One might liken taking long-haul flights with children to endurance running. If you can endure pain for long periods of time, you can handle flying across the globe with your littles.
Okay, okay, it isn’t that bad. We have done it countless times and we have survived each flight, so far. We just made a 23-hour flight across the planet with a 6-year-old and a 2-year-old. As I write this, our home is jet-lagged, awake at 1 am, and slightly delirious.
Tip 1: Bring one or two small, age appropriate toys that are new to your child. Don’t go hogwild and buy expensive toys, just something that will distract them enough to get past moments of chaos. Do not allow them to procure said toy until your parent sense starts tingling and is telling you that you don’t have much time left before exhaustion meltdown is imminent. Unveiling the toy will bring enough excitement that you and all involved will most likely sidestep any emotional disasters.
Also, as far as stuff goes, bring any additional stuffed animals or blankets they are attached to, as it might coax them into sleep at some point.
And stickers. Their fine motor skills aren’t advanced enough to make stickers a quick process. If you are feeling especially fancy, invest in those puffy stickers. They can be reused and moved around longer, buying you more time and getting you closer to your final destination.
Tip 2: Ask for bulk head seating if you have a child under two. You will need that leg space for the diaper bag.
Tip 3: All your awesome parenting skills should be put on hold. You don’t let your child use the iPad except for special occasions? Well this is the moment, my friends. Let them reprogram it if it means you get to the other side. You don’t let them have lollipops? Be the magical unicorn parent they have never seen before by bringing at least three lollipops. Actually, don’t bother with any other kind of sweets. Lollipops provide the correct amount of time to sugar ratio you are seeking. You usually read books and play with hand made play dough on the weekends? This is the time for movies–as many as your child will watch on one long-haul flight. My son just watched three in a row. My daughter became mildly addicted to the iPad. They both possibly had sugar crashes and melting brains from the screen time by the time we reached our destination, but you know what? They were happy little humans on the flight and we all managed to survive with our sanity in check.
Tip 4: Your child may be sensitive to the air pressure changes on take offs and landings, which can consequently make them scream bloody murder. Give them a lollipop. Or nurse them. Or binkie them. Basically, give them something to suck on so their ears don’t feel like they are going to pop their brains.
Tip 5: For long layovers, find a play area for your kids to run wild in. They have been cooped up on plane where they were told to put their seat belts on and sit for hours on end. They need to run around and get some energy out. You can curl up and sleep in the corner (don’t really, unless you have a partner that has had enough coffee to stay awake to watch the kids).
Tip 6: Bring hand sanitizer and multivitamins. Planes are nasty vessels of human microbes. No one has time to get sick.
Tip 8: When they serve you food and you have a baby on your lap, put a napkin on your child’s head to prevent food from spilling on them.
That may just be something my husband does. I’m not sure. Either the napkin or just wet wipe them down when you are done.
Tip 9: Remind yourself that it won’t last forever. I repeat this to myself and it makes me feel better. Granted, I have also most likely had a plastic cup of red wine, so really it could be either one of those things that makes me feel better.
Tip 10: Ignore all the judgy judgers. Just do your best to be a decent parent and take care of your child regardless of the little beedy eyes that will undoubtedly squint at you like they got a little of your child’s strong will in their eyes.
To break it down–distract, bribe, and endure.
You got this. Godspeed, traveling families.