Here are 12 tips to make that long haul trip overseas an easier one with your tiny travellers!
Planning your summer vacation but dreading that long haul flight? We feel ya, mamas! With so many of us having family in other parts of the world, the inevitable flight back to your loved ones has us feeling all sorts of emotions (mainly dread as the little ones run amuck around the home!). But with these 12 tips from how to book your seats to how to keep your kiddos engaged on the flight… We’ve got you covered!
1. Pick your seats as far in advance as you possible
If you’re flying with an airline that allows you to pick at booking, then set aside the bulkhead seats and a bassinet. If you have a smaller family, the side seats – usually a set of three on larger aircraft – are a good bet to create your own haven. It’s worth starting a dialogue with customer service to underline your need for these seats and the bassinet, and it’s also worth getting to the airport early to make sure you can secure the seats you want (plus it gives you “poo-nami” contingency time).
2. Prepare a flight plan
Yes, it probably will go awry with a projectile vomit or your babe insisting that they need to run up and down the aisles, but having a rough idea of how you will manage the trip can make a big difference to your stress levels. Ideally, it will be an hour by hour strategy taking you from check-in to arrivals, factoring when your baby would likely nap and eat.
3. Compartmentalise what you need
If you’re bringing a large cabin case – that’s where you should keep items you’re least likely to need on the plane but could tide you over if your checked luggage is lost or the flight is delayed (spare nappies, food pouches, general clothes and toys).
Then in a large bucket bag or rucksack separate what you need into different ‘packages’ – one for food pouches and snacks, one for dummies, teething toys and the portable steriliser, one for spare outfits, and one for toys.
Keep the nappy bag with you and include in it essentials for 2 hour intervals (a spare outfit, nappies, food pouches plus small snacks such as dried apple slices or rice cakes, a light sleep slack, jumper and an easy spare outfit for you). This saves you rummaging around in the overhead locker every time you need something – just restock as you use and need.
4. Bring disinfectant wipes and a couple of bin liners
This plan involves letting your baby play ‘off-lap’ so it might be worth giving the surfaces; walls, tables, plane sides a wipe down before you begin. The bin liners are good for sweeping up all the debris from play and snacking and can double up as a base for your changing mat. Let’s face it, the toilets deteriorate rapidly during long hauls.
5. Charm your fellow passengers
You may think your munchkins are adorable but many non-parents (and some other parents!) probably won’t feel the same way. Particularly if there’s uninterrupted wailing. So go on a charm offensive from the outset. Hand out some ear plugs and if you have any left over eye masks from previous flights, give them out too. It’s so much harder to be cross after someone’s been kind.
If you have the row to yourselves then ask the stewardess to hold fire putting up the bassinet until it is close to nap time. Then pop the airline blanket down on the floor in front of you and create a little play area. From the age of about eight months, it’s highly unlikely your tot will be happy to just sit on your lap, so this just makes the most of the space. For easy tidying you can use the Play & Go storage/play mat. Mini Home Hong Kong sells this wonderful product, which would also be so useful in the house too.
7. Distraction, Distraction, Distraction
Prepare a ‘super pack’ of toys that you can take out one at a time. Ideally pick items that have multiple uses such as:
- Glove Puppets – for older toddlers you can act out stories together, for younger ones they are great for peek-a-boo and cuddles.
- Stacking Cups – A game in itself or turn it into a hide and seek game with toys or treats hidden beneath different ones. Plus they pack up quite neatly.
- Magazines – Ha! I can hear you snort, as if you’ll have time to read. Actually, they are for babe to tear up (and occasionally chew up – so be warned) as we know kids love to rip things to shreds. But great if you can snatch a moment to read them before the carnage.
- Books: Bring one favourite and one about travelling – the former for familiarity and fun, the latter to help explain the adventure.
Travel can be exciting but for little ones it can also be overwhelming – all the new sights, smells and noise, plus so many strange faces. It might help to bring some well loved toys and soothers as this boost of the familiar will help with any anxieties about the new or the sensory overload of the trip. The super talented Carly Lee of Little Poppits crafts excellent Raggy Taggy cloths and teethers that are perfect for comforting, and she also makes baby carrier strap covers to occupy bubs when you are on the move.
Teething necklaces and bracelets can also be a God send when dealing with restless or overtired little ones (or when they want a cuddle but don’t really want to sit still). Charming at Special Delivery for Kidz can help put together a flight pack for you. Her darling little store sells gorgeous teething accessories, dolls, comfort toys, and if your kids are a little bigger, order the soy crayons for an extra entertainment option (though be prepared for the plane to be given some ‘decoration’ too!).
9. Rotate in the iPad
This one is a balancing act as too much screen time isn’t great, but it can also keep little ones occupied giving you time to eat or just have a breather. For the under 2’s it’s best to keep viewing to under 20 minutes at a time. It’s also worth considering whether your child will wear earphones as some apps work best with sounds.
Useful apps include: Babysitter to go, I Hear Ewe, Kids Shape Puzzle, Nursery Rhymes For Kids, Peekaboo Barn, iCanCount, Starfall ABCs, Zoola, Toca Mini, Kids Doodle, Kids Games Club.
10. Bring a baby carrier
This will help with times you need to be hands free or just need to pace the cabin. If you have a softer one then they can also help get bubs off to sleep. Ergo’s 360 is a useful and robust multi-faceted type, which is easy to use, or if you prefer woven or cotton carriers which might be more comfortable if your baby wants to sleep on you, then Didymos and Wrapsody are excellent brands(eco-friendly baby store Petit Tippi has a good range of choices).
11. Never underestimate the power of a snack
Come well armed with rice cakes, dried fruit, crackers and rusks and hand them out liberally throughout the waking hours as they can nip a tantrum in the bud. Make sure your little ones are taking in lots of fluids too, and moisturise them well before you board. Long haul flights are a bit of an onslaught on tiny systems.
12. Ask for help
There’s no shame in it – if you need a hand, then just ask. People might surprise you with how willing they are to assist if you are struggling. But if it all goes wrong, and your little one is thoroughly miserable, take a breath and just do what you can to manage. Getting stressed, angry or anxious is more likely to make the situation worst. Above all else, just try to keep in mind, it’s a fixed period of time, and it will pass.