Being a parent doesn't mean you have to give up the jet-setting lifestyle you were accustomed to in your single days. With a bit of prep, long-haul flights can be no big deal for you, your kids, or your fellow passengers. Follow our 10 sanity-saving tips for long flights with kids and you'll be well on your way to becoming the globe-trotting family you've always dreamed of.
1. Board early
Take advantage of early boarding even if you don’t think you need it. You’re not only doing yourselves a favour, but you’re helping out your fellow passengers as well (even if they don’t always realize it). By the time they board and try to stow their bags and find their seat, you and your kids will already be settled in and out of their way.
2. Plan ahead to deal with discomfort
Pack medicine your kids might need, so you're equipped to deal with any discomfort they may experience. Changes in pressure commonly hurt little ears and can be a huge source of discomfort for your child, as well as the resulting screaming that will have childless passengers sending sideways glances your way. Check with a doctor to see if it’s safe to give your kids a decongestant or antihistamine pre-flight to help avoid ear pain.
3. Pack entertainment
It’s hard enough to keep adults entertained on long flights. Be sure to pack plenty of entertaining activities for your little ones to keep them busy and help them (and you) pass the time quickly. Pack a portable DVD player or a tablet loaded up with movies. Games, colouring books, and books for your child to read are also a great idea. If you plan to entertain your little one with movies, be sure to pack headphones to spare fellow passengers from being sabotaged with children’s shows the entire flight! And if you want to watch together, a headphone splitter is always a good idea.
4. Bring snacks
Don’t rely on the airline’s catering service for snacks. It’s likely that the airline won’t have many kid-appropriate snacks and, let’s face it, when your kid is stressed on a long flight and hankering for a snack, something they’re used to eating is going to go over much better than whatever random snack the flight attendant manages to scrounge up.
5. Comfort is key
Airports and airplanes can vary wildly in temperature and an easy way to keep kids happy is to keep them comfortable. Dressing kids in comfortable clothes (think elastic, not buttons and zippers) is a good way to get the trip off on the right foot. Multiple thin layers will make it easy to regulate your kid’s temperature no matter what it’s like on the long flight to your destination.
6. Wipes are your friend
Keeping wet wipes on hand during the flight is key for a variety of situations. Accidental spill? No problem. You can handle it without even leaving your seat. Not only will you be able to manage any sticky spots, you can also wipe down everything your kids might touch to help them avoid encountering the melange of germs that are likely on the seat tray in front of them. And getting everyone to your destination healthy is half the battle.
7. Pack spare clothes in your carry-on
Packing a spare set of clothes for your kids (and for you) will give you peace of mind even in the event that nothing goes awry during your flight. But if something does happen, say, your child gets sick or has an accident or even just spills something all over you, the stress of the situation will be over quickly because you’ll be able to handle it with ease and get yourself in fresh clothes, pronto.
8. Stay hands-free
Rolling carry-on suitcases just add another thing to manage while you’re carrying your kids, trying to get them through security, trying to find your boarding passes, etc. Stowing all your stuff in a backpack means you’ll have two hands free to manage the important stuff.
9. Frequent bathroom trips
Taking the kids for frequent bathroom trips will save everyone down the line. Even if they say they don’t have to go, use your best judgement and take them each hour, if possible. If they say they don’t have to go, tell them you’ll just go for a walk to stretch your legs. They’ll likely want to get up and move a bit and once they’re up, it won’t be hard to get them to the bathroom, just in case.
10. Pack a comfort item
Whether kids are accustomed to spending hours in the air or not, they will feel more content and safe if they are allowed to bring something special from home. Whether that’s a favourite blanket to curl up with, a cuddly toy, a pillow, or even a cherished book is entirely up to your child, but let them choose one special item to make the flight a little easier. And keep a close watch over it because misplacing that comfort item could end up derailing the trip unnecessarily.