Summer time means…vacations! While the actual vacation itself is absolutely wonderful, sometimes getting there is a little less so when you have kids. My parents live in Karachi, Pakistan and if I were to fly direct, that is a 14-hour flight. So when I see guides on how to survive a ‘long haul’ flight that is only 5 hours long, I actually laugh out loud. The good news is that it is doable, you just have to be prepared! And if you are, then honestly it can actually be really FUN! So here are 12 tips for long flights with kids to get you on your way to a better travel experience.
Tips for Long Haul Travel with Kids
- Prep the Kids
Before you travel talk the journey up, make it sound fun because it totally can be. If you have little ones then maybe show them a video of the inside of a plane so they know what to expect. If it is a long trip with layovers get them prepared for it. We like to “explore” airports that we have layovers in.
- Dress for it
Mamas & Papas that means you and your tots need to be comfortable. Cute plane pics are adorable, but if your kid can’t sleep in what they’re wearing then the flight won’t go well! What should mama wear to be cute and comfy? Check out this pinterest board for ideas. As for the kids, mine usually wear leggings, a long sleeved tee and a hoodie with socks and easy to put on shoes. An extra outfit (or two) is a must for little ones!
- What to Carry
So how much should you be carrying on you? While that will vary by person here is what I always have. There is one large handbag with lots of pockets that I keep with me on the plane and one large duffel bag with a long strap that can hang off the stroller when I am off the plane. When we are on board that duffel bag stays in the overhead compartment. I let the kids carry their backpacks if they insist, but keep it light. There are lots of what to pack lists so I will resist the urge to share mine, but here it one key tip. Make a list of what is in each bag and keep it handy so that later on you aren’t frantically foraging for that extra pair of socks!
- To Bassinet or not to Bassinet
If you have an infant who will comfortably sleep in the bassinet have at it. Both my girls outgrew the bassinet well before they turned two and we were better off asking to sit where they weren’t surrounded by other children and had a TV screen they could easily access.
- Security Screening
I get asked quite often what I do with the girls while we are going through security. When they were babies I would put down a scarf or a shawl in the plastic bins provided and put the baby in there until I was able to pick her back up. Now that the girls are bigger they stand to the side while I do what I need to. Just let the kids know what to expect so that they don’t ask a million questions while you’re in the middle of things!
- Plane Action Plan
Drop your stroller off at the gate, confirm that you will get it at the gate when you land and make sure you do! Get the kids on the plane in their seats and then put your stuff away. Non-necessary items go in the overhead bin and necessary items go under the seat in front of you. Make sure you have enough blankets and pillows, grab extras if possible. Scope out the bathrooms, make sure they go before takeoff and before meal times because it gets busy after. If there is a window seat and you have two kids then divide the time the kids get sitting by the window. My kids like the timer on the phone. Talk to them about air pressure changes during takeoff and what to do. Most of all be EXCITED! You’re FLYING!
- Tie up the Toys
If your kids are the train playing, rattle shaking age then tie the toys to the armrest with a string so you don’t spend all your time furtively hunting on the ground. Also airplane ground, eww.
- Be Toy Smart
Only take what you know will be a hit. A few surprise toys are cute, but keep it manageable. Remember you’re carrying all this stuff. A few of our faves are printable domino cards/memory games, sticky notes/washi tape, age appropriate printable activity sheets, triangular crayons that won’t roll off the tray table, etc. If your kids have a favourite blankie or stuffie then those are a must. In fact if you can buy a second and stick it in your suitcase to be safe. If you want some activity inspiration then look right here!
- Screen Time
Do you know how excited you got when you didn’t have kids and travelled and could watch any one of a zillion things? Well your kids feel that way too – let them live it up! Just remember airline headphones aren’t kid friendly so we bring our own over ear headphones. A genius mama suggested acquiring a dual headphone jack for an iPad so that the kids can share. For mamas of tots using a YouTube downloader to download some of their favourite nursery rhymes is a great idea. Ain’t nobody judging here.
When I get on the flight, 60% of what I am carrying is food. This is not a joke. My kids – most kids – get really hungry on planes. I mentally pack 4 categories of food. Fruit/Veg that will hold up for a few hours – whole bananas, apples, grapes, carrots, cucumbers, cut peppers, etc Healthier snacks that will fill them up – yogurt containers (w disposable spoons), cheerios, mini PB sandwiches, rice cakes, nuts. I even once took chicken fingers that my mom made.
Then comes the fun stuff – chips, treats etc. I try to keep them in moderation, but I want travelling to be as fun for the kids as possible and they look forward to their treats. Just keep the serving size reasonable – the mini candies at party stores are great! All this food goes in disposable packing or containers that I can put one inside the other if needed. Also, it cannot be said enough, but make sure you keep the kids hydrated. Take water bottles and refill over the course of the flight. They will feel much better and it is totally worth the extra bathroom trips!
11. The Sleep Schedule
Lots of mixed opinions here. If I have a layover then I want the kids to sleep so that they’re reasonably well rested when they land. That way they can stretch their legs and can walk in the airport. Sorry, I meant explore and have adventures!Other than that I am lax about bedtimes when we are on flights because that’s part of the charm. My kids have ‘tells’ – the way their eyes change colour, the tug of the ear and then I know it’s time for them to sleep. Oh and parents, sleep when you can. It makes everything else easier. That movie can be seen another day.
12. Me Things
When you travel with young kids a lot of the experience becomes about them. We want our kids to feel like travelling is wonderful, but you know what? Mama needs to say sane. So first of all I always travel with chocolate, the good kind because there is usually one moment on the flight where I really need it. Other things to carry – a soft scarf or shawl to keep you cozy or double as a pillow, hand cream, a little makeup, snacks for yourself, portable phone charger, and visine if you have dry eyes.
Bonus Tip: Breathe
If your kid is having a meltdown remember it is loudest for you. No matter how rough a flight gets (or how quickly you go through your chocolate stash) remember this too shall pass. Forgive yourself and your little ones. Breathe again.
I hope these travel tips help you on your next big adventure! If you have any great travel tips then share them in the comments section below. We are always looking for good ideas!