When preparing for your flight, keep these things in mind.
If at all possible, avoid arriving during the Oil & Gas Exhibition held on September 6-8, 2011 as it will be extremely difficult to find any accommodation in Aberdeen around those dates.
There are no direct flights from the US to Aberdeen. Most connecting flights go through London Heathrow. Some, however, go through London Gatwick, Manchester, Amsterdam, or Paris.
Many of the larger airports, especially Heathrow, are extremely busy and have long lines and security checkpoints. You will have to go through both security and customs for your connecting flight, so make sure you allow yourself plenty of time (as a general rule, 2 hours is usually sufficient).
Immigration within the UK is similar to that as in the US. Be sure to have your passports with visas for each family member, along with your letter of acceptance from the university ready for the immigration officer to see. Be prepared for a photo to be taken of you and members of your family as you pass through immigration. Again, immigration laws within the UK are currently changing and being updated so take all precautions to ensure you have all the documents you need.UK customs is not as formal as it is in the US. There is an area where if you have something to claim, officers will be present to handle your situation, but more than likely you won’t even realise you went through customs!
Check with your airline to see what their luggage allowance is. Every airline has different regulations on size, weight, and number of pieces permitted, including carry-on luggage. Recently UK security has been enforcing hand luggage size. Many wheeled hand luggage bought in the US can be larger than the allowed limit within the UK. These rules and regulations change frequently, so it’s a good idea to check and then recheck shortly prior to your date of departure.
Also, while it may be more cost effective to book different legs of your flight to Aberdeen separately, it may actually cost more in the end due to your last leg being considered a “domestic flight” versus being part of an international itinerary. This can become particularly relevant when calculating the cost of any excess or overweight baggage you may have. Domestic flights within the UK tend to have great restrictions on the amount and weight of baggage you may have, and normally have significantly increased prices for excess baggage weight. Please check each airline’s guidelines carefully. If you do book separate flights, consider flying with British Airways within the UK as they are more generous with their luggage allowance than some other airlines.
If you have a connecting flight within the UK to Aberdeen it helps to know the airports operate differently than in the US. Often they will not give a gate assignment for a certain flight until roughly 30-45 minutes before the flights scheduled departure. They instead “hold” everyone in a large area surrounded by shops and restaurants. It is your responsibility to check the flight departures monitors to determine when your flight has been assigned a gate. Once assigned it is wise to go promptly to your departure gate.
When buying international tickets, make sure you check out www.vayama.com which specializes in international travel and www.kayak.co.uk (UK site) or www.kayak.com (US site) which serves as a search engine (from all of the best airline websites) for the lowest fares available.
On flights to the US, even though you may have already gone through security in Aberdeen, if you are making another connecting flight outside of the US, you may have to go through it again.
Wherever your first point of entry into the US is, whether it is your final destination or not, you will have to pick up your checked baggage and go through customs there. You won’t have to do it again once you reach your final destination because you are then on a domestic flight.
Flying with children
Here are some helpful hints from parents who have flown trans-Atlantic with children before.
Children under the age of two qualify for an infant or “lap child” ticket. On international flights, these are not free. They are, however, usually offered at a significantly discounted price (usually a percentage of the regular adult fare). E-tickets are not issued for infants. They receive only paper tickets.
If you would like a little bit of extra space, call your airline a few days before your departure and request a “bulk head” seat. These special seats at the front of each new section on the aircraft (usually right behind the lavatories) give you more leg room to deal with you child(ren) and all th
e extra stuff that travels with them! Bulk head seats are not usually assigned further ahead than 1 or 2 days prior to the travel date, so although you can put in a “request” for one when you make your reservation, you aren’t guaranteed one. Those traveling with infants are usually given priority, however, as this is the only spot from which the airline provided baby bassinet can hang. If you forget to call in advance, arrive at the airport plenty early and request one at the check-in counter.
Baby food and milk/formula/juice are permitted in a quantity that directly corresponds with the length of your flight. U.S. security will not require you to taste the food. However, you may be asked to do so when you go through foreign security (London Heathrow is especially strict).
Most airlines allow for one carry-on bag/diaper bag (or hand baggage as it’s called here in the UK) for your infant as well as a collapsible stroller that you can check at the gate. Make sure you bring a compact, lightweight, easy-to-fold stroller since you will have to take your child out of it and send it through the scanner at the varying security check-points. Check with your airline to find out if your infant (lap child) is allowed any checked baggage. If they are, it will usually be one very small bag.
Many children get motion sickness from plane turbulence and landing. It is a good idea to pack a change of clothes for your child as well as you in case they get sick on you.
Bring lots of wet wipes and extra snacks for the plane. Quiet toys, books, a portable DVD player with DVDs are good ways to help keep your child occupied for the long trip.
Anecdotally, it takes one day for every hour of time difference to adjust to jetlag. Try putting your child to bed at the “normal” time based on the new time zone. They will very likely get up in the middle of the night for quite a few nights in a row (as do many adults). Play quietly, read books, watch a short movie, offer a little snack and drink if they seem like they want one, keep the lights low and the activities calm. Try putting them back to bed after a couple of hours. Allow them to sleep in as late as they want the first morning back, but continuing to move up “wake-up” time a little bit earlier each subsequent morning. This will help them and you get back on track faster. Try to hold off as long as you can on naps during the day, but don’t push it. Having an overtired child only makes bedtime that much more difficult. Also, for a few days you may have to wake your child from their nap as it may feel like “bedtime” in their disoriented state. Hang in there! This too shall pass.
The airport is located on the northwest side of the city about 25 minutes from the city center. The airport itself is small and easy to navigate and has recently been renovated. There are no formal customs at the Aberdeen Airport. Once you collect your luggage, you are free to go. Luggage carts are available to use for free.
Taxis & Car Hire
The taxi queue at the airport is located immediately across the street and to the left. There is always an abundance of larger sized vans to accommodate multiple pieces of luggage. Children are not required to sit in a car seat in a taxi. Depending on your final destination, number of occupants, and pieces of luggage, your taxi fare may run anywhere from £20 or more per vehicle. If you are leaving during high traffic times, expect to pay quite a bit more as well. Don’t forget to pack £ cash for this expense. A tip of £2-4 is a nice gesture, though sometimes it is added into the price quoted.