Our kids love long haul flights, and weird as it sounds, I actually really look forward to them too! This never used to be the case. Our first experiences of flying with our eldest were horrendous!!! Hours of trying to coax him to sleep so that we could finally sit down, and stop apologizing to the people unlucky enough to be sitting near us. Plane journeys became an endurance test – of our patience, marriage & sanity. But, they have got easier the more children we have had. I think this is why…
With three kids, I often feel guilty that I am not able to give them enough time and attention – plane journeys offer that in abundance! The moment we step on to a plane we are in a confined space with no where to go to escape the kids, and no where for them to escape us! But there is also no cooking, washing up, phone calls, social media or work to distract us. The kids now know that this is a rare opportunity when they can have us all to themselves, for looooong periods of time – and we, in turn, are learning to embrace this! Our expectations for plane journeys have changed - we no longer expect to watch a film or read a book (that relaxation ship has sailed!) but it IS a chance for us to be able to fully focus on these little people – guilt and distraction free knowing that there is nothing else at that moment that we are meant to be doing, other then killing time with them! On airplanes we become those ‘yes parents’ - If they want a story, they can have one. A snack? I’ve got a bag full. If they want to go play in the tiny toilet sink for the 15th time that hour – we can go! As the boys have got a bit older - plane journeys have provided unexpected opportunities for learning new skills – most card games we taught the boys on a plane journey; Our eldest learnt to tie his shoe laces on a flight to Bangkok; Our second learnt to tell the time on a flight to New York – all those time consuming activities that there never seems to be enough hours in the day for – we now save for plane journeys!!! As soon as flights stopped being something for us to endure & instead became an opportunity to be the completely present parents we want to be but don’t often have the time to be – they have become something we all look forward to.
HOWEVER, all that said, when that beautiful moment arrives (usually about 4 hours in to a flight) when the kids have grown bored of their ‘totally-present-completely-available-yes-parents’, and they decide to watch a film, or fall asleep. THAT is the moment I order a gin, give hubby a high five, and switch on the in-flight entertainment! #parentingwin
A few practical tips we have picked up along the way:
- Dress them all the same. This really helps with spotting the kids in crowded airports & luggage reclaim (team jumpers!!!)
- Baby wipes – put a pack in every bag. Small children, eating in confined spaces, sticky fingers, dirty floors - yuck!
- Pack lots of savory snacks – I used to pack mostly sweet treats to distract them and keep them happy, but its substantial, savory snacks that we all need to keep us going on long journeys (& avoid the sugar rush & crash a few hours in)
- For toddlers, bring a phone or device loaded up with games or shows you know they will watch for when the seat belt sign is on and they have to be strapped in. The in flight screens tend to be too high for them to view easily, and the options aren’t always very toddler friendly.
- Have a selection of favourite books stuffed in the seat pocket for take off and landing when electronic devices have to be switched off. Stickers are also great to decorate the headrest or tray in front!
So those are a few of my thoughts & tips for flying with kids. Our three have already started the count down to our next long haul flight. The holiday once we get there is just a bonus!
I am a Speech & Language Therapist by profession, wife to a compassionate adventure seeking geek, mother to three mini backpackers, and a lover of people and travel. You can see more of our adventures on instagram @aliceadelebrown.