If you follow me on instagram (if you don't, what? why?), you'll know that I recently took Darcy out to Disney World in Orlando and that obviously, it involved a long haul flight.
I've had a few messages and comments asking how I find this or if I have any special tricks for getting through it all so I thought a blog post might be apt.
We're really lucky and have had to opportunity to travel long haul quite a few times. In fact, in her five years, Darcy has been on ten foreign adventures, so that's twenty flights, eighteen of which have been long haul across the Atlantic to either Orlando or Seattle (both over 8 hours away).
I've picked up a few little tips and techniques but what I will say is that every child is different and you know best how to care for your own. Just because something works for one mother, doesn't necessarily mean it will work well for another.
We first started flying when Darcy was 2 years old. My whole family flew out to Orlando on a virgin flight sat in economy. It was really cool to have three rows of people I knew and loved and also meant that Darcy had plenty of people to play with and cuddle, so that definitely helped. I took a lot of small toys on that trip, a really really lot. I think I had about three sandwich bags full of little toys for her to play with. I bought them all new so that she'd be super interested in them and spend a bit longer with each one- that's your goal here- occupy as long as possible!
On subsequent flights I've taken the toys and added things in like stickers (children live for stickers, any stickers, all the stickers), crayons (although I've found she's bored of these now and would rather feel a bit more superior and use a biro) and, at the grand old age of five, her all time love, the iPad. I know we're all for lowering screen time and letting littles have golden experiences like milking cows and running freely through meadows of blooms but let's face it, a bit of screen time on a flight isn't going to give them brain rot but it is going to give you your sanity. We have a Leap Frog tablet with loads of non wifi needing games loaded onto it but you could always download a few apps to your iPad or phone before you fly.
(Did you know one woman
can drag three cases, wear a backpack and keep a child in check all by herself- women are crazy strong!)
Most long haul planes will have little TV screens in the seats- take advantage of these! It's Darcy's dream day when I say, 'you know what, sit down with a blanket and just stare at a film for a few hours, I don't mind' and on the flight, I'm fine with it. Once we flew out to Seattle with Delta and the screens didn't work, at all. That's 9 hours in small chairs with a four year old who wants to know if we're nearly there yet. I hadn't bought the iPad thinking, 'she won't want that if there are tv's available' and I regretted it all the way across the ocean.
Snacks are your friends. Most planes serve food, drinks and snacks throughout the flight and most of the time it's really quite nice. Sometimes though, you're little cherub decides they hate everything, even peas which they liked a lot the day before but now, no, they detest them. They also now detest chicken and pasta and bread and salad and perhaps even orange juice. Cool. Hopefully this won't happen to you but on the off chance it does, wouldn't you be glad that you bought a plain cheese sandwich and a banana from Pret before you boarded the flight? You might even be glad you bought those four kit kat chunkys that you can eat feverishly in the toilet every hour so that you can cope. Buy some snacks. If you don't eat them, you've wasted a tenner. If you do, you're both happy people and that's a risk worth taking.
Dress your bambino is comfortable clothes. That Baby K trouser one piece is adorable but it's not going to be so fun when you have to wrangle them out of it to almost nudity for them to have a wee in the very small loo on board. Leggings, tee shirt, jumper and trainers are my usual go to and can be de-layed if you're arriving somewhere hot and you've packed a pair of shorts. Always take a spare set of clothes incase there's an accident (from them, from someone else or turbulence) and if it's a night flight, consider jimjams- nobody will judge you, I've done it quite a few times and it's great because they're automatically dressed for sleep and it helps them nod off- yay, wine and film time for you!!
(This was just before we discovered that the tv's on the plane didn't work on our flight.)
This is very luxurious and I'm aware not for everyone but we have flown in a variety of different 'classes'. I don't really like the term classes because it sounds a bit elitist but that's what airlines call them. We've flown business with British Airways (very nice but make sure you book a child's meal otherwise your little one is going to be eating a herb encrusted stick of asparagus and a perfectly marinated piece of salmon), and premium economy with Virgin. We've also travelled economy with Delta, British Airways and Virgin. I have to say, I don't think the seating arrangements makes any difference to a child's behaviour. All they give a monkeys about is the TV, snacks and toys. However, I'll be blunt, that level of comfort made a big difference to me. A lot of our trips have been just me and the child and to be able to skip lines, sit in a spacious, enclosed (business has little walls and windows), environment with everything easily on hand makes life lovely. If you're travelling solo with a child and you can upgrade (I know, it's extortionate), just consider it.
(Do you know how fun it is to lug your giant car seat across the world? Zero fun, that's how much, zero).
One of the biggest things I have done for each and every flight (even a 2 hour squeezeyjet flight to Spain) is talk, talk, talk about it before hand. The more you talk about it, the more familiar they are with the concept and the less of a shock everything is going to be when the board or when you ask them to do something. When she was very little, we practised sitting nicely with legs out and hands on knees (sounds tedious but she was game for it during the flight so I was glad of all the, 'shall we play aeroplanes?') and we now talk about the plan for the flight. So, 'This flight is going to be so fun! We're going to watch a film, have some lunch, have a nap and then when you wake up, you can watch another film or play with the toys'. I find that if Darcy has a brief outline of how things are going to play out, she's much more able to behave. I get it, I like to know where I am with things too.
I hope some of these tips have been useful to you. Ultimately, all you can do is do your best. Give them something to sip or suck for taking off and landing (ears and pressure don't always mix) and cut yourself some slack- it's hard work parenting in such a squished environment, nobody is going to judge you if your child isn't a perfect angel all the time and you don't need to feel fretful about it.
Sit back, put their headphones on and enjoy your flight!
PS- Leave your tips below- I'm sure they'll be helpful to everyone else as well as me!