Taking long plane trips with our kids is as common as hopping on a bus back home. So with the summer looming, we’ve gathered some useful advice from mums who have been there - and survived! With a bit of planning, careful packing and a sprinkle of luck, your journey can be pain-free!
Buy an extra seat
When possible, and funds permitted, once our babies outgrew the on-board bassinet we always bought an extra plane seat and took our car seat on-board. Our sons were used to their car seat so felt comfortable, and they were securely and safely buckled in at all times. It meant they, and us, could enjoy a good sleep - perfect on night flights. If we had a window seat, we would always put the car seat next to the window which kept the toddler entertained during take-off and landing.
Samantha Comboy Hearn
Older kids love films
With a teenager and an 11-year-old, they are happy if there is a device attached to their body: iPad, phone, etc. Airlines that have a great movie selection and other forms of entertainment help a lot! Choose an airline that has a good entertainment system as this tends to keep them busy. Having lots of snacks for them also directs their attention from any sort of boredom.
Take spare clothes
Always take spare clothes! I thought my four-year-old didn’t need them any more as they have never been used during our last five trips. This time, she threw up all over herself! Also, most airlines are generous about how many hand luggage bags you have when you have little ones.
Take snacks and activities
I just travelled with my five-year old and three-year-old twins alone to the UK. I took snacks, but nothing with too high a sugar content: mini boxes of breakfast cereal, popcorn, cheese and sticks, yoghurt and fruit. When it got to bed time, I put them into their pajamas and got the popcorn out to have a ‘movie night’. I also pack each of them an activity pack with pencils, stickers, paper, puzzles, cars or some loom bands. Lastly, always go to the loo before you board!
Use the airline staff
I recently travelled to Australia with my four-month-old and the air hostesses were great in holding my little one when I needed a break, or to go to the toilet.
Monica Barten Adams
Use a ‘sky nanny’, and take sticker books
Etihad Airways has a dedicated sky-nanny on board for every flight! A great help, especially if you need a few minutes to eat your meal or visit the bathroom. Take sticker and colouring books as they are great for toddlers, especially if you are trying to avoid too much television or iPad time.
Wally and a lolly
Before iPads, we had ‘Wally and a lolly’ for all trips! So a Where’s Wally book to keep them entertained and a lolly for sore ears. We made it into a ritual at the airport for children to choose the book and lolly. Mine are older now, so I send them as unaccompanied minors to their grandparents and my partner and I sneak off for a cheeky few days somewhere - there is light at the end of the tunnel!
Take a bag in a bag
I have a bag-within-a-bag so the big one goes in the overhead locker with things like changes of clothes and half the snacks. The smaller bag is at our feet with things needed throughout the flight. I still use a sling, as the kids get older, as on my last trip it meant I could carry my two and a half year old while her big sister sat in the buggy for the two am hour-long queue at customs when we were all tired and grumpy.
Don’t avoid travelling
We have travelled long-haul since our son was one year old, his first flight was to the UAE. He now complains if flights are shorter than nine hours as he doesn’t get to watch television! For smaller children, I would always dress them in onesies as they are comfortable, especially for a night flight.
Switch straight to local time
Sometimes there is nothing worse than having a baby/toddler with you who wants to sleep all day and play all night because their time zones are messed up. We move to local time straight away (unless we are only travelling with an hour or so difference and then we keep him on our time so he will stay awake later) and the easiest way we have found to do this is to allow extra naps so he will make it through to bedtime, or to not let him nap so he will get to bedtime and it won’t be too late depending on whether we are going forward or backwards in time!
Have faith in them
I’m a mum of four and my advice is to have faith in your kids. They will probably behave better than you imagine and if you’re not stressed, they have no stress to feed off. Don’t be afraid to ask for help!