When my son was almost five months old, I wanted for him to meet my family abroad. So I booked the tickets for Christmas and thought this would be perfect - not stopping to consider what it would mean to be in an aeroplane for ten hours with a five months old, flying in bad weather conditions and experiencing delays at the airport.
Well, I learned through experience how to cope on such a long flight, and what I should bring or do to calm him down. Here are some of my tips for travelling with young children on long haul flights.
Try to book an evening flight, ideally the latest flight available, as it would be your child's natural bedtime and once the lights are dimmed in the aircraft and everyone quiets down, you might just be lucky to have a couple of hours of rest yourself.
2. Eating dinner
Eating a meal beforehand might be very beneficial to you in case you are unable to eat during the flight. On my first flight with my young son I did not eat for over seven hours, due to him not being able to settle down. However, I had eaten dinner at the airport before boarding, which truly saved me.
If your child is older and has a meal beforehand, then by the time the crew starts serving the in-flight dinner your little rascal might have gone already to sleep, or be ready to settle down.
3. Spare set of clothing for you and your child
Always bring not just a clean set of clothing for your child, but also a top for yourself. During one of my flights with my young son, I arrived at our destination smelling and looking horrendous. He had been sick on me three times during the flight, and I had become his personal sick bag. For him, I had packed more than one outfit, so he was clean and smelled lovely, when meeting our family for the first time. I will not mention what they thought of me.
4. Ask for help
If you are on a long haul evening flight and you are by yourself, many flight crews are more than happy to assist, especially because it is quiet on board. I had crew members holding and entertaining my baby, so that I could enjoy a cup of tea for half an hour.
5. Snacks, toys and delays
On one occasion we were grounded for hours before taking off, which meant no food was served or air-conditioning activated. We were confined to our seats and my son became more and more restless. Bringing snacks such as bananas, peanuts, muesli bars and drinks helped overcome the wait.
Toys are also very helpful in keeping them occupied. I would suggest putting aside a few of their favourite ones one month before, so when they get restless in the aircraft and they receive one of their favourite toys, it is as if they are receiving a brand new toy.
6. Early or pre-check in
Many airlines allow pre-check in the day before the flight. Take advantage of it. This way you do not have to queue at check in with a young child. Some destinations however do not allow early check-in, so it is best to contact the airport and airline for information, as it various greatly from airport and destination.
If your child is not toilet trained yet, pack more nappies than you would usually use during the same time span at home. You can not foresee how many extra hours of delay you might experience on your journey.
I hope some of my tips will help you in making your next long haul flight more enjoyable for you and your child.