The Ultimate Guide to Long Haul Flights with Kids
Booking a long haul flight with kids is always going to be daunting but we’re big believers fear shouldn’t stop us from having amazing adventures with our families. Here are our top tips on how to survive (and even thrive!) when taking a long haul holiday with children:
Choose the right flight
Reduce stress by choosing the right flight for your family. A flight which takes over 12+ hours will have some daytime hours, but if you can work with their sleep cycle and book a flight at night – this could win you the ability to relax for a while. Even if your child only gets 5-6 hours sleep, think how much closer you’ll be to your destination when they wake up! Take pjs for a night flight so they get the sense of going to bed.
For those of you with children still young enough they can sit on your lap, it’s definitely worth considering buying them a seat for a long haul flight. Yes, it’s an additional cost but the ability to put them down to sleep (or bounce about as they will inevitably need to) will be worth every penny.
When you pick your seats, consider the bulkheads (the wall dividing sections of the aircraft). This is a good spot for families as you get extra legroom and there aren’t seats in front to worry about the children kicking!
It's worth looking up your seats if you can choose. This is a helpful place to do this: https://www.seatguru.com/
Another top tip: give yourself the luxury of travelling in low season (ie, outside of the school holidays!). You’re much more likely to find emptier planes with empty seats to stretch out in without paying extra. Not guaranteed, but more likely.
Plan your hand luggage wisely
The kids are going to be a job in themselves so you want to minimise the stress in every other area possible! This includes making your hand luggage as manageable as you can.
- Work out the number of nappies and bottles you’ll need, then add a few spares in case you’re delayed.
- Plan enough baby food, baby milk and sterilised water for the journey and don’t worry about it being over 100ml, as a parent you are allowed to take enough for your baby’s journey.
- Pack a light change of clothes for everyone in the family, because you never know when you could have a spillage or sick-up an need to be fresh for the rest of the flight. Roll up tight to minimse space needed in your bag.
- Keep all your travel documents together in a waterproof folder so you won’t have any bottle leaks all over important papers.
- Pack plenty of wipes for sticky hands, nappy changes, spills etc and a roll of toilet paper. We always use lots of tissue some how or another!
- Take a lightweight blanket or pashmina for an on the go cover when you need to wrap up from airport air conditioning.
- Make sure you have calpol, teething gel and any other essential medicines for onboard. You don’t want to get mid-air and realise your child is uncomfortable with none of their usual remedies to help.
- Pop all your different items into sandwich bags so you can quickly see what you need quickly and easily. Consider getting a toiletry bag with a hook or suction pad so you can hold up on the wall or the seat in front when you are doing changes. This option from Muji looks great.
Finally, load up on the snacks! These you can never have too many of.
Keeping them entertained
Whether you’ve got toddlers or big kids, or both, you’re going to need plenty of ways to keep them entertained on a long haul flight! Start by remembering that flying is captivating in itself. Try to do your best to shake off airport stress and look at things from their eyes… The huge airport terminals, the conveyor belts to ride on, the chance to watch planes take off – and then the sky views themselves! Be mindful and have fun bringing out the joy in it all.
Next up – make sure you have a surprise bag full of little presents and activities new to them. The idea being everything should keep their attention for as long as possible. For a pre-filled option take a look at Keep Em Quiet packs and Busy Bot bags. We also highly recommend PlayHOORAY’s Journey playPROMPTS designed to make all sorts of travel fun for your little ones.
It might also be worth packing their favourite teddy and blanket in the hand luggage - if you can bare the added responsibility of making sure it gets home again! This will be a real comfort when it’s time for them to sleep onboard or anytime they’re feeling unsure.
Don’t forget to charge up the smart tech too. A tablet will be a life saver! Even if you have good intentions of going completely screen-free, be realistic and allow yourself the option. If they’re too tiny to play games, you can benefit from nursery rhymes or pre-downloaded CBeebies.
If you are packing smart tech, wireless headphones for the kids are another must!
Tips for the airport
- Keep your pram gate-side for as long as possible. Even if your child seems happy at check out, allow yourself the option to contain them and give their little legs a rest at a later point! If they don’t use it, it might come in handy for pushing your hand luggage around too.
- If you have a toddler who finds it hard to stick by you, a backpack with reins is a smart choice. There’s nothing scarier than losing track of your child for even a moment, so reduce the likelihood of this happening in a busy airport. We love this multicolour design from Mini Kids.
- Did you know you can pre-order baby milk and all medicines from Boots to pick-up at some UK airports? Find out which airports have this service here.
- Make lots of toilet stops even if they don’t need the loo. Having your children ‘try’ may just stop you having to do a mad dash to the bathroom before boarding.
Tips for keeping comfortable on the plane
- Book at least one window seat for your party so your children can take it in turns to look at the window and marvel at the clouds or the tiny towns below.
- Don’t be afraid to ask from help! Try to forget about upsetting fellow travellers and remember that a lot of people love kids and will enjoy seeing your family having this special experience together. If you happened to have a friendly couple behind you who keep making your child smile, don’t be afraid to ask if it’s OK if your little one keeps climbing around to see them and let them carry on. If cabin crew aren’t busy and you happen to see a member of staff grinning at your baby, ask if they’d like a hold and chat - so you can stretch out and have a drink without worrying about it being knocked over.
- Use pretend play to prepare your child for their flight in advance. Act out what typically happens on board to ease any anxieties and help them better understand what to expect.
Plus, don’t forget to pack a great kids hat to keep little heads protected when you step off the plane! 😉 Shop our collection here now.
Do you know any other families planning a long haul trip this year? Why not share this article and ease the stress of travel with kids. They’ll thank you for it!
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