Top 10 UK Airports

Airport Interior

Many UK airports go the extra mile to offer a range of fun or family-orientated facilities, but which airports do it best? Essential Travel goes around the country to find the ten UK airports that are bound to make you cheerful before check-in.

London Luton Airport

10. London Luton

Fun Factor: Get great deals on wines, spirits, CD's and books at Luton's well-equipped shopping area. If you're looking for something more exotic, you may like to try an Asian take-away at YamYamToGo. Alternatively, go for the homely ambiance and grab a pint at the Bar des Voyageur. 3 out of 5 for entertainment value.

Family Factor: Sufficient baby changing facilities are offered in the airport. For older children, there is a dedicated gaming area open 24 hours called the Voyager. 2 out of 5 for child-friendliness.

Fast Factor: Train services from central London to Luton take a mere 21 minutes. If you're travelling by car, the airport is easily accessible from all directions and it offers all the expected drop-and-go and parking facilities. 2 out of 5 for convenience.

X-Factor: If you'd like a virtual tour of the airport before you head off, pay their website a visit. You'll be greeted by a 3D map of the airport where parts of the airport gradually 'drop' into view - it's pretty impressive. 4 out of 5 for novelty value.

Total: 11 out of 20

9. Blackpool International Airport

Fun Factor: Blackpool Airport is not among the larger airports but with Wi-Fi, an executive lounge and a minimalistic and modern bar, it has plenty to offer both the frequent flyer and the novice. Sip on a pre-flight cocktail in Bar Icon, enjoy a selection of complimentary snacks in the executive lounge or splurge on a designer perfume or Italian handbag in the duty free boutique before your flight. 3 out of 5 for effort.

Family Factor: It can become a tricky business negotiating your way around the airport with your children in tow. Fortunately, Blackpool offers baby-changing facilities throughout the airport and a newsagents selling sweets, books and travel games to keep your precious ones entertained. For the energetic, there are also children's rides available in the departure lounge and children's box meals are served in the restaurant for hungry tummies. If you're travelling with teenagers, they'd also be happy to join you in the executive lounge where they can chat to their friends and play games on the internet. 4 out of 5 for child-friendliness.

Fast Factor: Free parking is available to all passengers, leaving happy holiday makers with extra cash to stock up on duty frees. The airport facilities include 14 check-in desks and extra baggage reclaim facilities for super speedy check-ins. 4 out of 5 for convenience.

X-Factor: If you want to take your mind off your busy travel schedule, why not join your children in a game of air hockey in the departure lounge? 2 out of 5 for inventiveness.

Total: 13 out of 20

8. Leeds Bradford

Fun Factor: The Premium Lounge offers different areas for business and relaxation purposes. The lounge's refreshment area is decked out with comfortable armchairs and a buffet table of tasty treats. There are also a whole range of restaurants servicing the airport, from the inviting Cafe Ritazza to the dependable Burger King. If you need a little pre-flight pampering, you can pay a visit to the Manicure Lounge for a range of nail treatments. The Wi-Fi 'hot-spot', on the other hand, is the perfect place to catch up on some emails. 4 out of 5 for variety.

Family Factor: Leeds Bradford is designed with the family in mind. Superdrug offers everything in the way of toiletries so you don't need to fret if you've forgotten the baby-wipes at home. The Food Village restaurant also takes the burden off flustered mums by providing child seats and a children's menu. Children can burn some energy in the play area on the first floor but please be aware that no supervision is offered. 3 out of 5 for child-friendliness.

Fast Factor: Fast track access through security is available at a premium to keep things moving swiftly. 3 out of 5 for convenience.

X-Factor: Should you need someone to talk to, the Chaplains service is on hand to listen, guide and pray. There is also a quiet room available on the first floor of the departure lounge for those who need to recover from their busy travel schedule. 3 1/2 out of 5 for rest and relaxation.

Total: 13 1/2 out of 20

Leeds Bradford Airport

7. Edinburgh

Fun Factor: Edinburgh airport offers true Scots hospitality with their choice of facilities. Whether you're bent on healthy eating or want to indulge in a hearty breakfast, you'll be spoilt for choice with its tasty eateries. Family entertainment is offered from time to time in the family area of the first-floor Food Village. 4 out of 5 for choice.

