How do you take the stress out of long-haul flights with the rugrats? Our expert reveals all.
I stood staring vacantly into the soft play area at London's Heathrow, phone in clammy hand, snapping a picture of our 10-month-old blowing off some steam pre long haul. It felt like I was about to free fall into the flight from hell now only minutes away. "We'll see you on the other side!" I posted. During the months leading up to this trip I read with trepidation all the tips and tricks to make this panic-inducing journey go smoothly. I bought all the inflatable beds, head rests, foot rests, packed and wrapped an array of unique tiny "gifts" to keep her entertained, and considered re-mortgaging our house just to fly business.
My kids are now 10 and 7, and regular flyers between Australia and the UK. So here are some tips on how to make your journey fuss-free from a seasoned travelling parent.
This is the most important one. How are they going to sleep? How are you going to sleep? What happens if they don't sleep for 14 hours but instead just cry? My main takeaway from the past 10 years is - they always do sleep. To optimise your chances, choose a night flight. A flight departing an hour or two after their bed time means they get to eat their meal brought around straight after take off, then it's on with their pyjamas and they start watching a movie, before sleep inevitably wins out.
As a family of four we always choose the window seat for both kids and then an adult on the middle seat next to them, on parallel rows. If you are very lucky, the aisle seat might be vacant, so you can sit there and your child can put their legs on the middle seat, but if not they can put their legs on you.
Once they're too big for a bassinet but their legs are still short enough to stretch out in front of them in their own seat, inflatable foot rests are amazing for a comfy snooze.
Take your child's own full size pillow from their bed; just strap it onto their hand luggage. If they have a window seat, they can lean it against the wall and it also pads the arm rest, which is usually fixed on the wall side of the window seat.
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LIGHT AND NOISE
Eye masks are great for when kids want to sleep when the lights are still up or so they are not disturbed when they flick back on for a food service, and are usually provided by the airline in the amenity kit. We bring our own (ear covering) headphones, which double up as handy noise mufflers as the kids have yet to master ear plugs.
All those years ago, having reached the other side, I stepped through the sliding doors of Brisbane arrivals into the humid summer morning, baby in arms. The flight had gone well; she had her own flatbed (bassinet) so she was travelling baby business and we were her bedside attendants tending to her every need. And if you're still wondering, is the long-haul flight worth the trip? My answer is always yes.