Sam Sims

The ultimate survival guide for flying with children

written by Sam Sims

  1. #travel
  2. #flying
  3. #long haul
  4. #children
  5. #babies
  6. #toddlers
  7. #planes
  8. #parenting
  9. #top tips
  10. #summer

For the third time, myself, Barney and a group of friends with children, ranging in age from one to ten, traveled to Sri Lanka. It is a mammoth journey. The drive to the airport for many is 3 hours, then we have the wait before the 13hr flight and then a 3 hour transfer at the other end. There is no denying the fact that it is a feat of endurance, it is fuelled by a mixture of coffee and gin and it takes the resolve that only a parent with the promise of a beach and cocktail at the other end, can muster.

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Having successfully completed this mission twice this year, I wanted to pull together my top tips for traveling long haul with children. The tips cover all age groups and can, of course, be applied to short haul travel too.

One thing to remember. It is like childbirth, you forget how painful it is and within a year, you’ll be ready to tackle it again!

Happy travelling team!

Travelling with children

At the airport get them involved with what's happening. I always take a book explaining the process. You know, checking in, where the bags go, going through security. Barney loved the 'I - Spy' book at the airport. That way, in between shouting at them to hurry up, stop running their hands along everything and getting in people's way, you can help them tick off what they have seen. On that note, remember a pen!

Airport Eye Spy

Choose your seats wisely. If you can get the seats with extra leg room, do it. Having some space for them to stand/lie/build a den/throw a tantrum is invaluable. On long haul, be sure that your chair can fully recline and consider a seat close enough to the toilet for any emergencies but not so close that the lights, comings and goings and lets face it, smells, effect you! A friend advised me of this brilliant website which gives you the low down if a seat is good, or bad.

Load the iPad/tablet up with every episode of Peppa Pig/Ben and Holly/Power Rangers ever created, including the bloopers and outtakes. For older children a couple of feature length films is also a good idea, you can’t rely on the inflight entertainment system. They can be dated.

If there is more then one child, buy two sets of headphones and a splitter , so they can watch the iPad together and if not, then at least you don't get to miss out on Daddy Pig's lastest escapades.

Actually, just buy two of everything to mitigate against any potential sharing issues.

Introduce new books/activities/toys in stages throughout the flight. Barney must have thought Christmas had come again judging by the number of ‘presents’ he received on the flight home. Things that can’t be lost, don't make a mess, or involve small parts are preferable. Etch A Sketch, Stickers, Magic Water books are ideal. Leave the marbles and painting gear at home.

Pack as many Calpol sachets that you can cram into that clear plastic bag. It is just sod's law that once the plane reaches 32,000ft they will get a temperature reaching similar figures.

Don’t underestimate how many changes of clothes will be required. For you and the children.

Snacks, snacks and more snacks. On our recent 12hr flight to Sri Lanka, the food was scarce and not actually that suitable for kids. You try and get a 5 year old to eat a mild curry at 7am. I packed enough food to feed the whole plane should we have found ourselves in any sort of emergency ‘Alive’ (the film) scenario. The reality was Barney had two Jaffa Cakes and I ate EVERYTHING else. Great stuff, landing for a beach holiday, a stone heavier but hey ho, we made it!

Plane Snacks

If your child is still in nappies. Pack nappies, lots of nappies. They know that the nappy changing facilities in aeroplane toilets are tight so they save up their poo’s. If your child is old enough, pull up nappies are a life saver and make a standing on the toilet nappy change possible.

Pack a pillow. Especially if you are flying long haul. Those friction- inducing- flat- as- a- pancake- pillows they provide, are not cutting the mustard.

Pillow (compete with label!)

Eye masks. It is never quite dark enough on the planes and there is always someone who insists on reading through the night, so popping an eye mask on really helps the little ones nod off or indeed, stay asleep.

Noise cancelling headphones. These are a god send. The really good ones are incredible and put you in a vacuum of complete silience. Once they nod off (which they will obviously!) pop on the headphones and you are guaranteed to buy yourself at least another hour.


And finally, leave your pride and dignity at the plane door. It is about survival, not about worrying what the other passengers are saying about you under their breath!

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  1. Fab article. Love these top tips and will be using them when I fly to a Australia with 2 under 8 in December. Would just suggest anyone flying doesn't take peanuts on the plane. For those with severe allergies this could kill at 32,000 ft! A dropped M&M can be very attractive to a 4 year old who doesn't know there is peanut inside and even transfer from hands to doors handles and airborn peanut dust could set someone off into anaphylaxis.


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