How DO You Do It? My Top Tips for Flying Long Haul with Kids

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Since welcoming Miss P's baby sister to our family 14 months ago, I have flown with my munchkins on my own for three separate transatlantic trips. The number one comment I hear from people when I'm traveling with my kiddos is "I don't know how you do it!"

Well the truth is... sometimes I don't either, but I don't have a choice. Living abroad, we either make the long haul to visit our family and friends - or we don't see them.

Last week, I flew with my girls, aged 3 (nearly 4) years old (Miss P) and her Baby Sister, at 14 months from Dublin to Detroit to surprise my brother for his 30th birthday this weekend. My husband wasn't able to make the trip so I flew alone with the girlies, and dare I say, we had one of the best trips we've taken together so far. Part of this is probably due to Miss P getting that much older, but even so, Baby Sister is new to her feet so asking her to sit still for 8+ hours is a challenge.

Nonetheless, if you are making a long haul trip with your kiddos either with or without you spouse/partner, here are some tips to help make the trip that much smoother.

1. Be Prepared - Inevitably, every time I've flown with Baby Sister, she's cutting teeth. I always bring teething remedies with me, and would recommend this to anyone traveling with infants/babies. For me this includes a teether, tylenol, and teething gel. Think about what you might take out for a day trip with you and bring that along. Do your kids need spare clothes? Bring a set. Do they like to snack? Have snacks at the ready. Obviously on longer flights meals are included, but snacks are so helpful even just to keep kids entertained in between meal service. Is there a favorite soother your child uses? Make sure it comes with.
Settling in with snacks and new magazines

2. Consider the Flight Schedule - When you're booking your flight, it's also a good idea to consider the schedule if its feasible within your budget. When we fly from Ireland to Michigan, we typically use Delta Airlines. Delta offers a couple of options - either fly to New York or Atlanta nonstop from Dublin then take another flight around 1.5 hours to Michigan, or fly to Amsterdam or Paris before taking the long haul. Given the option, I will ALWAYS choose to have the shorter flight first - that way when you take the kiddos off the long haul - you're there! You don't have to have another layover and another flight.. you merely clear customs and you're on your way. I prefer this schedule to anything else, even if it means that the long haul flight is longer. It also gets us into Michigan mid afternoon as opposed to evening time, when the time change makes it well past our bedtimes and for me, tired kids are harder to manage. It just doesn't make sense to take three connections to save $25 and have miserable kids in my world.

3. Get Settled - take advantage of early boarding, especially if you're traveling alone. This gives you a couple extra minutes to get on the plane and get yourself situated. Usually, the flight attendants will check on us as well which is super helpful. Don't be afraid to ask for something if you need it, especially before the plane fills up and they're busier. I have found that most flight attendants are very willing to help out, especially when I'm alone. In addition to that, I always like to make sure I have anything that I might need within arms reach should the seat belt sign be on and I need something. For example, I unpack headphones, some snacks, drinks for the kids, something for them to play with and have it all within reach. Then I'll stow whatever we won't necessarily need in the overhead to give me a bit more space around our seats.

4. Choose Seats Wisely - Most major airlines will not require you to purchase a seat, however if you are on your own, it isn't a bad idea to pay a little extra for decent seats. For example, on this flight, we purchased seats so that myself and my girls would be seated in a two seat section, rather than stuck in a middle section for so long. It also allows me to "contain" the girls by setting them at the window with myself at the aisle. I could set Baby Sister down to stand if need be and she could stretch her legs a bit.

5. Put Yourself in your Kiddo's Shoes - I know several adults that hate to fly, and my husband tops that list. Before kids, we were half way through a flight from Paris to Los Angeles when he told me that he just couldn't take it anymore and he had to get off the plane! I'm not sure where he thought he was going to go, but he really struggled to sit through the rest of the flight. I told him to take a walk around and then pick out a new movie. Thankfully, he didn't throw a tantrum like one of my daughters might have in the same position 😆 It is boring and uncomfortable at times and kids are less able to deal with those feelings. If they start getting restless (mine did!) think of something to distract them. Pull out a new book, magazine, crayons, a snack, something to get their mind off what's going on. When Miss P started to get frustrated, I pulled up the in flight monitor which showed on the map where the plane was and where we were going so she could see how much farther was left. This led to further discussion about where we live, where we are going and where she was born, and I was able to distract her (just like the walk or movie did for my hubby!) When Baby Sister started to get restless, we went for a walk around the plane. Having just learned to walk, this was a big hit for her.

Baby Sister Settles in for a Nap
6. Relax - Typically, I have to admit to being very nervous flying on my own with the girls. What if they cry? What if they're crazy? What if..... This trip, I rather resounded myself to the fact that we were going to make the trip, everything was going to be fine, and that was that. We'll deal with any issues as they arise. Thankfully, they didn't and we had a really good flight. For us the outbound is the worst since it's during the day, when we fly back to Ireland it's overnight so the girlies will sleep. So the worst is over! I actually found myself the most relaxed on this flight as I have been on previous flights.

So I'm curious, what are your tips for flying long haul with Wee Ones?

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