Long Haul Flights with Children

These days long haul flights are affordable and more and more people are considering 8 hour or longer trips to be the norm.

We flew to Sydney from London last year and I was amazed to see the number of children on the plane. And I mean small children, as in under four years old. It seemed as if halfthe plane belonged in nursery school.

Air travel, like the internet, is simply something that our kids consider to be a part of life. My son no longer even finds it exciting, even the take offs and landings are oldhat. And don’t bother trying to show him the view out of the window, he’s seen the sea from 30,000 feet up before.

But a 2 or 3 hour long flight is not the same as flying for 12, or if you’re brave enough to do London to Perth direct, 17 hours straight. So how do you keep kids happy,content, well fed and properly hydrated whilst asking them to sit still, be good and keep quiet in one tiny little seat for such a long time.

First of all, prepare. I don’t just mean a checklist of what to pack. I mean prepare the kids. Talk to them about the trip, all the fun things you’ll do and great placesyou’ll see when you finally land. Help them understand that they have to make sure to get enough sleep, eat and drink properly on the plane if they want to avoid jet lagand get the most out their holiday.

Have them help choose what games to take, let them pick the books and pack their own mini bags. Talk to them about why it’s best to take toys that don’t have lotsof little pieces. Try to make sure they have several different things to do and read. 12 hours is a long, long time when you have to stay in one spot. I am not a fan of gameboysor Nintendo DS but a long haul flight is one time they come in soooo handy.

Most newer planes will have sophisticated entertainment systems. My husband and son spent hours playing games against each other on the Singapore Airlines flight out from London.But on the return flight we ended up on a slightly older plane which only had movies, no games, email or chatting between seats. So even if you’re travelling with an upmarketairline such as Singapore or Virgin be prepared for older planes and bring your own entertainment.

Now, what about food and drink. You can’t possibly bring enough snacks and drinks for a long haul flight so your little ones will have to partake of what the airline cateringhas on offer. A lot of airlines will let you choose a children’s meal. However, I would advise caution here. Our meal on Singapore Airlines was delicious (best prawns I’dhad up to that point) but the child’s meal I had booked for our son was horrid, nothing but sugar and fat. He didn’t touch it. The main benefit to booking a child’smeal is your child is served first. The downside is that they will probably be ready to use the toilet just as you’re being served your own meal.

The golden rule of eating and drinking on a plane is lots of water and as little sugar as possible. Keep your kids away from sugary drinks but make sure they drink plenty ofwater and fruit juice. An airplane ride is the one time I absolutely insist on my son drinking water.

Try to time the toilet breaks to coincide with the breaks in refreshment serving. Everyone else will head to the toilet as soon as the meals or snacks have been cleared away. Sotry to get your child to take toilet breaks before meals and drinks are served. My son is now so good at timing his toilet breaks that he hardly ever has to stand in the queue.

Noise and movement are difficult for some children and you will get some people who aren’t very nice about a noisy child, especially when they’ve not been able to sleep for14 hours become of him/her. Thankfully, really rotten children and really horrid adults are rare. In all the flights I’ve been on I’ve only come across 2 little boys(brothers) that were from the pits of Hell. But they were enough, all of a sudden I understood why some adults give my son dirty looks when we’re in the queue waiting to boardthe plane. They’ve met the brothers from Hell too.

My son has never been allowed to run around the plane, jump up and down, bang on the seat in front, yell or otherwise disturb the other passengers. He is encouraged to walkup and down the aisles, look out the windows, watch movies, play games, read books, have a nap, talk to us about the holiday and stay busy doing quiet, calm activities.

On the flight from London to Sydney via Singapore none of the dozens of tiny people gave us cause to complain. Their parents walked around with them a lot, took them to stand nearthe doors so they could move around and generally kept them busy. So it can be done. Unrulely children are a pain to be in the air with and no one will thank you for the experience.

So to sum up: Talk about the trip, let the kids help pick their in flight activities, be firm about noise and encourage them to nap and have plenty of water and juice and then….

Have a fantastic holiday!

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