Time stolen 10 min.

Parking at the airport

The car had to be moved from the hotel car park to the longstay car park. Despite a short detour this part of the journey was achieved without incident. By this time we started to pay more attention to the time and realised we may not make the flight. As we pulled into the car park the shuttle bus was leaving. Time Stolen 1 min.

Frustratingly we were directed to zone X to park. We unloaded, made a note of the location and headed of to the bus stop. Panic started to set in as the time ticked on while we waited for the shuttle bus. When a bus did arrive all available space had been occupied and so it drove straight past us of to the airport. Time for an adult tantrum. 6 long minutes passed and another bus arrived and we headed to the terminal. Time lost 20 minutes.

We alighted the bus swiftly and with children on shoulders and baggage hanging from any available body part, the fast walk combined with short sprints was underway. With time ticking away the race with other passengers that I normally contain in my head became incredibly competitive and threatened to spill over into reality. During the journey to check-in one of our children presses the wrong floor on the lift, no one notices. Time lost 3 minutes.

Checking in

We had already checked in online and our e-tickets were on an app on my phone which meant that all we had to do was drop our big bag off at the bag drop. As the bag drop came into view so did the queue but that was never going to trouble us as the minute hand on the giant departures clock signaled that our check-in had closed 5 minutes ago and so ended our chance to get our bag on the plane.

The airline staff were great but there was nothing much they could do and it really was our fault that we had missed our flight. Of course we did consider abandoning a bag in an airport and making a dash for the departure gate although this course of action could have resulted in much bigger problems.

We arranged a flight for the next day and booked back into the hotel where we sat around feeling slightly embarrassed at our own incompetence. The next day we were at the airport 2 hours before check-in closed, relaxed and ready for our holiday. It also gave me a chance to research a future blog, “What to do in an airport with 2 children if you arrive 2 hours early”.

Despite all this we went on to have one of the best family holidays we have ever been on and are already planning our next family ski trip to Méribel.

READ PART TWO HERE

Keep an eye on our Facebook page and the Alpine Action blog to find out how we got on during the rest of our ski holiday. To make sure you don’t miss the next instalment sign up to the Alpine Action Newsletter.

 

 


Great Gifts from the Alps

Great Gifts from the Alps

When it comes to gift buying, the reality is that some people can spot the perfect present a mile off and some cannot. I bought my mother a VHS copy of Cilla Black’s Blind Date out-takes for Christmas 1994, and thanks to the ‘International Registry’ my Dad is allegedly the proud owner of a star in the night sky. I’ll leave you to work out the physics behind that… suffice it to say that I’m pretty useless at present-buying!

My gift-buying woes fall by the wayside once or twice a year though, and are replaced by a veritable sea of inspiration! Gifts for everyone from my boyfriend to my Great Aunt abound, and even the cat gets a treat! In case you haven’t already guessed, I am of course talking about Grenoble airport’s Duty Free shopping area where, on my way home from another wonderful ski holiday each year, I am faced with one perfect gift idea after another.

Let’s say, for instance, it’s mid-February. You’re on your way home with your mates after an epic week hitting the slopes and bars of Meribel, and you know Grandma’s birthday is coming up. You’re strolling through the departure lounge wondering what to do then suddenly, like Newton with his apple or the bloke that invented the hula hoop, inspiration strikes. What could give Grandma greater joy in her dotage, what could put a broader smile on her face, than a whistling marmot toy? Listen to his whistle! It truly is the gift that keeps on giving!

images (1)

What about for that special someone in your life, your boy or girlfriend, husband or wife? How can you best express the depth of your feelings towards him or her? You could certainly never tell them how strongly you feel about them… words can only do so much. Again, inspiration will strike amongst the magazines, gin and chocolate of Grenoble airport’s Duty Free lounge – a stuffed St Bernard! He may not have an in-built speaker like the marmot, but one look into his eyes will tell your girlfriend all she needs to know about how you feel.

You could be forgiven for thinking that the best of these tax-discounted gift ideas come in the form of various stuffed toys… but how wrong you’d be! Let’s say your friends have a new baby and you want to express your happiness for them – how better to do it than with a foot long bar of Toblerone?! Baby can enjoy hours of carefree fun trying to open the package and when finally he succeeds, what joy! A chocolatey treat for him to munch on! (When he gets teeth of course.)

Few culinary delights match the gentle aroma of those wonderful French cheeses, and isn’t it such a joy to be out in the Alps tasting them anew! Those petit producteurs in the Alps spend months producing and ageing their fromage to perfection, and the Grenoble airport cheese counter is the perfect place to buy your sister’s gift. “Nothing cheesey,” she said! Ha! Imagine her face when she unwraps your gift to find it’s actual cheese! You’ll be talking about that one for years, assuming the stench gets past the sniffer dogs at the other end.

You’re heading home from your March ski break with mates when suddenly you remember, Uncle Phil has just successfully completed his Alcoholics Anonymous course – he’s been off the booze for 6 full months! With family and friends around him in support, what better way to toast to his success than a refreshing bottle of Genepy?! Ahh, the spirit of the Alps in a bottle, and yours for a wonderfully discounted duty free price. He’ll be over the moon!

However you choose to mark your ski holiday, a small gift to a loved one or relative who wasn’t able to join you will show them that they were always in your mind. So next time you’re returning from a week’s skiing, remember to save a few Euros up for a spot of Duty Free shopping. With gifts as high quality as these, you’ll be the talk of the town for months!

