Hints and tricks to travelling long-haul with kids
I have travelled extensively over my life and was determined that having a child wasn't going to stop me from doing that. I travelled with Charlotte a number of times who, by her second birthday, had already been to 12 countries with the longest flight being to Australia to see my parents.
Having travelled from a young age, Charlotte really handled it well and in fact, during one solo flight back to Perth she pretty much ignored me the entire time, preferring to watch movies and to chat to the flight crew instead (they had snacks).
In January this year, we made our first trip back to Australia with all 3 kids. Now trying to keep one 18-month-old toddler still for more than 30 minutes is hard, but trying to keep two 18-month-old toddlers still and quiet for 24 hours was a nightmare.
Keep in mind that children under 2 years of age have to sit on your lap the entire journey!
In their defence, it was a completely new environment for them and that, tied in with being overtired, restricted and told to stay quiet, was just too much to ask.
We prepped for the flight as much as possible, and you need to get yourself into the mindset that you're probably not going to be able to sleep at all.
Some of the key things you need on the flight to survive are listed below.
Time your naps
This one is quite important. If you can book a night flight, this would be the best option. Get the kids to the airport already in their comfy clothes and try to find the kids’ play area. Most big airports have a kid’s section with change facilities, toys, games and if you're lucky, a small soft play area.
If your kid likes to run, set them free around the airport. The more energy they can use the better. You want them to get on the plane ready to eat and then sleep when the cabin lights go down.
Now, this might be an obvious one but take loads of snacks and take different varieties. Put aside your desire for your kids to eat healthily and just give them anything that will make them happy and keep them entertained.
Try to avoid snacks that will make a mess though. Swap yoghurt pots for tubes with lids, avoid puffs and crackers with loads of dust/crumbs and try to decant things into zip lock bags and snap-lock containers. This will make distribution easier and keep your bags and area tidy.
Bring your own water bottles so they can be resealed, also bring your own travel mug for hot drinks as you can avoid spills and trust me.... you'll need the caffeine.
Take a spare set of clothing for EVERYONE! About 2 hours into our journey, Georgia power vomited strawberry yoghurt all down my front. Luckily I had a change of clothes but that didn't stop my bra from smelling fruity all the way to Australia.
Make sure you have additional layers for the kids. Trying to get a child to sleep on a plane is hard enough, but accidentally waking them up by trying to cover them over with a blanket is the absolute worst! Strangely, they never wake up in a good mood...... We dressed the twins in Wondersuits as the ease of access to change nappies is very important in those confined toilets. We also bought all 3 kids’ zip coveralls as an additional layer. They are really comfortable to sleep in and it means you're comfortable with them falling asleep wherever they can.
Pack your cabin bags wisely
I feel like having theme bags are the best. We have one bag full of clothes, one bag full of toys and extra snacks and then an additional bag to keep handy on the floor full of wipes, some nappies, nappy bags, snacks and iPads. Knowing where everything is makes finding what you need a lot easier and less of a disturbance to the people around you.
These really saved us. They are basically big inflatable rectangles that fit snugly between the chairs and fill the gap between the seats. We had 2 of these and they allowed the children to have more room to sleep but also you can rest easy that they are not going to fall off the seat. Being inflatable, they are easy to pack and inflate and deflate quickly. We bought ours on Amazon for around £14 but there are multiple products on the market.
iPads are a really good option for keeping kids entertained. We preloaded loads of movies and TV shows through Amazon Prime but also downloaded some games that the kids could play. The twins had some shape and colour matching gams along with puzzles and sorting games. If you can, have one iPad per child to save on fights (a twin trait) or have a time schedule where each child has a set amount of time each.
I also found that a magnetic doodle drawing board was a good buy. The benefit of unlimited drawing space and the magnetic pen being tied on to the board means you're not having to constantly pick up pencils and deal with sheets and sheets of single squiggles.
Also, try and get your kids a window seat, this alone will provide entertainment and allow you to keep them locked in!
Booking additional seats
Now, this may be an extravagant one, but with 2 adults and 3 kids having only 3 seats, long haul is going to be really tough on everyone. If your children are under 1, then they're likely to have a bassinet on board, but if they are larger than the airlines’ weight restrictions you won't be allowed you to use them.
The airline rules are that all children under the age of 2 must be seated on an adult’s lap for take-off, landing and anytime the seatbelt sign is on. Other than that, if you're lucky enough to have an empty seat next to you or purchase and additional seat then it will really make the journey a lot easier.
What additional tips can you add?