Surviving long-haul flights with children and babies

Posted on July 5, 2013


We have travelled on numerous long-haul flights with our children, from when they were a few months old. Here are my top tips for surviving a long-haul flight with little ones!

 Paris - 4

Run, Run, Run!


Get to the airport in enough time to let them stretch their legs before boarding. Run off as much energy as possible in those vital moments before being cooped up. Some airports have little play areas which are great to make use of, but if not then just take advantage of the long corridors to tire out those little legs! Also we always make sure we don’t board too early as that’s just more time to sit on the plane.

Pick your flight time

In our experience night flights are always better and if you have the chance to choose this is what I would go for. Day flights mean it is inevitable you will all be awake the whole time and so having to entertain. With a night flight there is a pretty good chance that children will sleep at some point and you can drop off occasionally, allowing time to suddenly leap forward. I find that with night flights you’ll end up more red-eyed at the other end but it will go much faster and at least you’ll all sleep well that first night!

Pace activities

This is particularly important if you have a long daytime flight. I plan a few ‘events’ throughout the flight. That might be a comic or magazine at one point, then a bag of raisins, a small toy or puzzle, some crayons and plain paper etc. Little surprises peppered throughout the journey will allow for those moments where they are entertained again and their boredom levels drop!!

Book your seats early!

If you have a baby then try to get the bulkhead seats…but book them early as they go quickly. You will still get bumped off if there’s a younger baby – as happened to us on a flight to New Zealand. Bulkhead seats are great as they have the cribs which work for under 1 year olds but they’re also good for just giving you more space and the opportunity for your little one to get down and wander about a bit more easily.

Overpack on food

Snacks, treats, and particularly things that take a long time to eat – like raisins etc help use up some valuable minutes, help those ears and create another distraction. My total top tip is…lollipops. I know they’re horrible for little teeth and I really try to limit the number my children have in normal life but as a one-off treat for airplanes they are invaluable. Given only during take-off and landings their benefit is two-fold – first they take ages to eat so will ensure that your little one is occupied and happy to sit in their seat at this crucial time when they must have their seatbelts on. Second, any change in air pressure which affects their ears usually occurs during take off and landing and the sucking and swallowing from lollies really helps alleviate this.

Chill out

I know this is easier said than done but after numerous flights I now honestly believe that the less stressed you feel the less stressful it will be. If your child is unsettled most people really do understand and there’s a really lovely amount of camaraderie on flights.There are usually a number of other children on board and I’ve had great conversations on board and plenty of sympathetic smiles at more difficult times.

Do you have any top tips for surviving long-haul flights? I’d love to hear them 🙂