12 Insider Tips
For a family-friendly long-haul flight
Having spent close to 15 years at 12,000 metres, I have taken care of many families travelling on board long-haul flights, in every cabin of the aircraft. I now have a family of my own and we have been travelling both internationally and domestically for the past nine years. Here are my tips for surviving a long-haul flight with young children and enjoying a seamless flying experience.
1. Night flights
If travelling with little ones in tow, consider choosing night flights. I have found over the years this certainly works well, allowing children to stay in their regular sleep pattern on the flight, a key to making sure they are well rested.
Be as organised as you possibly can. I always have a list that I check off the night before departure. Double-check, triple-check that all travel documents are packed (passports, travel itinerary, travel insurance, contact details, etc.). Be sure to have all your travel documents together in an easily accessible pocket of your carry-on. When leaving to go to the airport, allow more time for traffic than you think you’ll need. There is nothing worse than arriving at check-in already anxious and flustered.
3. Airport lounges
Check prior to your departure if you are eligible to access the airport lounge facilities and utilise these prior to boarding. Most lounges have a child-friendly room with activities for the kids. If you are a club member travelling business or first class, be sure to make use of these family-friendly amenities.
4. Child-friendly backpack
Purchase a comfortable, user-friendly backpack that the kids can carry and use themselves. This can be packed with each child’s items, making it easier to find things in the middle of a long flight.
Items to pack
• Lunchbox full of their favourite healthy snacks
• A change of clothes (just in case)
• Activities (activity book, travel journal, pencils, stickers, tablet)
• Small refillable drink bottle (make sure it’s empty!)
• Mini hand sanitiser, small pack of tissues, small pack of antiseptic wipes
• Favourite small plush toy for sleep time
• Children’s comfy headsets
I always travel with lunchboxes full of snacks. I did this prior to having children, and I certainly do this now that I do. Regardless of what cabin we are travelling in, I always pack healthy snacks I know they’ll eat.
These include fresh sandwiches, piece of fruit (banana/apple) and cheese sticks, as well as mini bags of cookies, chips or gluten-free snacks. Over the years I have found this to be so useful, as kids can be fussy and may not fancy the meals being offered during the flight. If you encounter delays on the ground, this is a blessing for hungry little tummies.
NOTE: Food items including dairy, meat and fruit products cannot be taken off the aircraft once arriving at your destination. Be sure to dispose of these in the aircraft bin prior to arrival. Check arrival regulations in regards to food items that need to be declared prior to disembarkation at destination.
6. Pre-order your meal
Most airlines offer children’s meals as well as meals accommodating most dietary requirements. Check when making your booking if this service is available and utilise it. Whether you require a gluten-free, children’s, or vegetarian/vegan meal, you should generally be able to make this selection prior to your flight.
This is so important. Keep the whole family hydrated; this will help with jet lag as well as your inflight comfort. Pack the kids’ favourite small water bottle empty. Have this refilled throughout the flight. It is very dehydrating travelling at 12,000 metres for hours on end.
8. Inflight entertainment
Airlines today offer an incredible array of inflight entertainment (IFE). Most offer a dedicated channel full of kid-friendly movies, music, TV programmes and games that will sure keep little flyers entertained for hours.
Download your children’s favourite movies or shows onto your tablet, just in case the IFE doesn’t work at any point during the flight or you encounter delays. This can happen, so best to be as prepared as you can be. Ensure all devices are fully charged. Portable gaming devices such as the Nintendo DS consoles are another great item to bring.
Power outlets and/or USB ports are available on most aircraft, but charging options vary, so it’s always best to check the particularities of your airline, aircraft and cabin.
9. Layer up
It can get cold up there at 12,000 metres, especially when you’re feeling really tired. I always layer my children regardless if we have left a hot climate, always packing a singlet to put on and socks to keep the feet warm. For myself, I always travel with a pashmina that can be used as a blanket.
10. Mini first aid kit
This is always carried in your carry-on for quick and easy access on board.
• Panadol for adults and children (kids’ chewable tablets)
• Herbal lolly pops – children can get sore throats at this altitude
• Adult throat lollies
• Any medication that is required (my daughter is allergic to all nuts and is required to carry an EpiPen and Zirtec – a letter of consent from your doctor is required to bring an EpiPen on board)
• A pack of small chewy lollies or lollipops (little ears sometimes struggle to adapt to the changing air pressure for take-off and landing)
• Motion sickness medication, ginger lollies
11. Small toiletries bag
All items included must be travel-size only. Include essentials such as a toothbrush and toothpaste, deodorant, lip balm, hand cream, hydrating spritzer and any other toiletry items needed.
12. Travelling with baby
Be sure to request a bassinet. There are only several bassinets on the aircraft so make sure you request this when booking tickets.
Bring a baby bag with items just for baby. Carry extra clothes, wraps, extra nappies (more than usual should you encounter any delays), comfort toy/blanket and dummy to assist with equalising ears.
Invest in a good travel carrier for your bub, as this will be of great help, especially going through the airport check-in process, customs and security.
On board the aircraft ask the crew which toilets have baby-changing facilities. If you require milk to be warmed, ask the crew to do this for you.
A final note:
Bring your travel mojo, sit back, relax and enjoy your flight. Safe travels.
Having worked in the travel industry for over 20 years - including 15 years mostly spent at 12,000 metres as an international flight attendant - Coralie's obsession with travel and curiosity about the world continues to thrive as she now embarks on exciting adventures with her family. She enjoys sharing these discoveries on her blog Family Travel Blogger, curating a resource that is insightful, useful and, most of all, inspiring.