You’ve bought your airline tickets, scoured the Internet for the best child-friendly accommodation and you’re ready to go. Time to relax and enjoy the holiday, right? Wrong. There is just the little question of the long-haul flight to contend with. Here are our top tips on how to get you and your little ones through it in one piece…
Preparation is key so the more you can do before you arrive at the airport the better
- Choose your seats wisely. Take a good look at the airplane seating plan online and make sure you’re close enough to the toilets so you can get there quickly if your children want to go or you need to change a nappy. You don’t want to get stuck behind an airhostess pushing a trolley all the way up the aisle when your little one is crossing her legs desperate for a wee. But don’t be too close or your children might be woken up from naps by all the door banging. Easy access to the aisle is useful too so you can move around when little legs get bored of sitting still. Your neighbour might get a bit annoyed if you constantly have to disturb them every time you need to get up.
- Pre order a basinet if you have a small baby under 2. Most airplanes only have a few on board so don’t leave it to chance. Remember if your child is under 2 they won’t get their own seat on the plane and will have to be on your lap for the duration of the flight. Also pre-book children’s meals and any special dietary requirements.
- If you want to take a buggy with more than one part you’ll usually need to pay extra to store it in the hold of the plane and the same goes for a car seat. You don’t need to do this for collapsible one-piece strollers – most airlines let you take these right to the gate with you.
- Weigh your luggage. You don’t want to get to the airport and have to pay a fortune for those extra pairs of shoes you packed at the last minute. Buy a luggage scale so you can be sure you’re under the limit.
- Try and make sure everyone has an early night before you travel. A tired mummy and daddy plus tired kids is not a good idea before a long flight.
- Dress wisely – comfort is key for you and the kids. Don’t wear tight fitting clothes that will become restrictive on the flight. Wear layers – the temperature on board can range wildly during a flight form fierce air conditioning to stuffiness so if you have a cardigan you can easily take it on or off. A soft pashmina is also useful to have as you can wrap up in it or use it as an extra blanket for your children. And don’t forget decompression socks to minimise the risk of deep vein thrombosis.
- For a few extra pounds you can buy lounge access at most major UK airports. This means you can have a quiet space to get a drink and a snack before the flight rather than having to fight everyone else to get an overpriced cup of coffee in the main concourse. Most lounges have complimentary food and drink, televisions, WiFi and air conditioning!
- Pack your hand luggage carefully. Always take more nappies and wipes than you need; take two or three dummies in case your little ones decides to throw one under a row of seats during the fight; take a couple of changes of clothes for your children and at least one for you in case of spillages, sickness or just general muckiness; take infant paracetamol/ibuprofen in sachets to make the dosing easy; bring premixed formula and sealed baby food jars or pouches; hand sanitising wipes are great to fight off any germs and a good supply of clean muslins is essential if travelling with a baby. If you have a toddler that likes to be independent, giving them their own hand luggage bag is a good idea. Trunki’s or a little bag with their favourite character on are great fun. Not only will they like carrying/pulling/sitting on it but also they can be involved in packing it up with a few favourite things from home that they can use on the flight. Don’t forget you’ll probably end up carrying it at some point when the novelty wears off so don’t make it too big or heavy!
- A long haul flight can be boring for everyone so if you don’t want tantrums and tears it’s best to try and pack enough to keep the kids entertained. For babies there isn’t much you can do except hope they sleep so bring familiar things to help soothe them – a sleeping bag if they use one, a cd of favourite lullabies, a beloved cuddly toy or blanket. For older children it’s all about variety. Buy a few new things to surprise them with on the flight – it doesn’t have to be expensive items but a new sticker book, magazine or colouring book mid flight may just be a lifesaver. Activity books are a good bet as they usually have stickers, colouring and games to keep kids entertained. Although most flights have some sort of inflight entertainment system, if you kids are fussy, a personal DVD player or iPad you can load with their favourite TV shows or films will really help the hours go quicker. And if they won’t share one or don’t like the same programmes, you might have to invest in one each. Remember to bring children’s earphones – fellow passengers are unlikely to want to hear Peppa Pig on loop for five hours…
- Pack plenty of snacks to keep the children fuelled up in between meals. Avoid too many sugary treats as this can over stimulate and may lead to crazy kids in the aisles. Try breadsticks, crackers, rice cakes, fruit and raisins and make sure you all have plenty of water to drink as the cabin air pressure can lead to dehydration.
You can also read What to pack for a long haul flight with kids?