On the plane

The thought of enduring a long-haul flight with young children may be enough to put some parents off travel. Let’s be clear – long haul flying with young kids is no picnic. But with the right preparation and in-flight strategy, it won’t be a disaster.

In fact many young children, especially infants, will sleep for hours on end within the soothing cocoon of a plane. However, toddlers can prove more of a challenge to keep content. Adjust your expectations and put yourself in their shoes – its not exactly a piece of cake for them either. As a parent, coming to terms with the fact that you may not get much sleep (or any) will help keep you sane.

So here are my top tips for flying with young children.

  • Planning is everything: This is absolutely key. Choose your airline carefully. Pick an overnight flight. Book the bulkhead seats and a bassinet. Consider ordering special meals so you are all served first. My top pick for a family-friendly airline is Singapore Airlines. I’ve found that the staff are extremely accommodating and attentive – they are on-hand to hold the baby or fetch an extra nappy. An added bonus is that the bassinets are some of the largest offered and can take babies up to 14kgs.
  • Treats, treats and more treats: Now is the time to break out a few of your little one’s favourite things. Bring plenty of surprises and space them out. I’m talking stickers, kids magazines, books, little toys and colouring in. Children’s meals offered on planes can be pretty appalling, so bring plenty of tasty food too.
  • Try to keep a routine: If you’ve booked an overnight flight, you will want to try and settle the kids down to sleep. For us, this means a trip to the loo to brush teeth and change into pyjamas; a drink of milk; stories & songs; and tucking up with a favourite blanket. With any luck, your little darling will drift off into oblivion for a good chunk of the flight. If not, resort to Plan B below.
  • Be prepared to walk the aisles: If sleep is not happening, don’t try and force it – walk the aisles with your little one. Then walk them again. Play with them in the space near the exits. If you are on a larger plane, the stairs to the upper deck provide some entertainment. Your child will love interacting with fellow passengers  – those little moments of shared smiles with strangers as you pace the plane will make the journey just that bit sweeter.
  • Take up offers of help: Long haul flights are usually dotted with grandparents travelling to or from their beloved grandchildren. Or maybe a parent is travelling solo and catches your eye to give that sympathetic look. If people offer to hold your baby while you pop to the loo; get your bag from the overhead locker; or want to provide some impromptu entertainment for your little one – let them! Lots of people love kids and enjoy helping out, so it’s a win-win situation really.

Hopefully these tips will help make that flight a little easier. And always remember – it won’t last forever!

Why not check out my tip tips for time at the airport to help those departure lounge hours fly by.