We’ve done quite a few short haul flights with our three girls, but despite wanting to travel further afield we’ve been too fearful of a lengthy flight with them. I was therefore very happy to be approached about a guest post providing great tips and advice for travelling long haul with kids. So here it is…
Most parents with young children and babies tend to stay closer to home when going away on holiday, favouring staying over here for a staycation or a hop, skip and jump across to France, Spain or Portugal. That doesn’t have to be so, however, because there are ways to keep youngsters entertained during long-haul travel so that the journey is that bit more bearable for everyone involved.
- Tablet – Whilst, in most situations, a child having their head buried in an iPad would make many people around them roll their eyes about tech-addicted kids, your fellow passengers will thank you for this one. Taking a tablet onto a flight on which you’ve downloaded some of your children’s favourite movies, TV shows or games will mean that they always have something to do when boredom starts to strike and the tantrum is coming. Make sure you have child-friendly earphones so you don’t risk irritating passengers around you.
- Old School Games – Never underestimate the beauty of older, traditional games like ‘I Spy’, memory games such as ‘I went on holiday and in my suitcase I packed…’ and travel board games like a mini snakes and ladders. All of these ideas can provide hours of entertainment, so make sure you have something up your sleeve even if it’s a simple deck of cards for a round of ‘Snap’ or ‘Go Fish’.
- Make Believe – Children have incredible imaginations, so make use of that during long distance travel to keep them entertained. If you’re on a flight that’s going to be throughout the night, get them to look out of the window to try and spot planets, stars, astronauts and even aliens. Being above the clouds means there’s always something to gaze at and the stars are extra bright.
- Get Arty – Before you think we’ve lost the plot and are suggesting that you pack pots of paint in your holdall, there are fairly mess-free ways of getting your kids involved in arts and crafts during a flight or long journey. A simple colouring book with a few bright pencils can suffice, but if you wanted something a bit different then consider taking some pots of Play Doh. It’s not sticky, it won’t make a mess and the kids can come up with all kinds of creations on their seat tray.
- Make It Educational – Before heading off on your journey, make the whole experience more interesting for your little ones by teaching them about the transport. Tell them how the plane works (Google is your friend here), tell them what different countries you’ll by flying over and a few fun facts about each one or how to say hello in that language and then use the plane’s in-flight moving map on the seat screens to allow them to follow the journey.
- Tire Them Out – The day before you’re due to travel, or on the day itself, try to make it as action packed as possible for your children. Take them outdoors for a long walk in the country or to the local park to let them burn off some energy. The more tired your child is when they begin their journey, the more likely they are to sleep during the trip; meaning entertainment won’t be necessary for the whole duration.
- Stories – Although packing books means adding weight to your hand luggage, you will not regret the decision to do so. The best kind of books for entertainment purposes often involve sounds and buttons for the little readers to push, but don’t be put off by that. Fellow passengers are more likely to prefer a little bit of a jingle to a wailing child. If you’re travelling with more than one youngster in tow, allow them to take it in turns to read pages of the story if they are of reading age, or just put on your very best theatrics to wow little eyes and ears.
- Snacks – Children are most likely to get restless when they are tired, bored or hungry, so always ensure you have packed plenty of snacks and drinks. You’ll have to get the drinks from the airport after getting through security due to liquid restrictions on flights, but packing your own food from home is no problem (taking food from the store with food tray packaging is an option too). Instead of taking chocolate or anything that’s likely to make your child hyperactive, think along the lines of grapes, crisps or raisins.
It’s worth remembering that whenever you travel with kids, you should take a spare set of clothes for them; just in case any accidents happen (because they can and do), whether it’s a spillage or sickness. Also, if you have a flight that will go into the night, take their pyjamas so that you can get them changed when it would normally be time for them to sleep. That way, they are more likely to settle down and get some rest and they will be a lot more comfortable.
If your child has recently moved out of nappies having completed the toilet training challenge, don’t tempt fate by not packing any at all. Just take one or two to put on them in case they sleep on the plane, as the cabin pressure can do strange things!
Our best advice to anyone planning a long journey to a holiday destination with young children is to be well prepared. Planning ahead and making sure you have everything you need will ensure that your children barely have the chance to get bored. Don’t use up all of your sources of entertainment at once though; be sure to space them out so that your children always have something new to see or do. Bon voyage!
Written by Chris Clarkson, Travel Expert and Managing Director at www.sunshine.co.uk