Dear Parents: 8 Tips To Know Before Flying Long-Haul With Your Toddler or Kids

Dear Parents: Top 8 Tips To Surviving Long-Haul Flights With Your Kids

Find out how to make the long, arduous journey less of a hassle for you and your kids.
Baby on airplane seat

Image Credit: Qantas (Facebook)

With the year-end holidays coming up, most parents are deciding where to travel to with their children. For most parents, deciding how far they want to go can be a big hassle, as they have to deal with the long flight to and from their destination country. In fact, two of the most popular countries for travel among families – Japan and Australia – require at least 7 hours to reach.

A new survey commissioned by Emirates and conducted by YouGov has revealed that it takes an average of 90 minutes for Singaporean children under 16 to get bored on long-haul flights. These flights, which can last from 6 hours to 12 hours, are tough enough for adults to endure. Imagine bringing along a child that cannot even sit still for two hours and gets bored easily.

Whether this is your first time boarding a long-haul flight with your kids or the 99th, here are some useful tips to keep handy to surviving that transatlantic plane ride:

1. Book overnight flights

Airplane night light

Image Credit: Marvin Meyer

One travel tip is to book long-haul overnight flights in order to save time and perhaps even a night’s hotel stay. Travel days are very important for time-strapped people like us, so an overnight flight helps us to save precious travel time. 

Overnight flights are also good for children too, but for a different reason. During long-haul overnight flights, there will be a period where the lights are dimmed. This is true for all airplanes, as the lights have to be dimmed at night for safety reasons.

When the lights are dimmed, that’s the best time for you (and your kids!) to get some rest. Usually, the dimming of lights coincide with the regular sleeping hours of the destination airport’s time zone anyway, so that passengers will get accustomed to the local time. What does this mean for you and the kids? It’s time to get some sleep!

2. Bring a comfortable change of clothes 

comfortable baby shoes

Image Credit: TerriC

To get a good night’s sleep, it might be good to dress more comfortably – especially on a cramped seat. Sure, you can get the kids to wear their pajamas to the airport, but it’s highly unlikely that any parent will do so. In this case, it would be wise to pack a set of pajamas for your kids (and maybe one for yourself too). 

Most parents agree that their child’s comfort is the most important concern on a flight. While most of us cannot afford the added comfort in the premium classes, we can at least make ourselves more comfortable through our attire. 

When you’re travelling with children in tow, no one really cares what you’re wearing onboard the plane – unless you’re wearing nothing, of course. Just remember to change back before you step out of the airplane!

3. Spend more time at airport kids facilities

Most airlines recommend their passengers to reach the airport two hours before their flight, so that they can complete the check-in process on time. However, some passengers reach the airport right before the check-in counter closes. Since they don’t have anything to do at the airport, why bother to reach early?

However, families with children should definitely arrive early and check in. Once you pass check-in and immigration, that is typically where the kids’ facilities are located. Most airports have facilities for the young ones, which include play areas, televisions playing kids shows, and diaper changing corners for toddlers. 

If there is ever a time to let the kids loose, it’s at the airport play area. Make them run around and tire themselves out before the flight, so that they might fall asleep more easily during the flight. It might not work for some kids, as they always get excited onboard a plane, but at least you’ve tried your best.

#TripZillaTip: Some airports are actually worth stopping by earlier. For example, Changi Airport’s Jewel has a large sky garden and play area, which might interest your kids! As the play area is located right before immigration, you and your kids can reach the airport can easily spend some time at Jewel before your flight.

4. Keep your kids entertained

One way to keep children happy is to entertain them. This can be done by letting them watch some cartoons or movies. In fact, many children prefer spending their time watching cartoons and movies to keep themselves occupied during long-haul flights. 

When boarding a long-haul flight (or any non-budget flight for that matter), be sure to utilise the entertainment facilities onboard. Some airlines have more diverse and recent movies than others, but there is definitely something for everyone – including children too.

