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How to Make Flying Long Haul With Kids Easier

Preparation is key when travelling with little ones on flights of five hours or more

The back of a woman with backpack on the floor and child with backpack from inside the airport looking out as the airplanes

If you have a young child (or children), the prospect of a long-haul flight can be daunting. But the idea is to keep everyone calm, cool and rested while getting to your destination. To prevent any meltdowns, we asked parenting columnist Brandie Weikle, founder of The New Family, for her tips to make the time in the air a breeze.

Nip any sickness in the bud

Curb the risk of flus, colds and sniffles by packing some disinfectant wipes to use on armrests, tray tables and any remote-control panels. You might think this is overdoing it, but some germs and bacteria can live on surfaces for up to seven days.

Pro tip: Keep a small bottle of hand sanitizer handy, especially when it’s time to eat, to save yourselves the hassle of lining up for the bathroom for pre-meal hand washing.

Keep hunger at bay

Most airlines will allow you to bring nibbles on board, like granola bars, nut-free trail mix or a few treats packed in resealable plastic containers. (Double-check your airline’s policy before you pack any snacks.) Once you’ve cleared customs and security, Weikle suggests buying fresh snacks like apples, or a container of cut carrots and celery sticks.

Weikle also swears by a box of Smarties. “It’s the perfect little treat to dole out one at a time. A little goes a long way,” the mother of two explains, adding that the idea here is to offer a small treat, not to spark a sugar high.

Pro tip: Bring refillable water bottles and fill them post–security clearance or once on board. An open plastic cup from the inflight service is a major spill hazard.

Be flexible with inflight screen time

“It’s gotten easier to keep kids entertained thanks to individual screens on the back of seats,” says Weikle. And while she’s all for limiting screen time at home, on a long-haul flight, breaking that rule is OK. “This is entertainment that’s appropriate for the situation,” she adds. Check ahead if your carrier offers this amenity; if they don’t, pack a portable tablet or device with kid-friendly earphones.

Pro tip: Before departing, download new episodes of your kids’ favourite TV show or a movie they haven’t seen yet.

Bring along some novelty items

Little girl in her plane seat uses a red writing tool on her tray also tabling her pencil case by a window 

“I like to pack a little bag full of surprises,” says Weikle. She suggests picking up a couple of small toys at your local toy store to present throughout the flight. “Wrapping them,” she says, “makes the toys seem all the more special.” Little Lego people, a fidget spinner, a new colouring book and pencil crayons (packed in a resealable plastic bag to keep everything together), or a tin of Thinking Putty are all good options.

Pro tip: Choose smaller toys and activities that can be enjoyed on top of a child’s pull-down tray.

Help little ones fall asleep on the plane

To keep toddlers cozy—and hopefully encourage them to nap—Weikle advises you bring their favourite stuffy or blanket. For children five and older, pack a comforting neck pillow and cover them with a provided blanket or a shawl you’ve brought along to help them sleep on an overnight flight.

Pro tip: Lift the armrest between you and your child’s seat. This way they can either lean on your shoulder or sleep on your lap.

Image credit: iStock.com/damircudic and iStock.com/baona

Get ready to take off

Travelling with a baby? Our handy travel tips have you covered from the airport to the hotel room. Also, feel great when you touch down with these six expert ways you can arrive fresh after a long flight.

And before you leave, make sure to invest in travel insurance so you can enjoy your trip worry-free.