 


Catching a plane

You have your received your ticket and are ready to go on your ski holiday. You have thought about all the exciting things such as your ski apparel, packing your swimsuit for the jacuzzi and booking the gold ski hire. What you have put off organising is how you will be getting to the airport. Well, it isn’t as exciting as dreaming about the food you are going to get fed in your chalet, is it? So we thought we might see if we can help, with a guide to getting to the airport.

Before you set off it is always worth checking the travel news in case there is some unavoidable incident that may affect you. Weather is often a likely culprit so watch out for heavy snowfall and keep an eye on any active volcanoes. This sort of thing will be flagged up on local or national news. It is very rare that you won’t be able to fly. If you have a feeling that your plane could be grounded then you can check on the carrier’s website or call them, the number should be on the ticket or e-ticket. A quick tip: if you are collecting someone from an airport after they have been selfish enough to holiday without you, you can check for delays on the airport website now, just go to the live arrivals page.

 Driving

The impending deadline of a departing plane can cause a great deal of pre-holiday stress so avoid that feeing by planning ahead. If you are motoring to the airport check for traffic delays before you set off, that way you can avoid any jams and reduce the tension in the car. If you haven’t been to the airport before plan your route ahead of time. Make sure you have filled the car with fuel. Also, as you are heading off on a ski holiday it is likely to be cold when you set off, so make sure you have a way of de-icing the car.

Parking

It makes sense to pre book you’re parking, as it saves time and money. As we fly out of Manchester and Gatwick we recommend using these operators. Each parking company offers a different service. Some will park your car and have it ready for your arrival and others will require you to remember where you left it. I would like to say that no one in the world ever has remembered where they parked their car, without writing it down.

Train

If you book far enough in advance you could get a great deal and save money on getting to the airport. The other good thing about the train is that if you are on an afternoon flight you could have a cheeky glass of wine to help the journey along. We fly from Manchester and Gatwick and the trains go into the hub of the airport, which means that you don’t need to drag your luggage a long way.

 


The Morris family holiday – Part Three, Arriving

The Morris family holiday – Part Three, Arriving

We all sat on the airplane without talking to each other, based on the events up to this point we thought it best to keep a low profile on the flight. A small part of me was pleased about this as it meant that I could read my book with no distractions. When the hostess trolley came by I decided to deny myself a mini can of lager mainly because it feels like the entire crew is watching us. They have been warned.

We land at Grenoble airport and sail through passport control. The whole family is relieved to leave the reputation we earned so quickly when we arrived at the airport in England. I instantly feel more relaxed and settle into my ‘I am on holiday’ mode. This generally involves me giving up all responsibility for myself and entrusting my actions on to strangers.
“Excuse me, where is carrousel B?” I am stood next to carrousel A which is next to B.
“Excuse me, my skis haven’t come off the plane” They are in the oversized area with everyone else’s skis just like every year.
“Excuse me, I am on holiday do you know what chalet I am staying in?” “No I don’t know what company I am on holiday with, my wife booked it?”
“Excuse me, do you know where my wife is?”
“Excuse me, which coach is going to Meribel?” It has taken me so long to get to the stage where I am ready to get on the coach it is the only one in the car park.

oversized

Fortunately my ‘holiday mode’ allows me to board the coach, and, with big smiles I fail to notice the steely stares of the other guests. Later on my wife tells me about the embarrassment of sitting on the coach listening to comments such as “there is always one idiot who gets lost”. I repeat this incident when we stop halfway for a toilet break.

This year none of our friends wanted to come on holiday with us. I expect that they are busy or may not be able to afford it this year. My wife has a different theory based on the incident last year that happened in our chalet that involved me sleep walking and the chalets host. I put it down to my wife’s insistence on calling the chalet hosts, chalet maids. One was called Ben. This lack of friends meant that we were sharing a chalet with unknowns.

We were booked into a twelve bed chalet, therefore we make up one third of the occupants. To my wife’s delight the other guests are already there, so know little about my inability to board a coach. They comprise of two other families with children of similar age. The other two families have known each other for approximately two hours more than we have known them. I am keen to get the families equipment sorted at the hire shop. I am always paranoid that they will run out of boots. The other guests insist that we all share a welcome glass of wine before going. They had already got theirs, I manage to hide my impatience.

As I have my own kit, this makes me the family expert. Throughout our time in the hire shop I am always on hand to offer my opinion and override any advice the shop staff have that I disagree with. My youngest is fussy when it comes to choosing boots. Last year we had to return to the shop eleven times. We were the last people in the shop, even the rest of our family had gone back to the chalet. I assume this was so they could constantly text me that dinner time was fast approaching. My Son finally chooses the first pair of boots that he tried, I knew that we would be back at the hire shop before the week was over.

bootfiting

Back at the chalet dinner had been postponed by forty minutes. Fortunately when we arrive back the wine had been flowing and everyone was in high spirits. I make our apologies and pour myself a glass of wine.  Dinner is served. As we all are strangers dinner starts with small talk and the conversation flows well enough.  The starters are cleared and long silence falls over the dinner table. Suddenly it is broken by one of the other guests.
“Did you hear about the man who got lost at the airport and held his coach up for over an hour?”

 


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