Saturday, February 5, 2011

Traveling with kids: Arlanda Airport, Sweden

Our usual family travel destination is Sweden, since that's where most of my family lives. That means we see a lot of Arlanda Airport just outside of Stockholm. This airport is not a bad place when you're traveling with kids, as far as airports go, and it has some good facilities for families.

This airport has five terminals that are all connected so that you can walk between them. Most international flights arrive and depart from Terminal 5. Terminal 4 is the main domestic terminal, though many smaller domestic airlines fly out of terminals 3 and 2.

The underground Arlanda C Station.
Getting to Stockholm or elsewhere
If you're headed into Stockholm, you can either catch a bus, a cab, or take the really fast train called Arlanda Express that goes directly from the airport to downtown Stockholm. My recommendation is the train because it's convenient, fast, and because kids usually have a thing for trains: at least mine do!

If you're just killing time at the airport, and have quite a lot of time to kill, you can even take the train to go for a quick Stockholm sightseeing trip between flights. The trip takes only 20 minutes one way, and you get a special deal on the ticket price if you return to the airport on the same day, within a set amount of hours. Getting on a train can be a great way to shake things up for kids who are bored with airports.

Once in Stockholm, go for a walk or take a tour, for example with the Open Top Bus Tour. If you're not traveling in the winter time you can even take one of the city tours by boat. You can ask about tours at the information centers at the airport before heading into town to get current schedules and pricing.

If you want to catch a train to other parts of Sweden, you can do that from Arlanda too. You can pre-book tickets online or through a travel agent, and pick them up from the ticket machines at the airport. Then just take the escalator down down down to Arlanda C train station from Sky City in between terminals 4 and 5.

Places to eat
There are several good places to get a bite to eat with your kids at Arlanda. In Sky City, located kind of in the middle of the airport complex, there is a McDonalds, a Bistro, and restaurants serving anything from Swedish cuisine, to sandwiches, coffee and pastries, pizza, Asian food and more. There are also some stores selling a limited selection of groceries and snacks.

Because we're usually catching a connecting flight to northern Sweden, we commonly end up in the domestic terminal, grabbing a slice of pizza (I am partial to pizza after all) or something else from the cafeteria-style restaurant there.

If your kids want to try out some Swedish food at the airport or in Stockholm, meatballs and mashed potatoes can be one choice (mine still aren't big on the whole meatball thing in spite of their Swedish heritage), or ask for pancakes with jam and whipped cream: this is often offered as a kids' dish in Swedish restaurants.

Facilities for kids
The one play area for kids at Arlanda Airport is located in the domestic terminal, terminal 4, near gate 31. There are some roomy areas where kids can move around more freely and also get a good view of the airplanes, especially in Sky City. Hopefully Arlanda will provide more play areas for kids at some point. I'd love to see one inside the international terminal.

The restroom facilities are usually clean and quite roomy in this airport. Many of the rest rooms in all parts of the airport also have change tables.

There is a pharmacy located in Sky City, and if you're looking for baby supplies like diapers, this would be one place to check out.

Hotels
If you have to overnight at the airport, there are lots of hotels located in the area around the airport that offer free shuttle bus service for their guests. There is also the Radisson Blu Sky City hotel located inside the airport which is expensive but can be really, really nice if you have an early morning flight.

Another option inside the airport is the much more basic Rest and Fly:
Here you get a comfortable, high-quality bed in a quiet room and a secure environment. No frills − at a good price. You can rent a room both during the daytime and overnight. Here you can also take a shower for a fee, even if you don’t rent a room.
I haven't tried the Rest and Fly myself on our family trips, but have heard it's ok, as long as you're prepared for a no frills experience. That free shower is also something I think might be worth considering on occasion, whether you're traveling with or without kids!

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