We’ve all probably had to fly long-haul with young children at some point and there’s a very good chance that you were worse for wear when you actually got to the other side. While planning ahead (and having nerves of steel) does help, there is only so much you can do. Be prepared for things not sticking to the plan at all and you might just come out less traumatized than you were expecting.
Oh, and perhaps reading our list of useful tips might help a little too, as we try to take some of the trouble out of family travel.
Travel as light as possible
(But don’t forget the wet wipes)
If you’re juggling two or more little ones, a nappy bag, a purse and possible activity bags for the kids, you’re going to lose something or someone at some point. Pack as little as possible and keep cabin baggage to a bare minimum. For your hand luggage, consider a backpack, so you can have your hands (comparatively) free. Always keep things as simple as possible – but remember to keep the medicine bag close to you.
Comfort first, fashion later
Leave the jeans or smart clothes for another time. Dress little ones in soft clothes like their favourite t-shirts and pyjamas, and add a sweater or jacket when you need to. Keep socks on and you should have a happy little toddler on your hands (for some time at least).
You know this already – little snacks and a small variety of them are great for diffusing the worst of situations. If it helps, pack a meal for your children if they are fussy eaters – you can save the kids’ meal for yourself for later.
Trust your gut when it comes to jetlag
When you (or your wife) were pregnant, you probably had the entire country giving you advice on do’s and don’t dos. Ditto when it comes to jetlag and sleep depriving children before the long haul so that they sleep through the entire flight. You know your child best and what happens when the child is over-stimulated and cranky. I suggest keeping to your child’s schedule and worrying about jet-lag if and when it hits. (That said, sleep-depriving kids before a flight from Singapore to San Francisco, recently worked wonders for a friend, so much so that she was able to get her kids on American schedule from day 1. So, if you think your kids can handle it, go for it. Like I said, you know your children best).
Pressure drop means ear aches
Go candy! Pack a lollipop or boiled sweets for toddlers to suck on during take-off and landing to help with the ear ache that comes from a drop in cabin pressure. This is also the one time I don’t refuse my kids gummies and jelly candies. Give babies their pacifier (if they take one) or a bottle of milk or water if they aren’t on solid food yet.
Pack an activity bag
A little toy, colouring book and colour pencils, stickers, reading books or activity books – pack whatever your child likes to keep them entertained for a little while on the plane.
Stick to regular toilet breaks
With toddlers and pre-schoolers, the time between “I don’t need the loo” and “I need the toilet NOW” is often very short. To minimise the chances of toilet accidents, stick to regular toilet breaks, especially during ‘off-peak’ hours.
It’s ok to use devices
Even if your kids are only allowed the iPad or the tablet occasionally, it’s an absolute boon when you need to take a break, eat something yourself or just distract the children for a little while.
And last but not least, don’t forget to breathe. You’ll probably do much better than you think you could. You’re going on holiday so don’t worry if things aren’t as perfect as you want them to be. Happy travelling people.