15 secrets to flying long haul with babies and children

23 November 2016

15 secrets to flying long haul with babies and children

Will you and your baby get a wink of sleep on an 18-hour flight? Should you take snacks for your little one? And how on earth will you manage to occupy your toddler for the entire 24-hour flight?!

Flying long haul brings with it a whole set of new questions for parents, doesn’t it? And travelling with babies and toddlers on a long flight can feel really daunting.

Don’t worry, though, as you’re not alone. Almost every parent we know has the same worries about flying long haul with little ones.

As the festive season approaches, many of us will make those long journeys across the globe to see our families and friends. And to help you with your travels, we found out our travel experts’ top tips for surviving a long haul flight with toddlers and babies. Read on to find out 15 of their secrets to travelling with children!

  1. Create a nappy pack

“Pop one nappy and two or three baby wipes into a nappy bag. Loosely tie up the bag. Create around 10 individual nappy packs. When you need to change your baby’s nappy on the plane, you just pull out one of your nappy packs. Not having to rummage around looking for wipes and nappies makes you feel more organized and relaxed.” Travel Counsellor Jacqui 

  1. Bring a change of clothes for your little one – and you!

“My little one has done 30,000+ miles and he's not yet two. One of my top tips is to take three changes of clothes (we had a disaster on a Rio de Janeiro to London Heathrow flight with a poorly boy, you can imagine the rest!) And warm clothes for everyone - I've found that where the bassinet seats are, is also likely to be where the air con output is!” Travel Counsellor Emily 

  1. Gift wrap your activity packs

“When my children were little - from around 2 years old - I used to fill a small bag with wrapped activity and reading books, pens and small toys so that every half hour or hour they could open one and play with it. It used to keep them busy for ages!” Travel Counsellor Alison 

  1. Don’t forget their favourite toy

“Always make sure that you take their favourite toy, as long as it is small enough to travel with you. Nothing can beat that sense of security of having that favourite “thing” with them when at the airport, on the plane and when you arrive at the hotel and their new bed.” Travel Counsellor Laraine 

  1. Give out gold stars to older children!

“We have travelled to many places with our own kids and little ones that we were looking after in our time of fostering. We used to make our trips quite competitive by giving out gold stars for completed work books and activity books. The child who gets the most stars during the journey would get to choose the first days outing or restaurant. Plan it in advance so that they can see what to expect on arrival at the hotel or destination and then they know about the options.” Travel Counsellor Laraine 

  1. Take a baby carrier or sling

“At bed time, I put my 17-month-old in a baby carrier and walked around until she fell asleep. I was then able to sit down with her all cosy and snug on me.” Travel Counsellor Mim 

A baby carrier is useful when you’re in transit and getting on/off the plane, too: “A baby carrier is great for long distances, as a lot of gates are far away” says Jacqui, while Travel Counsellor Emily agrees that a soft structured baby carrier “makes that last bit of getting on and off much easier when they are strapped to you.”

  1. Ask toddlers to help you pack

“Get your children involved and let them pack a small backpack with toys, new colouring books, new crayons, a teddy and so on. Let them pack a change of clothes and their swimsuits in case your luggage goes missing, as that way they can still get into the pool when you get there. I also find an inflatable pillow goes down well and helps them to sleep.” Travel Counsellor Andre 

  1. Prepare for popped ears

“If you’re travelling with babies, try to make sure you have a bottle available for take-off and landing (or a soother/dummy if they use it) to help their ears to pop.” Travel Counsellor Lorraine 

Don’t forget mints for older children: “My kids call them [mints] ‘toothpaste lollies’ to help make their ears pop on take-off and landing.” Travel Counsellor Tracy 

  1. Pretend it’s bedtime

“I’ve been going back to New Zealand [from Ireland] with my two kiddies from the ages of nine months. They are now seven and 13 years old. I took their little sleepsuits and got them changed and comfortable as if it was bedtime.” Travel Counsellor Sonia 

“Try and keep your routine, get your children to brush their teeth, go to the toilet and put their pjs on before you get them to try and sleep. Their regular routine is just as important on the plane as it is at home. I also found that other passengers got excited knowing that the kids were off to bed - it prompted them to get their own children to sleep.” Travel Counsellor Tracy 

  1. Bring a sheet or blanket from home

“Bring your child’s bedsheet or blanket from home. This will help them to sleep and to make them feel more secure [on the plane].” Travel Counsellor Mary 

  1. Carry an ‘anything’ towel

“I have travelled with infant, baby, and now toddler between Melbourne and Europe, Asia and Japan, and I always take two medium-sized hand towels. You can use them for anything! As a changing mat, a vomit towel, to dry your hands while holding your baby…an ‘anything’ towel!” Travel Counsellor Anne 

  1. Pack a mystery bag

“Get a little backpack for your child and fill it with things they have never seen before, such as little puzzles, small toys like cars or little building kits, colouring books, crayons, puzzle books, story books. Then, depending on the length of the flight, pull out something every hour and do the activity with your child.” Travel Counsellor Paula 

“My children are now aged 7 and 10 but when they were younger, we used to have a bag full of little toys that were new. We’d bring one out for each of them every hour or so depending on the duration and this always helped keep them entertained.” Travel Counsellor Hayley 

  1. Travel overnight

“I would definitely suggest travelling overnight as it is much easier for children to sleep when the cabin lights are off.” Travel Counsellor Eleonora 

“When I travel with my kids on international trips - now 5 years and 2 years, and both boys who are very active - I always try to book night flights. I keep the boys awake during the day to continue with their normal routine and, almost always, the moment we are seated on the flight, they sleep for the duration.” Travel Counsellor Salmah 

  1. Snacks, snacks, and more snacks!

“Their favourite sweets are always a good distraction when they are getting tired and cannot see reason! Avoid sugar-loaded sweets but [try] something healthy that they do enjoy and is still a treat, not a daily occurrence.” Travel Counsellor Laraine 

“You can never have too many snacks packed! The kids may or may not eat the plane food so pack loads. Also remember that when you arrive you may still have 40 minutes to get to your final destination and they are bound to be hungry again.” Travel Counsellor Andre 

“I pack lots of snacks to keep them occupied [on the flight] but mostly salty snacks. I keep the sweet things for just before landing or for the transit so my children can use that time to work off the extra energy.” Travel Counsellor Salmah 

“Take their favourite foods and lots of it - if they eat biscuits for 12 hours it really doesn't matter!” Travel Counsellor Emily 

  1. Avoid flights with long stopovers or try an airport transit hotel

“Don't go for the cheapest flight if it involves a long stopover in an airport - it's just not worth it!” Cathy Burke, Director of Business Development & General Manager, Ireland

“Singapore airport is the best airport to transit with kids – they have the most incredible facilities.” Travel Counsellor Julie, “Babies will sleep whether its day or night but you need sleep - I always took day flights and stayed at the airport transit hotel (airside so no hassle with luggage and immigration) and it saved my sanity this way.”

And if all else fails, don’t forget to keep smiling!

As Travel Counsellor Mandy says: “I have been travelling with my daughter since she was 5 months old - her first flight was to Sydney, so it was a whopper, and her latest flight was to San Francisco (aged eight-and-a-half) and it was a breeze. Take it in your stride and you will find it’s a much more pleasant experience than you imagined. Think of the world of adventure you are introducing your children to and, if all else fails, keep smiling!”

Are there any other top tips you have for flying long haul with children? We’d love to hear about them! Don’t forget to tell us your travel tips on our Facebook page.

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