Dear Diary: Flying With Children on a Long Haul Flight!

You know you are doing something right when the flight attendant on your 13 hour flight tells you “You look like you have done this a few times!”. Yes, we sure have!

She noticed my 3 year old taking a seat right after boarding and putting his own seat belt on without any prompting. How have I managed to overcome such a long flight with two kids under 5 (for the past 5 years) ? We have been travelling back and forth to Canada (and other destinations across the world).

I am just about to tell you!

My Prep List For an Airplane Journey With Your Tiny Tot (s) :

  1. Don’t stress out. Take it as it comes. Try not to think of all the hours you will be stuck inside a confined mode of transport. Instead embrace the fact that you will be spending quality time with your child.
  2. If you can, book your flight on Emirates. I am a bit biased (ps. this is NOT a paid post!) I just love all the toys they give out to children + children’s meal + amazing selection of kids movies and new release TV shows
  3. Create a check list a few days prior to your flight of what you may need to pack in your carry on. Believe me when I say this, less is more! You don’t want to be juggling 10 bags and one or more kids in your arms (good chance one of them will pass out either when you are about to board or when you are disembarking)

What do I pack in my bag:

*This will of course vary depending on the age of your child*

-Ruby is now 5.5 and Nate is 3. I take ONE bag for myself. It is a battle to convince the kids not to bring a bag. They LOVE packing their carry on suitcases. And yes, I am the one who always ends up dragging them throughout the airport (hence my one bag).

-Nate is in the midst of being potty trained, so to avoid an accident, I keep him in pull-ups throughout the flight. For a 13 hour flight, I pack about 6 pull-ups.

-I dress them warmly. Leggings/jogging pants, long sleeve t-shirt, socks (a must as they do not want to be wearing shoes for such a long time) and light cardigan. Layers are great as the temperature on board can go from freezing cold to ultra warm. I also pack a change of clothes for both kids. Accidents can happen (anticipate for a juice spill, tray tipping over, we have experienced them all).

Wet wipes are a must. Get a small travel pack that you can keep on hand inside your seat pocket to wipe up any little mess. Also pick up a small pack of Dettol wipes (read on to find out why).

-A few little snack bars and treats to tie your little ones through between meals. I must say the Emirates child meals have a nice variety, you may not even have to touch the snacks you packed. Better to be safe than sorry when 40,000 feet above air!

-An iPad is also a good choice for under 3’s that can’t sit as still and have a short attention span. Download new apps the night before that they have never played to keep things fun. Don’t forget to bring a cable to charge it (Emirates has plugs to recharge your electronic device at your very own seat).

-A small pack of markers or crayons is a good option (the pencil crayon’s Emirates provide are not that great).

-A fun activity book such as this one we packed in our carry-on {here}

Nurofen is my medicine of choice when travelling. The syringe is really easy to use and mess free (no need to wipe after). And you know what… I am SO glad I took it on my last flight because guess who randomly started running a fever after take off! Ruby!

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Now during the flight…13 hours sure as heck is a long time! You go through bits where it feels like you will just never get off the plane. Or that you feel like you will die if you have to endure 5 more hours. YOU CAN DO IT!

A few handy tips during your flight:

  • After you board, the kids are usually rather excited to get going. If you can score a window seat that is always a bonus. Now I would like to pre-warn you! Your children will probably fight over who get’s to sit at the window. So allow one to sit for take off, and then switch seats on landing so the other get’s a chance
  • Those Dettol wipes you packed in your carry-on… Get those out after you sit down. Use them to wipe down your tray table, the remote/TV at your seat, arm rests etc. Planes are full of germs and those areas are not usually properly disinfected. You can also use these if you have a little baby and need to change it in the bathroom on the change table (which you will do at some stage during the flight!) Wipe down the change table and any areas your baby may try to touch on the wall with their tiny hands
  • Make sure you take your child to the bathroom just before take off. Nothing like “I have to go pee” while the seat belt sign is on!
  • When you are in the bathroom. NEVER let them touch anything.  Full of urine on the floor (believe me I have seen it on all flights) and nasty stuff on the floor SO SHOES are a MUST (take them off when you get back to your seat. Hence why I reminded you to pack socks).
  • I always use those paper seat covers provided in the bathroom and hold the kids a bit above the seat as not to get any germs on them (yes I am paranoid, but for a good reason).
  • If you are changing diapers and your kid can stand… Can I recommend trying not to use the change table? Every time I have used it when the kids were babies they contracted rota virus. So I put a few tissues on the top of the seat and have them stand while I remove a pull up diaper and put a fresh one on. During this time they hold my shoulders. Sorry for all the extra details but you really don’t want to get to your destination and three days later have your child so sick they need to be hospitalised (this has happened to us before).

Now that you have all your bathroom breaks out of the way, and seats that you will be sitting in are disinfected you are good to go!

With endless hours of TV programs and movies your kids will be in heaven! Shortly after take off the stewardess will be bringing your child their “kids meal”. This will keep them busy for another 15 minutes or so. Ensure they are being hydrated often with water. The plane can really dry you out. Again, make sure your child goes pee before their meal is handed out, otherwise you will be stuck behind a food cart!


Ruby and Nate usually get a bit drowsy after take off and eating their meal. This is a good time for them to nap. The warm fleece blankets that are given out on ground for the kids by Emirates are perfect for nap time! When I travel (usually alone) we get the three seats together at the window. Ruby sleeps curled up on her own seat. With Nate, I let him spread out over two seats (resting his legs on mine). That special white noise the air plane expels makes for fantastic naps for the kids. They usually crash out for over 2 hours! So if you add all that up (take off, eating kids meal, watching a bit of a movie + nap) you can already scratch off 4 hours + from travel time.

Here is what the kids pack looks like:



Your kids may even find clever ways to entertain themselves in their new surrounding. Here is Ruby icing a cupcake with her child meal:


When they wake up we usually get cracking into an activity. Colouring (with the activity book provided by Emirates). Back to another movie, a little walk around the plane. Next thing you know another meal will be handed out!

Time will go by really slow, then really fast, then really slow and all of a sudden you will be landing at your destination!

Try to keep the area you are sitting in tidy so it makes it easy to pack up everything before landing. This way you won’t forget any important items you left out in the seat pockets or that may have fallen on the floor!

A little inside tip. Emirates is really quite good in stocking emergency items for parents (diapers, wipes, baby bottles, food, formula etc). But you don’t want to be relying on them. Pack sufficient items, and indeed in time of emergency you can reach out to a crew member and ask them. I have had to do it before!

Travelling With an Infant: 

Baby carrier (will save you SO much grief and will help lul your baby to sleep. You can go for little walks up and down the isle doing a little bounce and shake to get them into a nice deep sleep). Baby carriers are also great when you are alone and have to make a trip to the bathroom and have no one to watch your baby.

Muslin blanket or nursing cover if breastfeeding (if you are nursing then do this on take off to prevent your baby from crying)

Baby bottle (plus back up bottles or cleaning tools to sterilise) and pre-measured formula if bottle feeding (feed baby a bottle on take off to prevent crying)

Baby food/spoon & snacks

Pacifier if baby uses one

Ample supply of diapers & wipes

Change of clothes (pack two or more in Ziploc bags for easy and neat access)

A compact diaper bag (I prefer a backpack. Especially if you are travelling alone with your baby)

Fever medication (you NEVER know when your child may start getting sick)

I hope this list will be able to help out any parent who is feeling nervous about travelling with their child or children. Remember, don’t stress and just think of the time spent alone on the plane are serious family bonding time.


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