real life

TRAVEL: How to survive a long-haul flight with kids

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So, I have five top tips for flying your kids to the other side of the world (and surviving the journey with your sanity intact):

1. Invent tele-transportation

2. Send your children as unaccompanied minors on the 22 hour flight

3. Accidentally take a sleeping tablet on boarding the plane, inform your partner of this fact and then sleep for 22 blissful straight hours

4. Cajole the airline into upgrading you (and only you) and then convince your husband that he needs some ‘quality’ time with the kids

5. Get a bit more realistic and plan wisely. (Yes, number five really bites, but I guess we all knew it was coming…)

Recently, we moved countries from Australia to the UK.  You’d think that making small children sit still, face forward and not smile for passport photos, filling out reams of paperwork to obtain settlement visas and setting up UK bank accounts would have been the most painful parts of moving countries.  But no, it was always the flight I really dreaded, right from the very first moment of planning – that awful, endless, oh-so-very-long stretch of time in the sky.

Luckily, I knew many well-travelled mothers to call upon for guidance and guide they did (there was only one who grabbed my arm, wild-eyed and hissed, ‘Don’t do it!’).  Now, having completed the journey myself, with all members of my family still alive and mostly mentally and physically unscarred (we’ll just forget about that hour at Heathrow when I systematically fed my overtired son M&Ms to keep him going), I pass my findings on to you.  And if you’re crazy enough to do what we just did, you’ll be needing them.  So, here they are, my more realistic five top tips:

1. Book an overnight flight. Kids don’t whinge when they’re asleep.  Enough said.

2. Pick the right airline.  Luggage allowances vary widely, so if you need to carry a lot of baggage (as we did), it can help to shop around.  You’ll also be wanting a personal entertainment system on every seat, kids’ meals and any kids’ goodies you can get your hands on (some airlines offer play packs etc.).  When choosing your airline and seat, you’ll be needing the following website http://www.seatguru.com/

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3. Let technology be your friend. I’m not really into buying my kids toys when it isn’t their birthday/Christmas/sticker chart reward time but desperate times call for desperate measures.  I knew we would be doing a lot of very boring waiting, so I forked out for a Leapster Explorer and a number of games.  Then a friend asked me if I was planning on entertaining my kids by having them fight to the death for the device.  Smart friend, that one.  At vast expense I bought another.

4. Pack your carry on bag wisely.  In the few months before the flight, I started to squirrel items away for the kids’ carry on bags.  These items included a few toy cars, colouring books, sticker books, some Polly Pocket dolls, two non-spill cups, easy to eat snacks and a small favourite toy from home.  A change of clothes went in also.

5. Break your journey if you can. I just knew that 22 hours solid flying would be the end of us all.  We decided to stop in Dubai for two nights, making two journeys of 14 hours (overnight) and 8 hours.  This worked well.  The kids spent two days in the pool in Dubai, we all had a mini-break and got over a bit of our jetlag.

My final, off the record, tip is to think Zen.  Expect nothing and the flight can only exceed your expectations (er, I won’t go into detail about the time our daughter vomited nine times on a flight between Japan and Australia).

Oh, and if you somehow suddenly invent tele-transportation, please do let me know…

Allison Rushby is the Australian author of 11 novels in the genres of women’s fiction and young adult fiction.  In 2011 she moved to a small village outside of Cambridge, UK, where she is writing a travel memoir and blogging at http://www.keepcalmandcarryvegemite.com.  You can often find her procrastinating on Twitter at @Allison_Rushby.

What’s your best tip for surviving a long-haul flight with kids?

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