As the mother of 3 young children, I’m the first to say long haul flights are challenging but usually they’re nowhere near as bad as people expect … if you plan. It’s unlikely you’ll be the sole family on the plane. Around one in twenty passengers booking flights with Expedia is a child. That’s roughly 22 kids on a full flight aboard a 747. Still worried about a long haul flight with your young children? Here are a few tips to help you survive:
Travel at night
I can’t promise your children will sleep but there’s a much greater chance that they will. Aim for a flight that takes off around their normal bedtime. Engine vibrations can be very soothing.
Food is your friend
As soon as you book a child’s ticket with Expedia, the airline is notified and a request for a kid’s meal is put on the system. However, don’t assume your children will like the food or that it will be delivered when your kids actually want to eat. I strongly recommend packing an endless supply of favourite, non-messy foods. Long haul flights are not the time to worry about a balanced diet, but steer clear of too many sweets – too much sugar for a child who needs to sit still for hours on end is not a good combination. Good foods to pack are: Vegemite sandwiches, apples, dried fruit, muesli bars and individual mini packets of chips or biscuits.
Toys and activities
Pack toys/activities that have a long entertainment value so you’re not carrying the whole toy box. Try crayons, sticker sheets, finger puppets, a favourite doll or teddy, story books. If your children are old enough to manage their own bag, it’s great for them to have their own stash toys too. Don’t put anything “brand new” in this bag … keep that tucked in your hand luggage to reveal when you really need it!
How did we ever travel without tablets, smartphones or portable DVD’s? Although many airlines provide great kids entertainment, it’s always good to have your own preloaded with kiddie favourites. Don’t worry about “screen time” – if watching hours of TV or playing games keeps them happy, let it be.
The better prepared you are, the easier the trip will be. Extra items to carry in your hand luggage include a change of clothes for everyone including you, lots of nappies and wipes (even if kids aren’t in nappies), paracetamol (kids get sick unexpectedly), a warm top or little blanket (plane air-conditioning can be cold).
Share the load
Long haul flights are easier with both parents to manage moments like meal time. Try taking shifts on/off duty. It really helps your patience levels if you’ve had a rest too. The age and number of children you have has a big impact on how this works. I recommend discussing this idea with your partner before you embark.
Create routine then go with the flow
For younger children it can really help to have a sense of routine and to segment the flight – play time, meal time, story time, sleep time, stretching time, TV time etc. However don’t push too hard to get kids to eat and sleep when you think they should. Planes are a strange environment and long haul flights can put them out of kilter. Go with the flow when needed and adapt to where your child seems to be at. You can get back into routines later.
Expect the best, prepare for the worst
Finally, I firmly believe in “expecting the best but preparing for the worst” when travelling with children. Genuinely expect that your children are going to get lots of sleep on the flight, they will be happy and not fight with their siblings, no food will be spilt, and that you will manage some sleep too. A positive outlook goes a long way to creating happy travel. Think of long haul flights as an adventure, keep your sense of humour intact and remind yourself there’s a great holiday waiting when you get off the plane!
Check out Expedia’s Flights for trips close and far away from home.