Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport with Kids

Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport with Kids arrival

Named after Israel’s first Prime Minister, Ben Gurion is the largest airport in Israel. It is an international airport and has provided services to over 15 million passengers in the last year. It has been in existence since 1936 with many upgrades and improvements since; the most recent one being in 2004 when terminal three officially opened.
Past accolades for the facility include being ranked first out of 40 European airports and 8th out of 77 world airports in customer service as well as holding the title of best Middle Eastern airport for two years in a row.
Some of its unique features are the central hall with its signature “rainfall fountain” as its center and its large Synagogue.

Distance from major cities

Israel’s Ben Gurion airport is located less than 12 miles away from Tel Aviv and about 31.5 from Jerusalem, which can translate into a 30-60  car ride if you don’t encounter rush hour traffic.
Passengers can also get to and from the airport by bus service (Egged connector line to the Tel Aviv’s  El Al terminal or privately owned Kavim and Metropoline services that connect passengers to Modi’in and Beersheva), by train and via cabs.
Because of its relatively small size (430,00 sq. ft.), and inter-terminal shuttles it is a convenient stop for travelers particularly after having experienced long-haul flights.

Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport with Kids hall

Arrivals

Ben Gurion airport is comprised of Terminal Three, its central hub, from which most flights depart and arrive,  and Terminal One that is currently used by a  few budget airlines.
Passengers arriving at Terminal One should be aware they may need to board a bus from the airplane to the terminal because those airlines usually save on the expense of the jetbridges.
The modern international Terminal  Three is well marked and designed for easy navigation, so passengers will discover that they won’t get lost on the way to immigration and the retrieval of their luggage.As in most countries, there are separate lines for the locals  (Israeli passport holders) and foreigners, so passengers should pay attention to the signs.

Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport with Kids fountain

Departures

Passengers need to note that since the airport policy dictates that luggage cannot be checked in earlier than 3 hours before any scheduled departure, it doesn’t help to arrive at the airport earlier than usual.

All departing travelers need to go through a relatively lengthy security process before reaching the check-in counter which can make traveling with kids, particularly special needs a bit difficult. My best advice for parents is to bring some form of entertainment for the kids while they wait and make sure to pack your humor.

Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport with Kids decor

After passing the Israeli equivalent of the TSA and the passport control travelers are free to explore the airport. The airport features multiple stores that sell a plethora of duty-free toys, cosmetics, clothing, watches and electronics all arranged in a circular fashion around the fountain in the Rotunda, positioned on the way to the different gates.

Furthermore; there are several food venues where you can grab a coffee or a sandwich for a quick meal while enjoying the airport’s free wi-fi.Our personal favorite place is Shipudei Hatiqva where you can have your last authentic falafel and hummus before leaving the Holy Land.

Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport with Kids play area

The airport does not currently offer any outdoor areas, but it does provide plenty of air conditioned indoor seating which is a relief in the scorching and humid summer months.For antsy kids, there are two areas of fun that to play in, under adult supervision, of course, located at the very far end of two separate gates.

Lounges

There are currently three working lounges in the airport; two lounges run by the Dan Hotel chain and one by El Al  (solely for their clients) that service all airline passengers that qualify by either ticket class or a paid upgrade.
The Dan lounges: Arbel and Massada, named after famous mountains in Israel are relatively modest in size and centrally located in terminal three.The Dan lounges are designed to host 320 people at any given time, so they do get crowded rather quickly at various periods of the day, making it not only noisy but challenging to find seating.

The food selections offered are usually several salads and dips along with cut up vegetables, different cheeses, and cookies. The complimentary drink options are sodas, juices, coffees, wines, and beers.Apart from their helpful staff, the lounges have separate bathrooms which are clean; along with a place to freshen up and for you to plug in your electronics.
With that said, they are not geared for families or children who want to run around or families who are traveling with autism who are looking for a quiet area to calm down or regroup.

Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport with Kids

Autism Travel Tips

  • Those unable to walk far may be glad to find that there are companies that can transport passengers from the aircraft to Passport Control via motor cart, providing the airline is contacted ahead of time and asked for the service. The service is recommended for families traveling with autism, especially after long haul flights–just ask for the airline’s wheelchair assistance service.
  • Families who are traveling with special -needs members, should know that there is a special queue designated for them, so they don’t have to wait in the long lines that sometimes occur; especially in the summertime and Jewish Holidays.
  • Pack electronic devices to entertain kids while waiting in the security lines as well as at the airline boarding gate in case of some unplanned delay.Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport with Kids seats

 

 

 

Why Fly with TAM Airlines

When I made plans to fly from Buenos Aires to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, I decided to book my flight with TAM Airlines because it is part of the well-trusted Star Alliance .*
We had never flown with them before, so I did not know what to expect when I booked my flight.Much to my surprise, I found the entire process to be smooth and efficient.

I was (pleasantly) surprised time and again by the friendliness and the employee’s knowledge of autism and willingness to accommodate our needs.

