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Long Haul Flights With Children - A Survival Guide

Nov 06, 2019

What did you spend the last 12 hours doing with your children? 

In all likelihood it involved things like playing in the park, cooking meals, nap time, snuggling up with a book and a bit of TV time. Not sitting still in an airplane seat. 

The thought of trying to keep children entertained and quiet (nobody wants to be the one with the crying baby) for hours on end is enough to bring any parent out in a cold sweat. That’s after you survived the airport and any possible delays.  Have you ever been to Gatwick or Heathrow and seen those frazzled parents trying to entertain tired, hungry or impatient children? Not the most relaxing start to your break. 

Luckily we have out together this guide to make travelling with children easier and stress free!

Book the good seats, for everyone

If upgrading from economy is in your budget, or you have air-miles to spend, then go for it. If not, try to get the bulkhead seats for a bit of extra space and reserve a “sky cot” as soon as you book your tickets if you have a baby. It’s definitely worth paying for a seat for everyone if you possibly can, even though babies under two can travel on your lap. The extra space makes all the difference.

Think about seats and straps

Very small children might be happier in their car seat, since they are already familiar with it, and you might be happier with them securely strapped in. Not all car seats can be used on flights though, so check the airline’s regulations. Another option for small children is a CARES harness, which turns the airline lap belt into a four point harness and lets under twos stay in their own seat for take off and landing. It’s very easy to fit and folds away into your hand luggage. There are also various products available that aim to fill the “leg space” of a child’s seat and create a flat surface for them to lie down and sleep. Check the airline regulations as not all allow them but this could be a great option for a toddler.

Book an evening flight

Plan your flight carefully, most children are creatures of habit and if you take off in the evening you may well find that after an hour or so of excitement and meal service the novelty wears off and they fall asleep. Probably not for the whole 12 hours, but at least a good chunk of it.

Check what facilities there are at the airport

Delays are every parent's nightmare so it's worth checking out what facilities there are at the airport.  You don’t want your holiday memory to be of the time you spent trying not to lose your mind at the airport before you even left. There are child friendly play areas in both the South and North Terminals at Gatwick airport.

Heathrow offers a wide range of services and facilities to help smooth the journey for parents travelling with babies and children, from complimentary kids’ meals, dedicated play areas, changing facilities to porters and family friendly parking.  Heathrow has free Mr. Adventure Stay & Play areas. 

Heathrow Airports play area includes slides, soft play areas and separate baby and junior zones, there's plenty to keep young ones entertained and exercised. Mr Adventure colouring-in and activity sheets are also available.


Choose your airline carefully

Some international airlines are more child friendly than others so look into all the options before you book. You might find “sky nannies” ready to give you a hand, child friendly food options or even activity packs. 

Pack all the snacks

Airline food might not appeal to little ones and a hungry toddler is no fun for anyone. Snacks are also a really good distraction! Pack a bag with lots of individual snacks so you can pull something out whenever you need it, and even put a meal or two together if need be. It may feel like packing for a trip to the wilderness but you’ll be grateful you did.

Make up surprise bags

Depending on your children’s ages they might well enjoy a few new toys and activities, packed up so they have a surprise or two to open and break up the journey. They don’t need to be overly elaborate, a colouring book and crayons (the triangular ones won’t roll off the table), finger puppets, small tubs of play dough, an origami set or magnetic toys are all good. 


Don’t rely on the in flight movie, download some of your children’s favourites onto a tablet along with a few appropriate games or activities to offer a change of pace. Make sure everything is fully charged and bring along a seperate charger incase there isn’t an outlet to plug it in. For the sake of everyone else on the flight, it’s worth investing in some child friendly earphones a few weeks before you fly and letting your little one get used to them in advance.

Plan your transfers

It may seem like a small detail when you’re booking hotels and flights, but when you get off the plane after a long flight it makes all the difference in the world to know that someone is waiting to take you home. If you don’t want to take your children’s car seats on the plane we have seats available, or you can use your own car seats and leave them with us while you’re away. No matter how the flight went, you’ll arrive at the airport to be met by a friendly driver with everything ready to get you safely home.  

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