Family Factor: The airport offers all basic child-care facilities from changing facilities for the little ones to a range of restaurants providing children's menus and high-chairs. An unsupervised play area near Gate 3 has toys and puzzles for the youthful members of the family. 3 out of 5 for entertainment value.

Fast Factor: As well as the traditional check-in facilities, self-service kiosks and online check-in facilities are offered too. 4 out of 5 for easy access.

X-Factor: Fancy yourself as a bit of an art critic? The Airport Gallery is home to several original Scottish artwork brought together for the traveller's enjoyment. Exhibitions change regularly so even frequent flyers will always find something new to enjoy. 4 out of 5 for culture.

Total: 15 out of 20

Edinburgh Airport

6. London Gatwick

Fun Factor: Gatwick Airport has an advantage over other airports because of its sheer size and so offers an extensive choice of restaurants and shops. Buy some scent at Boots or browse through All Saint's fabulous fashion collection. Alternatively, you could grab a fresh croissant and organic fruit juice at Apostrophe or go for the more elegant option and enjoy caviar and award-winning wine at Caviar House and Prunier Seafood Bar. If you need to spend three minutes unwinding, take a seat in a coin-operated massage chair in the departure lounge in either terminal. Whatever you choose to do, you're sure to remain well-fed and fully entertained. 4 out of 5 for choice.

Family Factor: If there's one thing children love to do, it's to watch airplanes take off and Gatwick airport offers plenty of opportunity for this. Great viewing points around the airport include Red Lion's Bar in the North Terminal and Frankie and Benny's in the South Terminal. Gatwick airport also has a dedicated family lounge which includes TV and shower facilities and a choice of soft-drinks for the kids. The gaming arcade in departures also offers plenty to keep the the kids entertained, from table football to computer games. 5 out of 5 for child-friendliness.

Fast Factor: It takes just 2 minutes to transfer between each terminal on the speedy transit train. Self-service and online check-ins also make for fast and efficient service. 3 out of 5 for efficiency.

X-Factor: Do you admire Aston Martins and love Lamborghinis? Now you have a shot at winning your dream car at the 'Best of the Best' display. 4 out of 5 for novelty value.

Total: 16 out of 20

5. Stansted

Fun Factor: You may choose to escape the crowds and sip a glass of wine in Stansted's Servisair lounge, or pick the perfect souvenir for your nan at Glorious Britain. Whatever your preferences, Stansted offers every holiday-maker an almost endless choice of entertainment including duty-free shopping and fast internet. 4 1/2 out of 5 for variety.

Family Factor: Mum's and dad's look out - Stansted has a Hamley's toy store onsite! Once you've managed to lure the little ones away from all the toys, head towards Frankie and Benny's for a yummy kiddies meals. 4 out of 5 for child-friendliness.

Fast Factor: You can get to Stansted from London in just 15 minutes by Stansted express. Alternatively, there's easy access by bus and car, plus plenty of parking options. Stansted is a busy airport at the best of times but can accommodate the crowds with self-service check-in booths and online check-in. 4 out of 5

X-Factor: Head to Pret A Manger where you can enjoy a coffee and sit up close and personal to the planes taking off. 4 out of 5 for great views.

Total: 16½ out of 20

4. Bristol Airport

Fun Factor: Bristol airport may be small but boy does it give the heavies a run for their money! Not only does it provide travellers with a wide array of shopping and dining establishments, it comes up trumps with a selection of local draughts. Some of the entertainment highlights include World Duty Free where you collect your purchases on your return to the airport and Bar Zero 9 which offers its very own Butcombe Beer and Ashton Press Cider. 4 out of 5 for variety.

Family Factor: Bristol really takes the smaller members of the family into consideration. Dexters restaurant offers a 'kids eat free' special at certain times and Superdrug provides a pre-order service on their baby food and milk products. The airport's executive lounge also has no age restriction and Bar 9 Zero has bottle warming facilities available for mums. 5 out of 5 for child-friendliness.

Fast Factor: Checking-in isn't a chore at Bristol: with modern self-service kiosks and online check-in facilities, you'll get though to the fun stuff in no time at all. However, you're advised to allow more time during peak times and the summer season. 3 out of 5 for choice.

