Friday 30 June 2023

Tips for taking a long haul flight with older children

A few years ago I wrote this post - Flying long haul with two small children. We were lucky enough to fly long haul several times with young children - it was worth it for the experiences we enjoyed but it was hard work! After appreciating how much easier our more recent flights have been now that the children are older (14 and 12) I thought I'd write an update with tips for flying with younger teenagers!

I always make plans in advance around flight times. For example if we have booked a night flight I know that the food may not be served until a couple of hours in. If we eat a good meal at the airport then we can settle down to sleep straightaway. For a daytime flight, if we've had an early start I try to encourage a nap at some point so that we can keep going when we arrive. I always set my watch for the new time zone before we get on the plane and then try and work to that as soon as possible.

We make sure to choose our seats as soon as we can so that we can sit together, and I like to be near a toilet. We try to book a row of seats including an aisle so we can get in and out without disturbing others, and because we book special meals like child or vegetarian we are served first, which means we can nip to the toilet while it's empty because others are still eating!

Plane interior with lit up screens
Photo credit Alexander Schimmeck via Unsplash

Everyone in our family is responsible for their own bag which contains their devices, plenty of snacks, teddies and so on. It's packed in a bag which will fit under the seat in front so that they don't need to disturb me to retrieve things.

For a night flight we pack lots of things to help us be comfortable - a travel pillow, sleep mask, ear plugs and teddies for example. We wear comfy clothes and layers, and when settling down to sleep with a blanket make sure to put the seat belt on over the top so that it can be seen in case of turbulence. When the children are asleep I usually rearrange them carefully and make sure that any loose items like headphones or teddies are well secured!

On that note, as the children get bigger their headphones get smaller, so from experience you need to be extra careful with them as they can easily get lost in the seat! 

I've always found the seat back entertainment on long haul flights very good, with recently released films, television box sets and games as well as the map showing where you are. You can usually check in advance to see what will be showing on your flight which is a good idea as sometimes there is so much to choose from that it can be overwhelming when you are actually sat there.

Finally I now set the expectation that the children are in general responsible for entertaining themselves. They can go to the toilet on their own (although I often end up going too!), they can choose what they would like to drink, they can plan their entertainment and bring along things they might want or need. And if it looks like I'm sleeping then they will have a much happier Mum at the destination if they leave me to it unless there's an emergency!

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