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.
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.
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.
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.