 

The booking process

I found the TAM Airlines website to be surprisingly user-friendly, and I had no issue with the booking process. When my plans needed to be changed, I called their customer service to help me change my reservation and fly out of Montevideo instead.

I was very happy with how quickly my call was answered, and my flight changes were dealt with. I also notified the booking agent of my son’s disability and asked for aisle seating and pre-boarding.

Why Fly with TAM Airlines gate

At the airport

Upon our arrival at Montevideo airport, we realized that TAM Airlines provides a special, shorter line for passengers with a disability, depending on the day’s flight schedule.

The airline representative at the TAM check-in was very friendly, and once she heard about my son’s disability, she even volunteered to put a note on our reservation that we would need help at our destination! After traveling for over a decade with an autistic son, I was genuinely impressed by the representative’s autism awareness and knowledge about how to accommodate the needs of the autistic traveler.
This attitude of friendliness and helpfulness continued at the gate with our pre-boarding, which we found to be very helpful and made the whole process very stress-free.

A much appreciated “special touch” was allowing us to use the airport lounge free of charge, where you could sit or even lie down and rest while waiting for your flight.

Why Fly with TAM Airlines lounge

On the flight

The flight boarded smoothly, and the plane left on time, which is always a plus. The Airbus 320’s economy section was divided into two rows of three seats each; with sufficient space in the middle to pass by even if you are carrying luggage.
The luggage bins were medium to large sized, so we were able to store our 20-inch carry-on bags and personal bags with no problems.

The red and tan fabric seats in economy, though lightly padded, were pretty comfortable to sit on. The temperature control was adequate, so we did not have to use any blankets.

Why Fly with TAM Airlines seats

Onboard service

On what is a rather short flight of two and a half hours to Rio de Janeiro, TAM Airlines served a delicious ham and cheese sandwich on wheat bread, with grilled pepper and tomatoes.
The beverage choices are all free and included fruit juices (my son LOVED the mango juice) and, to our surprise, wines, beers and hard liquor.

While waiting for the restroom, I saw the flight attendants running back and forth replenishing people’s (including my son with special needs) drinks continuously!

The crew also answered all of our son’s questions in a polite AND extremely friendly manner, and frequently checked in to make sure our son was comfortable. I’d like to extend a special thank you to Monica and Xavier!

Why Fly with TAM Airlines food

Autism travel tips

After notifying the airline in advance of our son’s diagnosis of autism, the representatives at Montevideo airport showed great autism awareness and suggested additional tips to help us with our flight.
Furthermore, one of the people I spoke with knew quite a bit about autism and how to help passengers with disabilities, including knowledge about the gluten free special diets.

You should bring electronic devices and or toys to entertain your child since there are no personal entertainment systems, only overhead TV screens every few rows that broadcast a foreign movie in Portuguese.

 

Why Fly with TAM Airlines drinks

Have you ever flown with TAM Airlines? What was your experience?

 

*It has been announced in March 2013 that TAM will leave the Star Alliance in the second quarter of 2014 and join  Oneworld upon departure.

 

 

Review of Laura Vickers “Flying to see Janet’ book

Review of Laura Vickers "Flying to see Janet' book

Laura Vickers’  book ‘Flying to see Janet’ is by far the best book I have seen about travel written for younger kids with autism.

Over the past decade, I have seen multiple books that have tried to address the topic of autism and travel some more successful than others but most didn’t  manage to describe the airport experience in a simple language easy for most to comprehend.

This well-organized book chronicles the various steps of airline travel in a fun and engaging way that is sure to delight children and their parents alike.

What  you’ll find in ‘Flying to see Janet.’

The soft cover book serves as a ”go to’ manual for parents; answering all those WH questions the kids might have before flying.
Interwoven in the book are concepts that might seem like common sense to many but might be needed to be reiterated to those on the autism spectrum.
Like the notion that there are things you can’t say out loud in today’s day and age described on p.17.”…Even though you might think of a hilarious joke about security, it’s important not to say it out loud because someone might think you are serious” and the useful tips to cope with unpleasant situations – p.25 “Sometimes my ears can feel funny during takeoff and landing …I chew gum or yawn a lot to get them back to normal…”

The book’s storyline starts at the home with the packing stage and continues with the drive to the airport.
It continues with the check-in process, TSA inspection, and the actual flight. The book ends with the passengers’ arrival at the baggage claim.
I liked the fact the book is written in a clear and humorous language suitable for many families with autism; both those who have never flown before as well as for those who could use a quick refresher course.

The eye-catching illustrations add particular value in describing thoughts and feelings that can help prepare the travelers with autism face unexpected events like turbulence and lessen their ‘anxiety levels as described on page p.29.
“…Fun! I feel like I am on a school bus traveling on a bumpy dirt road” as well as maintain their interest reading the paperback book…”

The book highlights

My particular favorites were the different visual techniques mentioned to occupy bored kids; like looking out for the art in airports (p.15) as well as Peggy Wargelin’s (the book’s illustrator and parent to an autistic daughter) tips for parents at the end of the book that many readers will find quite practical.

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