Advice for keeping your sanity on a long-haul flight with small kids
I won’t profess to be the world’s best crafty mum, despite best efforts; or a brilliant cook. And I always forget stuff.
But when it comes to sitting on an aircraft and entertaining your kids for 7 plus hours at a time, I am going to play my flying long-haul with kids trump card
So here’s the real deal. You are more than likely going to be flying economy class because you cannot justify spending more or using your hard-earned frequent flyer points on people whose legs don’t extend beyond the end of the seat.
Now let’s assume you haven’t heeded any of my previous advice. You’re flying during the day, you don’t have a spare seat between you and you’re flying a cheapy airline that’s not handing out kid’s packs. It’s still not the end of the world (though seriously, read my strategies).
If you’ve got this far you’ve no doubt read plenty of articles already on what you can do to entertain your kids on a plane. Now I’m here to take the candy-coating away and tell you the truth. Not all toys make for good plane entertainment.
This post is part of our Toddler Travel advice series and our flying with kids series
Here are 5 things NOT to pack for your toddlers– despite any myths you may have heard to the contrary!
I can’t stand this shit sticking under my fingernails at home, why on earth would I want to clean it up on a plane? If it doesn’t end up stuck to your chair or ground into the carpet you can be sure it’s been inserted into a child’s ear, clumps of it shoved down t-shirts, every other food scrap and bit of fluff floating around your living space will attach itself for dear life and whatever is left is being inconspicuously eaten by the baby.
Until your child is about six and can control these urges, forget it.
Update – we might just have a new alternative to Play-doh – check out Skwooshi – a not so messy alternative (no guarantees on the baby not trying to eat it but it says non-toxic….)
2. Individually wrapped gifts
Come on!! Are you having a laugh? After packing, cleaning the house before you go, checking flights, oh and doing all that everyday mum stuff like feeding, cleaning and entertaining your offspring you’re really going to sit one evening before you fly out and wrap small presents from the dollar shop, one for each hour of the flight?
I have three children; I’m flying for 16 hours. I am not sitting to wrap 48 cute and glorious little bundles of happiness to then sit in a sea of my own wrapping paper filth (and watch the baby eat it).
O.K., if you have one child and your flight is less than three hours long I will give this cute little idea some merit; Long-haulers and those with multiple children, don’t worry you’re not throwing your chances of mother of the year here.
Keep. It. Simple.
Instead… do grab a couple of new dollar shop items per child but keep these in your bag until you’re ready to reveal something new. If they find it in their own plane bag it will be all over the airport terminal floor before you’ve even boarded the flight.
3. Teensy weensy toys
Make no mistake if you bring anything smaller than about the size of a tennis ball, you will find yourself with your head wedged down between the seats more times than a pregnant woman needs to pee.
My sons favourite toys at the moment are “Trashies”, adorably ugly when they are not finding their way into one orifice or another of the baby, but a complete nightmare when they fall down the back of the couch, and he knows if just one is missing, he knows…
Spare yourself the search and rescue mission; toddlers need chunky items without small parts.
You’ll find our favourite recommended toddler-sized toys here
4. Cheap crappy headphones
We all know that an iPad or similar electronic device is the ultimate distraction and entertainer on a plane (park your morals on electronics right now, long-haul flying is the big league here people).
Even a quite young child can be captivated by their magic for short spurts, but nobody wants to listen to Peppa Pig snorting and giggling her way through a jigsaw puzzle for 3 hours straight. So headphones are essential.
Young children particularly are likely to baulk at the idea at first. This will no doubt mean a bit of rough handling with the headset, ripping it off, sitting on it, throwing it. These are one item in your entertainment arsenal that is worth spending more cash on.
I can’t confess to having found a brand that lasts more than a few flights, but the cheaper they are, the quicker into the flight they will break and you will be left stranded without a good in-flight entertainment system.
You’ll find the best brands of headphones that we DO recommend for toddlers here!
5. The bag itself
Ok, I know some people love Trunki, and hey, I think they’re cute too – in concept. Have you ever tried picking one of these bad boys up when it’s full of toys? Have you ever seen a child opening one of these in the middle of the airport lounge? Don’t be mistaken. Sure kids love sitting on them and pulling them along. For three minutes.
Golden rule people, if you can’t be sure your toddler is going to carry it for the full length of the journey, if they cannot lift it themselves, if they cannot open it themselves without the contents spilling everywhere, then why have you given it to them? Now is not the time for “teaching independence”; it’s the toddler years – it’s survival of the fittest.
Ride-on Suitcases work best for preschoolers NOT toddlers – our full ride-on luggage review & recommendations here.
Sure bring toys and activities for entertaining your kids but accept you will be responsible for everything in it and in all likelihood end up carrying it at some point until they are old enough to take responsibility for this all-important piece of luggage for themselves.
It’s not all bad news parents – there are some items that are absolute winners in kid’s carry-ons!
- Click here to see our best recommendations of what IS in my toddlers plane bag.
- Also this great guest post on the best travel toys you can pack for a 2-year-old
- Our favourite guide on what to pack for your 1-year-old
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Do you have any pet peeves on the plane – what are your MUST NOT PACK items, how did you learn the hard way?
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