In case you’re worried that your child will not find anything interesting, you can bring your own device onboard! Just remember to load it with shows that your child likes, charge it fully, and maybe bring along a comfortable pair of headphones for them.  

5. Keep the kids full too!

Another way to entertain kids during a long-haul flight is to give them something to eat throughout the flight. Logically, if the kids are busy munching on food, they cannot make any noise (except the chewing noise – in which case, bring less crunchy snacks). They also become happier eating things they like, which can only mean a pleasant flight for you and the passengers around you.

Another tip is to request for kids meals beforehand, as airlines will only prepare the kids meals once requested. As more parents are bringing their children on long-haul flights, airlines have tweaked their kids meals to satisfy these picky customers. These might include cutlery that can transform into toys, and ‘fast food’ options for kids.  

Surprisingly, some kids meals look so appetising that adults also want a taste of it. Some airlines even offer snack packs for the kids, so do ask if you’re not sure!

6. Don’t forget to pack your kid’s favourite items or toys

Kid looking outside plane

Image Credit: NeONBRAND

Most airlines have toys and activity kits for their younger passengers aged 12 and below. For example, on all Emirates flights, children two years and below can get toys to accompany them throughout the flight. Other children can get the Lonely Planet activity kits, which consist of educational books and craft activities to keep them occupied. 

Nevertheless, it pays to be prepared. In case the flight does not have the items to keep your children happy, bring some of their favourite toys and a mobile device loaded with their favourite shows. The attention span of a child is quite short, so they might get bored after watching just one episode of their favourite show or playing a single toy. 

#TripZillaTip: If you travel long-haul with children quite often, consider getting convertible inflight beds for them. These inflight “beds” are actually seat extensions, but they provide the child with a bigger and more comfortable space to sleep. Do check with the airline beforehand if your can bring these items, as some airlines might only allow child booster seats onboard.

7. Walk around the airplane if possible!

Walking on plane

Image Credit: Ina Carolino

Sitting in the same spot for hours is a bad idea, even if you are not on an airplane. If you stay in your seat for too long, the blood circulation around your legs will slow down, causing blood pooling and swollen veins. The situation becomes worse on airplanes as there is not much space to get up and walk around. 

Parents, this tip will also apply to you too. Instead of staying cooped up in your seat, why not bring your child to the washroom at regular intervals? This will force you and your child to move about the plane, while ensuring that your child will not keep asking to go to the washroom. Do wait after your meal trays have been cleared, as you do not want to inconvenience the flight attendants. 

If there seems to be a queue for the washroom, take your child for a short walk around the plane. It may look weird to other passengers, but walking around the plane keeps you and your child healthy. Most importantly, it keeps your child happy – and a happy child means a pleasant flight for all.

8. Look out for kid-friendly airlines

Finally, look out for airlines which offer amenities and services catered to parents with children. Each airline has a different policy regarding children, which might include discounts for children, priority boarding and more. The best airlines take care of both the child and the parent, ensuring both will enjoy a pleasant journey onboard their flights.

For example, Emirates’s onboard entertainment system offers up to 150 kids’ channels, so they will definitely not get bored throughout the flight. They even get movie snacks while watching their favourite shows! If that is not enough, there are also toys and activity kits for them to preoccupy themselves with. 

Besides the children, Emirates takes care of the parents too. Parents travelling with children can look forward to priority boarding, while those with infants or babies are also entitled to extra 10kg baggage for free. Once at Dubai, parents can get the complimentary Emirates strollers for their children, making it easier to navigate the airport. 

Bon Voyage!

We hope that these tips will make the long journey more pleasant for all parents and kids. Ultimately, with all these tips, you and your kids are well-rested enough to start exploring the moment the plane lands!

About Author

Lucas Neo

Lucas is always at home researching for his next travel destination. When he’s not doing that, he’s most likely heading to the airport to catch a flight to an exciting location. Lucas enjoys wandering around and exploring beautiful attractions, but he never turns down a spot of retail therapy too.


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