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Long Haul Flights with Children

The thought of travelling abroad with the family can be stressful for any parent. Keeping children entertained on a long flight can be difficult for you and uncomfortable for other passengers. But the truth is, travelling is pretty boring for children, whether it’s a long flight or car journey, they’re routed to the spot with little to do. So what can you do to keep your children happy? Here are a few things to consider in the planning stages.

Top tips for babies and children on flights…

Book sensibly. Consider your children when booking and think ahead as much as possible. Check the ‘flight details’ of your airline, this will tell you important information including prior check-in time, whether fast check-in is available and whether you can select your seat—all important to keep your child happy. Also consider whether you want to keep them entertained with a window seat or if an aisle seat will give them quicker access to the bathroom.

Nappy checks. Always try to find the time to check and change while in the terminal before you board. You’ll have much more room to change there and they won’t be uncomfortable during the flight.

Teething issues. Carry some chopped-up fruit and vegetables to give them something to munch on and avoid their gums flaring up.

Landing/take-off. These can be the scariest times for children and babies can be upset by the initial turbulence. Giving them a drink or bottle will provide a good distraction and with any luck may even send them to sleep. Either way, encouraging them to swallow will help with unwanted ear popping. We sometimes give our kids a lollypop to distract them and help with the discomfort of the change in cabin air pressure.

Keep them amused. Unfortunately you may find all your humour and wit to be wasted on a small child on a long flight. Be sure to pack a toys (of the non-noisy variety!) or an iPad or similar with nursery rhymes and favorite TV programs to keep them entertained. We recommend one toy/activity for each hour of travel.

And for older children…

Think ahead. Again look into the flight details before flying. Older children will hate long baggage queues so look for an airline that offers fast check-in. Get as much information as you can on the in-flight entertainment options and the meals available to avoid them getting hungry, bored and irritable.

Landing/take-off. Your child will either love or hate the bouts of turbulence, either way, pack some sweets and drinks to keep them happy and distracted.

In-flight activities. Don’t rely on the in-flight entertainment, as we all know this can vary in quality across different airlines.

If you can, pack an iPad, laptop or portable DVD player and some DVDs of your own, or alternatively take sensible toys such as colouring books and pencils. Books, magazines and puzzle books are also handy to keep the activities varied.

Games consoles. You might not like it when your child’s head is rooted into a hand-held video games at home but on a flight they can be a saving grace. Just make sure you have agreed beforehand that they can only be taken if the sound is switched off or used with a set of headphones—this will avoid tantrums on the plane.

Flight times. Where possible book night flights and ensure that flight departure and arrival times are not in the middle of the night. Children just cannot cope with tiredness.

And when you get there…

A family friendly destination. This should be obvious already, but be sure to consider the whole family when booking your holiday. The activities you might enjoy might not be for them, perhaps designate certain days as ‘their choice’ to keep everyone happy. Also look into your destination’s entertainment options to ensure there are plenty of family friendly options.

Think carefully about the room you book. Check online reviews of the hotel you are thinking of booking and consider if the rooms are suitable for the child (or children) you are with. Make sure you have adequate beds; many rooms will just contain a Z-bed as the extra child bed, which can make your room very cramped. Also check if your room comes with a television and the size of the pool in the resort etc.

Location. The last thing you want is to arrive at your destination, only to find you have to endure long travel times again. When booking your hotel, consider how close it is to the airport, the beach and the town centre. Also look into local transport and consider hiring a car to make getting around easy.

Children’s facilities. This again is a matter of planning ahead. Many resorts run children’s clubs and family activities; it is worth factoring in such events as one of the determining reasons for choosing a hotel or resort.

The overriding advice is to plan ahead. You can’t always take you child to Disneyworld, but be sure to involve them in the booking process. By making them feel part of the holiday, the chances are they will be more inclined to enjoy whatever activities you choose, safe in the knowledge there is something special waiting for them in the trip.

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