Travel with Pre-School Kids: 10 Reasons to Do It

Flying Long Haul With Kids: My Top Tips

Flying Long Haul With Kids: My Top Tips

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At the beginning of our one month adventure around Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia

Top tips for flying long haul with kids was one of my most common google searches as we planned our big trip. The prospect of flying long haul with kids is enough to make many stick to the sub-five hour flight safety of Europe forever. We wondered on many an occasion if we were doing the right thing when the kids were still little enough to be pretty unpredictable in the absence of their usual daily routine.

But you know what? My experience of flying long haul with kids was far easier than I ever anticipated. At the time of writing, my kids were four and nearly three. It was my youngest that I was most concerned about – he’s a screamer if he doesn’t get his own way and he doesn’t have a concentration span to sit through more than about 45 minutes of television (unlike my daughter, who is a tv addict – which came in very handy on a long haul flight).

So here are my top tips for flying long haul with kids:

  1. Night flights are your friend – the flight for our big trip took off at 21:00 which worked really well for us. After the excitement of boarding and take off had worn off, both kids were ready for a sleep. Our flight was not full so Jez and I had one child each in a row of four which meant we were all able to stretch out and catch some shut eye, especially the kids.  Bring your own blankets to give the kids a sense of home.
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    The first flight wasn’t full so we could all stretch out

  2. Consider breaking the flight – you save money and it might help unsettled sleepers bank a few more hours. Our flight to Bangkok was with Oman Air and was a seven hour flight to Muscat with a one hour stopover followed by just short of six hours from Muscat to Bangkok. Splitting it up like this unexpectedly worked to our advantage. The kids probably got about four or five hours sleep on the first leg and about three or four on the second leg. It meant that when we arrived in Bangkok, we were able to adjust to local time (early evening) reasonably easily.
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    Off the runway at Oman airport and five hours into our 13 hour flight

  3. Invest in the Fly Legs Up – I’d seen some really good reviews for the Fly Legs Up before we went on our trip and thought I couldn’t do without it! It worked really well for us. It’s basically a contraption that attaches to the tray in front of your child’s seat and creates a hammock for three blow up cushions.   Once set up, it transforms your child’s seat into a bed where they can lie flat (depending on their length) and get a proper sleep on the plane. It’s not bulky or heavy to carry at all and can be attached to the outside of your carry on luggage if needed. For us, it was small enough to slip inside one of our bags.  We got lucky with a lot of our flights insofar as the flights weren’t busy and we could stretch out.  On a busy flight though, the Fly Legs Up is an essential travel companion if you’re travelling with kids.
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    Jasper settling down with the Fly Legs Up

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    And… he’s asleep!

  4. Get your tech ready – my husband spent HOURS downloading films and favourite TV programmes from Netflix and apps for this big journey. I used a lot of recommendations from The Guardian listed here.  This came in handy on all flights as well as during the holiday when the kids needed some downtime or we needed some peace and quiet.  My mum was upgrading her iPad and kindly donated her old one to us.  It was SO useful for the kids to have one each as it reduced the risk of hundreds of arguments.
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    The kids had an iPad each thanks to Granny’s donation

  5. Get your kids their own headphones – this tip should probably be at the top of the list as they really reduced the risk of tantrums. One thing I didn’t know before is that in-flight entertainment begins practically as soon as you get on the plane and continues until after landing. By contrast, the headphones provided by the airline often aren’t handed out until after take off and are collected before landing. We got these ones from Amazon which come in lots of different colours, are light and fit little heads perfectly and comfortably.  We also bought a headphone splitter so the kids could watch the same tech at the same time.
  6. Come prepared with favourite snacks – let’s face it, there’s a good reason why plane food has such a bad reputation!  I wouldn’t describe my kids as fussy eaters but they hardly touched the food provided in flight. I was glad I had some of their favourite snacks packed to keep them going.  I also packed some bribery sugary snacks (don’t judge me!) – I bought a bag of mini Chupa Chups which lasted our entire holiday – the kids got to choose one lolly per flight and it generally meant they were well behaved at the airport and while we were boarding.  For our long haul flights, I also packed some chocolate treats as rewards between the flights which went down a storm.
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    Much excitement at the Kinder Egg treat at our one hour stopover at Oman Airport

  7. Flashcards/games – I packed a bag full of fun games, stickers, drawing pads and flashcards.  Did I use it?  Maybe once or twice during the entire holiday!  It’s horses for courses though and I’d probably pack a ‘just in case’ games bag again.  For us, the tech did the trick
  8. Ask to see the pilot – we took seven flights altogether on our trip.  As adults, it’s just a process and it’s easy to forget how bloomin exciting taking a flight is for a child.  Make it fun, speak to the air stewards to see if the kids can meet the pilot and see the cockpit.  Despite the fact he was dancing with excitement at the thought of meeting the pilot, it was a bit too much for Jasper in the moment.  Romy, on the other hand, LOVED standing in the cockpit, seeing all the buttons and meeting both pilots on this flight.
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    Romilly in the cockpit – dreams coming true here!

So that’s it – flying long haul with kids was so much easier than I thought it would be.  I hope these top tips help your journey to go smoothly too.  Happy flying!

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