The thought of flying long haul with young children is enough to put most parents off the idea of a far-flung holiday destination for a few years yet. But it’s a shame to miss out on some fantastic experiences, so here are a few tips that might make the whole flying process much more bearable.
1. Check with your airline if there is anything that can be done to help. If you have a very young child, particularly one without their own seat, you may be able to reserve a bulkhead seat. This will give you all a lot more space, perhaps even room for your child to sit on the floor by your feet and play. You will also be near the toilets for those quick dash nappy changes.
2. If the flight is not full, a word with the staff at the check-in desk may mean that they are able to keep an extra seat in your row empty so that you have more space for your child. This is particularly useful on a night flight, meaning that your child can lie down comfortably.
3. Make sure that you have everything that you could possibly need close at hand, and packed sensibly so that you can retrieve it easily. Place spare nappies and wipes, drinks, snacks and activities into the seat pockets.
4. If your child is old enough for the in-flight entertainment, help them to practise wearing headphones beforehand.
5. Even though some food will be provided on the flight, pack as though it isn’t, and include a range of different snacks (I find that raisins, small biscuits and breadsticks work well) as well as more substantial food like sandwiches.
6. Buy water bottles before you board and keep them topped up – you should find a water tap on board that you can use to refill bottles and cups, or else ask a member of staff. A small colouring book, a pack of crayons and plenty of stickers can entertain small children for a few precious minutes, and if they become restless visit the toilets together, travelling the long way around up and down the aisles!
7. Do accept that young children will find it difficult to last an entire long haul flight without complaining. Aircraft are noisy anyway, and it really is unlikely that anyone else is bothered by the sound coming from your child.
8. Finally, from personal experience, make sure that your older child has visited the toilet well before the aircraft starts its descent and seat belts have to go on!