Family Travel

Published on August 7th, 2012 | by Amanda Lee


Travelling with Children on Long-Haul Flights

Root canal surgery, or 20 hours hauling a couple of kids halfway around the world? For most parents, it’d be a toss up! But if you’re looking to venture beyond the reaches of Florida with family in tow, be rest assured it can be done. Guest Blogger (and mommy of two) Amanda Lee shares her tips for travelling with children on long-haul flights so you can spend less time stressing and more time enjoying the flight:

1. Embrace your Inner Boy Scout

Before stepping on the plane, make your preparations:

-Children’s passports expire every three years, so make sure yours are up-to-date. If your child doesn’t have a passport, apply for one in advance of your trip. Remember, even babies need passports to exit the country.

-Take care of relevant visas for the country you are visiting.

-If only one parent is travelling with their children, be sure to carry a letter of consent from the other parent to leave the country. This is incredibly important. Copies of what the letter should contain can be found here.

-Call the airline and be sure you and your children are seated together. Request children’s meals in at least 48 hours in advance, along with any special dietary requirements. If you are travelling with babies, request a baby bassinette, usually in the bulkhead area. Your Flight Centre agent can help take care of these requests with the airline for you.

-Consider applying for your child’s own frequent flyer number. If you’re making regular trips to visit family over the years, the points add up. Some airlines, such as British Airways, allow families to pool their points into one account.


2. Run Them Like a Dog!

Okay, not literally… but it’s a good idea to give your children adequate time to burn off some steam before they settle down on that long-haul flight. The day you’re flying out, schedule some time to take them to the park, an indoor gym or for a swim. Once you have checked in at the airport, allow your kids to briskly tear along empty corridors prior to boarding.


On the plane, take younger children for regular walks along the aisles – remember, business class is for business passengers. And unless they’re carrying a suitcase or an upgraded ticket, explain to kids it’s a no-go area.


3. Christmas in the Sky

If ever there was an ideal time to splurge on new toys and stocking stuffers, apart from Christmas (or birthday), a long haul flight is that time. If your children are old enough, have them pack their own backpack with some of their favourite small toys. Save some room for surprise gifts that will keep them entertained during the course of the flight. Doodle pads and activity books, stickers, pencils, toy cars, books, or small craft activities such as origami all help to pass the time. Travel-size version of games such as Connect 4 or Tic-Tac-Toe is also great ideas, as well as card games like Go Fish. Bring new toys out one at a time to prolong their fun.


4. Speaking of Toys…

Take advantage of technology when it comes to keeping your kids entertained in flight. Most airlines offer a good selection of children’s movies and T.V., as well as video games on flights. Also bring your own “toys” on board, such as a Kobo stocked with interactive children’s books, or an iPad with their favourite films at the ready. Make sure your electronic equipment is charged. And has new batteries. Bring child-friendly headphones so as not to disturb your neighbours.


5. Scooby Snacks

Delayed flights, fussy eaters, or toddlers who love to graze – there are lots of reasons why it’s smart to pack some child-friendly snacks for the airport and long-haul flight. Fresh fruit and vegetables can be few and far between when travelling across multiple time zones. Pack disposable plastic containers of cut up raw veggies (carrots, cherry tomatoes, and celery), or fruit (berries or grapes), as well as single serve granola bars or crackers. Hard fruit, like apples and pears, are also a great idea—but be sure to discard uneaten fruit on the plane before entering customs in another country. Keep sweet treats to a minimum. No one wants a child on a sugar high in a confined space!


6. Keep your Kids Hydrated

Extensive air travel dehydrates the system and kids, (especially babies or toddlers).  Make sure they drink regularly—the best choice is water—or ‘spike’ their juice with a top up of water. If you are breastfeeding on a long-haul flight, be sure to drink plenty of fluids.


7. Sh*t Happens

Let’s face it, sh*t happens (and pee and vomit). So be prepared:

– Sanitary wipes are your best friend

-Pack adequate supply of diapers or pull-ups (factoring in a few extra in case of delays)

-Pack a change of clothes – factor at least 2 changes for babies and toddlers, a change of clothes for younger kids and a change of underwear and an extra t-shirt for older kids in case of accidents or spills

-Store supplies in large Ziploc bags, which can be re-used for soiled clothing

-Pack a small “first aid kit” in a clear plastic container with children’s Tylenol or Advil, talc powder, plasters and diaper cream for babies

-With younger children, schedule regular bathroom breaks. With smaller children, the sound of toilet flush on a plane can be scary (reassure them they won’t get sucked away!)


8. Pack PJs and their Favourite Stuffy

Not only do pyjamas make for comfortable airplane attire, the ritual of putting on pyjamas, and brushing their teeth when the cabin lights go down can help signal to your children it’s time for sleep. Bring their favourite stuffed animal or blanket for familiarity and security, pack a fun children’s neck pillow and snuggle down with a story book for some quiet time.  If you are travelling with babies, bring a baby sling for on-board the plane. Not only is it compact in your carry-on, a sling allows you to be hands free to walk your baby around the plane and lull them to sleep.


Remember, the Adventure Starts Here…

flyingwithkidsFor most kids, the adventure starts as soon as they hit the airport. While you might be quietly hyperventilating about surviving the next 10, 15, 20 hours, kids see nothing but adventure. While unexpected bouts of turbulence—or vomiting—are literally ‘bumps along the way’, look at the world through your kid’s eyes. Embrace the adventure of being literally thousands of miles in the air, journeying to a new land. If all else fails, a stiff G&T is a great cure all.


A big thank-you to Amanda for sharing her tips with the community! Have any more tips you’ve learned over the years? Share them with us in the comments below!


Need help planning your next family vacation? Contact one of our Travel Consultants at 1-877-967-5302 or find your closest store to get started. 


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

About the Author

writes about travel, parenting, culture and that thing called "life". An Aussie girl at heart, Amanda now lives in Toronto with her two children when she's not globe-trotting the world with them.

0 Responses to Travelling with Children on Long-Haul Flights

  1. Pretraveller says:

    Thanks for a great article.  Two years ago we travelled with 3 young kids on a 3 hour flight and then reminded ourselves to never go long haul until they were older…  

    I think it is also important to consider both yourself and the kids and consider booking a stopover along the way to break up the trip if your flight time is 12-16 hours or longer.

  2. Matt says:

    This is without one of the most diffuclt things when it comes to traveling.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to Top ↑

Enquiry Form