Family holidays show your child new places, get them excited about trying new things and build lifelong happy memories. However, this rose-tinted view on holidays can disappear pretty quickly when you’re setting alarms for a 5am flight, looking for lost passports and trying to squeeze toys, books and chargers into an already bursting hand-luggage bag.
Whilst the holiday destination is set to be blissful and fun, the journey getting there can be a whole other adventure. Travel company Kuoni conducted a study, researching reddit and mumsnet forums, as well as speaking to 250 parents who have children under 12, to find the best advice for tackling a long holiday journey.
The most popular tips focused around snacks, entertainment ideas and sleeping, but the research also unearthed a number of off-the-wall ideas:
Ten weird and wonderful flying hacks
• “One of the most surprising things I’ve found that keeps my child well-behaved is them being barefoot on a flight”
• “Pretend that the airport is an airplane themed amusement park, chosen as a special outing. Airports are wonderful through a toddler’s eyes and flights are easier if they are in a happy mind-set”
• “Prepare multiple spare sets of spare clothes and pack each set in a zip bag for easy hand-luggage access”
• “I buy a few new toys (nothing expensive) and put them in a pillow case as a lucky dip to distract them whenever they’re bored”
• “Don’t take LEGO!”
• “Sounds daft but I wrapped up something for every half-an-hour, small things like colouring pens, jigsaw, treats, toy car – the unwrapping thing kept my boy happy!”
• “Take a pillow you can fold over and prop your child up on so they can see the screen!”
• “I made a mini brochure with pictures of the hotel and hire car so he knew where we were going”
• “We don’t board first and instead wait as late as we can to give the kids as long as possible to run around before the flight, and it means avoids having to entertain them for an extra 20 minutes whist everyone else boards.”
• “If I flew again I’d take gel ‘window clings’ for my toddler to play with” See Pinterest
How to handle long flights with children – the basics
Parents said that the most important pieces of advice for a smooth flight with children were packing extra refreshments, and taking a well-charged, pre-prepared tablet loaded with movies and games. The full advice can be read here, but here are our top picks:
• Easing take-off: For older children, a few parents suggested taking hard-boiled sweets, mints or chewing gum to help with the ear-popping sensation of take-off and landing.
• Back-up meals: Other parents said they stock up on meal options at the airport in case their child turns their nose up at the airplane food. Gatwick’s website states that most food items are fine to take in your hand luggage (e.g. fruit, sandwiches, pasta salads, pies etc.) through security, as long as they don’t have a high liquid content (see full guidelines here).
• Bringing child-sized headphones: A snazzy on-board entertainment package is only useful if your child can actually listen to it, so bring headphones (best bet is wired ones rather than Bluetooth, with a standard 3.5mm universal jack) that properly fit around their head and ears.
• Magazines and books that offer something extra: Whether it was colouring books, puzzles or buying magazines jam-packed with games and activities at the airport, there was a lot of love for paper-based distractions as well as tablet ones. Perfect if there are any low battery or poor connection issues!
• Spare clothes: A number of parents packed a spare set of clothes for long flights (one parent even pre-packs different outfits into ziplock bags for ease of finding in a full hand-luggage bag!)
• Comforting reminders: Many parents noted the importance of taking a familiar blanket or soft toy to help calm and soothe children on an overnight flight.
• What seat? There was a lot of contradiction around what seats to put your children in. Some parents preferred planting their child in the window seat – giving them something excited to look at and be distracted by, whereas other parents thought the middle seat was best as two adults could keep an eye on the infant, and some thought aisle was best as it had easiest toilet access!