Today for the first time we attended the Royal International Air Tattoo in Fairford, Gloucestershire. We had a thoroughly enjoyable day and can definitely foresee it becoming an annual family event. I’ve shared our top ten tips for attending RIAT with kids below.
I have to admit prior to our visit today I was a little apprehensive, worried that my husband would bore me all day long with ‘interesting’ plane facts. I happily agreed to attend the event because I knew our two little plane crazy boys would love the opportunity to spend a day exploring planes and watching air stunts.
Hand on heart I have to say we had the most incredible day. The eight hour flying display performed by crew and aircraft from around the world was, as you would expect from the world’s greatest airshow, spectacular! The show promised an “extravaganza of entertainment for all the family” and it truly did deliver. We all thoroughly enjoyed going onboard the various aircraft and talking with the crew.
It was great fun to see the excitement on Charlie and Harry’s faces when they were watching the air show, particularly the aerobatics display and close formation flying by the Red Arrows. The highlight of their day however was sitting in the cockpit of a Red Arrow shortly after the jets returned to the ground. Charlie said afterwards that he thought the jet was going to take off whilst they sat in the pilot’s seat and start doing stunts!
Our 10 top tips for a memorable family day out at The Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT)
1. Set off early. We were five miles away from the airfield at 9.30am. Unfortunately we then sat in traffic for over an hour. We parked up at 10.45am and stayed until after 6pm however we had barely scratched the surface of the entertainment on offer. There is so much to see and do, you need to allocate a full day to the event to experience everything. The event opens at 7.30am so if you are an early riser make the most of it and beat the queues! (FYI – We only experienced a short delay on the return journey home. Many visitors left after the Red Arrows display which helped to stagger the traffic flow).
2. Pack an extra layer. The airfield is open to the elements and therefore it was windy all day today. Although the sun was shining we had our jackets on for the majority of the day and would definitely recommend packing an extra layer.
3. Pack ear defenders. The noise from the jets going overhead is deafening. Young children need ear defenders which can be picked up cheaply from DIY stores (although they were also being sold at the event for just £5).
4. Pick a good spot to watch the air show. We sat in a large grassy viewing area, between the Breitling Marquee and the First Class area, which was perfect as it was a central spot for watching the air show. We had standard entry tickets which did not permit us entrance into the viewing village however we still felt that we had a great view. There are several different tickets available to the Air Tattoo, more details can be found here
5. Be sure to review the air display flying times. As soon as we arrived we checked out the flight display times of the aircraft we (my husband!) particularly wanted to see – the V22 Osprey, A400M, F-35 Lightning II (which hovered in front of the crowds and is definitely one not to miss!) F22 Raptor, the Breitling Wing Walkers and of course the Red Arrows. It would be very easy to miss the highlights if you don’t check out the flight display times in advance as it is difficult to hear the tannoy announcements from other exhibits around the air field.
6. Talk to the crew, they are very friendly! We stopped and spoke to lots of crew today and found every person we spoke to friendly, chatty and welcoming. Charlie and Harry loved having their photos with various pilots who were happy to pose with them when we asked. The organisers of the Royal International Air Tattoo strive to ‘develop a spirit of air-mindedness in youngsters’ which certainly worked with Charlie who has now decided he wants to be a Red Arrow pilot when he is older:)
7. Take a picnic. There are food stalls dotted around the airfield although if you wish to save yourself some money pack a picnic. We used the food stalls for extra treats i.e. ice cream and hot drinks. Most people at the event had taken picnic chairs and blankets. (If you wish to you can even drop chairs etc off in the Drop Zone free of charge when you have finished using them).
8. Prepare for the worst. As you enter the event there are tables set up with wrist bands and pens. Write your mobile number on your child’s wrist band in case they get lost in the crowds.
9. Pack hand sanitiser. The portable loos were kept very clean but hand sanitiser always comes in handy when you do not have access to running water:)
10. Check out the RAF village. In addition to getting up close to the Red Arrows, the stands also give out Red Arrow flags and booklets. Kids can also go onboard an ambulance and talk to various emergency services crew too. The RAF village is located at the far end of the air field, to save little legs from getting tired jump on the shuttle bus service.
Disclaimer – We purchased our own tickets for this event, we have shared our experience as we truly believe it is a well organised and inspiring event for families to attend. All opinions are as always our own.
Copyright – All photos copyright Travel Loving Family