X-Factor: Going on a stag or hen party? Bar Zero 9 enables you to prebook a table and a host service, so that when you arrive at the airport, you'll be taken to your table with your drinks and snacks waiting! 5 out of 5 for holiday spirit.

Total: 17 out of 20

3. East Midlands

Fun Factor: The best things come in small packages and East Midlands airport is a fine example. It offers a fantastic range of shops, restaurants and bars and even massage chairs in the departure lounge to keep the ladies happy. Guys, on the other hand, can choose to lose themselves in the virtual world of Sceptre Leisure - a high-tech gaming arcade or, if they prefer, shop at the Aviation Gift and Hobby Centre. 4 out of 5 for sheer entertainment value.

Family Factor: Bristol has all the basic child-care facilities including a Boots to stock up on nappies and baby food and a W H Smith for kiddies games and books. For teenagers there is always the arcade and useful internet facilities.
3 1/2 out of 5 for child-friendliness.

Fast Factor: Boarding has never been quicker with hi-tech automated passport reading gates which use the latest facial recognition technology! 5 out of 5 for advancements in technology.

X-Factor: Those with more time on their hands can visit Aeropark, an impressive on-site exhibition displaying 29 classic aircrafts. Rates are very cheap and children under five go free. Passengers with a fear of flying can overcome those worries by taking a Flying Without Fear course. 5 out of 5 for originality.

Total: 17½ out of 20

2. London Heathrow

Fun Factor: Heathrow is pretty much the supreme UK airport and it has it all, from duty-free shopping, bars and restaurants to temporary exhibitions, luxury lounges, and shower facilities. Some highlights include the Best of the Best super-cars display and the Harrods stores situated in Terminals 1, 3 and 4. 5 out of 5 for variation.

Family Factor: Every family will want to depart from Terminal 3, as the Jetterz Kids Club Lounge is located here. This lounge is open to children from the ages of five to 14 and not only offer books and toys to entertain but also a range of computer games. Most restaurants at Heathrow are also fully child-friendly with high chairs and customised menus available. Need we say more? 4 out of 5 for entertainment.

Fast Factor: Heathrow provides the traveller with all the modern check-in facilities including self-service kiosks. Need to get to Heathrow in a hurry? Why not catch the Heathrow Express? This fast train only takes 15 minutes from London Paddington. 4 out of 5 for efficiency.

X-Factor: The 4D deck lounge in terminal 4 is sure to delight travellers of all ages. This lounge is spread across two floors and offers great views of the runway and complimentary drinks and snacks. 5 out of 5 for comfort and convenience.

Total: 18 out of 20

Heathrow Airport

1. Manchester Airport

Fun Factor: Manchester offers all the shops, restaurants and pubs you'd expect from an airport this size. The cherry on top is the Runway Visitor Park where travellers can enjoy panoramic views of two runways and marvel at the impressive collection of historic aircrafts. 5 out of 5 for variety.

Family Factor: Manchester has great family facilities, including an inviting play area in Terminal 2 with games and bottle warming facilities and the Aviation Education Centre with a replica flight-deck. The Real Food Company stocks Globetrotter pick and mix meals where children can have fun choosing their own selection of snacks. The website itself offers a number of fun games, such as the virtual packing game to get your kids into the holiday spirit. 5 out of 5 for child-friendliness.

Fast Factor: Brightly coloured 'Express Check-in' facilities are available throughout the airport. Simply type in your passport or e-ticket number and leave your bags at one of the special bag drop desks. 4 out of 5 for a speedy check-in.

X-Factor: You can visit one of the most impressive planes in existence - the Concorde G-BOAC at the Runway Visitor Park. 5 out of 5 for the experience.

Total: 19 out of 20

Manchester Airport

Last Updated: February 2010

Clayton Truscott

Clayton Truscott

Clayton is a comfortable traveller, having grown up in a small city that was far away from everything. He spent lots of time in the car as a child, driving up and down the coast of South Africa on surfing trips with his family. After studying abroad in the United States and spending a year working in London, he moved to Cape Town, where he completed a Master's Degree in Creative Writing. He now works as a freelance writer for various travel, surfing and action sports publications.