How do I survive a long plane flight?

By Sally Webb

The thought of having to cope with a long-haul flight is the reason why many parents won’t travel with their kids at all. I’m often asked for my tips and tricks, and my first response is always the same: the best thing you can do to reduce the stress of air travel is to change your attitude. Think like your kids, for whom flying and all that’s associated with it – from soaring above the clouds to meals in trays – is a fascinating adventure.

baby in bassinet

Babies are actually relatively easy to manage, especially if they fit into one of the bassinets that most airlines provide (but you do have to check what weight the bassinet on that airline will take). Virgin takes porkers – up to 18kg – whereas Qantas limit is 11kg. (More on this in future posts.) Toddlers and pre-schoolers are more of a challenge. They need more entertaining – and you need to come prepared. School aged kids are actually a dream (after those toddler years);  they can read and watch movies (on loop) and entertain themselves. Some basic tips include:

  • Don’t rely on the inflight entertainment system to keep your children happy. Older aircraft often don’t have seatback screens, screens are positioned for adults rather than kids anyway, and general viewing movies are not always suitable for children.
  • Carry your own child-sized over-ear headphones so you don’t spend every five minutes refitting them.
  • Pack books and activity kits, which depending on the age of your child might contain notepads, colouring books, stickers, textas, pencils, crayons and glue sticks.
  • Distraction therapy works wonders on long plane trips. Raid the $2 shops and bring out a little surprise for every hour of the flight. If you can, wrap them before you depart. Unwrapping is fun – and takes up time.
  • Never do anything for your children that they can do more slowly themselves.

asleep in the plane