The ultimate guide to surviving a long-haul flight with children

Misbah Akhtar

While most of us would avoid travelling long haul with children, it’s often a necessity to get to see relatives, attend a big event or expose your children to a different culture. Young kids are a struggle at the best of times, but to coop them up in a metal tube for seven hours is enough to strike dread into the heart of many a parent.

So how do you survive a long haul flight with children? The travel experts at Destination2 have helped us list the ways in which travelling by plane with kids can be eased –  and even enjoyed!

  1. Work out your luggage restrictions

Unfortunately, not all airlines operate the same rules regarding luggage, so for each airline you travel with, work out what you can and cannot take on-board. When you know what you can bring with you as hand luggage, you can plan better.

  1. Try and book night flights where possible


It makes sense to book flights that correspond with a child’s sleeping time, so if flying at their bedtime is possible, we’d advise you do it!

  1. Divide your journey in two

If your journey involves a stop off in a country, take the opportunity to take the adjoining flight the following day. Spending a night in the airport hotel gives you the opportunity for respite and will give you all a good night’s sleep to continue the remainder of your journey.

  1. Organise priority boarding

Most flight attendants will see you coming and usher you into the fast track queues and get you on board first. However, make sure you book priority boarding anyway when you arrange your flights. It makes a huge difference to the start of your flight and the otherwise interminable wait at Passport Control at the other end.

  1. Create your emergency pack

This should contain extra nappies, underwear, wipes, medicine, extra clothes, dummies, sick bags, plastic bags, milk and water. This is the pack that should cover every eventuality and biological function – every parent will know that children have a wonderful knack for surprise!

Remember: you can’t take more than 100ml of each liquid in your hand luggage. Please see your airline website for more information.

  1. Create your food pack

Don’t rely on airplane food – you need a continual supply of snacks, treats and food. Pack sandwiches, fresh and dried fruit, crackers, drinks, breadsticks and cereal bars to get your child through any tears, tantrums and bored moments.

  1. Pack a plane bag

Children love “plane bags” – these are essentially a small bag of nice treats for children and can include comics, cheap toys, crayons, colouring books and Lego to keep them amused throughout the flight. Most people find it best to “drip feed” the supply of these treats, to spread out the interest in each item.

  1. Download movies and cartoons on to a tablet

“Electronic babysitters” are a must for air travel with children. What are their favourite shows? Download a varied selection of the TV programmes and films that they love and press play. Game apps are also invaluable. Just don’t forget to bring your charger. It’s a good idea to get your child their own headphones before you fly which fit them properly.

Remember: if your flight is over five hours long, the airplane will have screens on the back of each seat. These will all have a selection of TV shows, games and movies – great for keeping the kids entertained!

  1. Keep fellow travellers onside

While most travellers are understanding of children, it will help to outline the situation before taking off by handing people sat nearby with little gift bags containing an pre-apology note, some ear plugs and sweets. Most people will receive these gratefully. Also remember to not to be too affected by other people’s reactions. Babies cry, and people will just have to get over it!

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