kids

"You can never pack too many snacks." 7 simple hacks for travelling long-haul with kids.

In Mamamia’s Parenting Hacks series, real women share their tips and tricks on everything from meal prep to organisation to nailing the morning routine.

This week, Mamamia's Family Writer Laura Jackel shares her hacks for travelling long-haul with kids.

I have just returned from a trip to see my family in the UK and while this is not the first time I have flown long haul with my kids; it has been five years between journeys.

The outgoing flight to London with a quick layover in Singapore was challenging, but the excitement and novelty factor of our imminent adventure made up for it. 

We all managed some sleep on the plane and the tearful greetings and tight hugs on arrival were wonderful. I loved making up for lost time and seeing my kids reconnect with their British family in the sunshine. 

Watch: The horoscopes at the airport. Post continues below. 


Video via Mamamia.

But after a joyful and hectic three weeks, we returned home at 1am on Sunday morning after 32 hours of exhausting travel. We had snacks, showers and then collapsed into bed. The long journey back home again was less adventurous and more arduous. We think the cat was happy to see us.

I last experienced the epic journey to London with a nine-month-old baby and an eight-year-old, and I can say without a doubt that long haul travel with a five-year-old and an 11-year-old is MUCH easier.

There were still a few tears of frustration at being squashed, overtired and bored, but the kids handled it all pretty well and I didn't experience the constant crushing anxiety about my baby waking up and screaming for hours. 

Overall, our trip was a success, but every time I travel I learn something new. 

If you're planning an overseas trip with your kids soon, here are seven of my most recent learnings on the whole long haul travel experience in 2022.

ADVERTISEMENT

1. Plan your luggage and don't forget the onboard snacks.

Without the bulky items required with a baby or small toddler, we could be strategic with our luggage for the first time. 

Knowing how active our boys are and that we were going to be visiting in summer, we used our checked baggage allowance to pack fewer clothes and more activity items. We included skateboards, helmets, and tennis and ping-pong racquets! 

We couldn't quite fit in a scooter for our youngest Leo so we pre-ordered that to arrive at my parents house the same day we did. This kept everyone active and happy at every location. 

With our hand luggage, we tried to keep it to a minimum as while it is tempting to bring all the things onboard; it gets tiring carrying them around the terminal for hours and it's hard to find stuff at the bottom of a full bag while squeezed into limited space on board the plane. 

This time I packed way too many colouring books! But you can never pack too many snacks and a change of clothing for every passenger is essential as no one wants to smell of vomit for an entire flight! (And I should know as I once spent a whole flight covered in vomit.)

Another tip is to get your liquids under 100ml separated into a clear ziplock bag before you go through security so you can easily find it when asked. I always pack eye drops, hand cream and hand sanitiser.

Doing London on wheels! Image: Supplied  

ADVERTISEMENT

2. Be strategic with seating.

We tried two different seating options and depending on what suits your family; I suggest having a conversation about this before you select your seats. 

On the flight out, we sat in a row of three and a single seat across the aisle. We took turns being the adult in the seat across the aisle and away from the kids, so that we both got some time 'off'.

On the return flight, we had the middle row of four seats and the kids slept across two seats with the help of an inflatable foot rest in the space between the seat in front. My husband and I acted as bookends with very limited room but if the kids were happy, at least it was (mostly) peaceful. 

Wherever you end up sitting, make sure you get your essentials for takeoff in the seat pockets or under the seat in front. For us this included iPads, lollies for the ascent to help with our ears, and the ziplock bag of basic toiletries. I also like to locate the sick bag as someone will inevitably need to use it!

ADVERTISEMENT

3. Have some rules around screen time.

It was tempting to have no rules around screen time for such a long journey, but we found some screen time limits were helpful, or overtired meltdowns were inevitable. 

When my boys first come off screens, they are usually hyped-up and a little cranky, so we allowed as many hours of screens as they wanted, until about one hour before their usual bedtime. We told them this before the flight and reminded them during. 

We went for full bribery with snacks to help ease the transition off and then took a quick walk and stretch up the aisle for a bathroom break before allowing a movie (or two) before 'bedtime'. 

I'm not saying it worked perfectly every time and there was plenty of complaining and resistance, but they did both get a few hours sleep eventually and this was very helpful for everyone!

Finally asleep. Image: Supplied.  

5. Bring activities for layovers.

This is where those bulky colouring books came into it, but I should have just packed one and not seven. 

With more room to spread out and low brain capacity for much else, we found that colouring or dot to dot type books kept our youngest entertained. 

We also used the layover part of the journey to walk around as much as possible (those long travelators at airports are weirdly entertaining) and grab a quick snack. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Colouring at Singapore's Changi airport. Image: Supplied. 

6. Be positive - make it an adventure (if you can).

It's easy to get caught up in the stress of long haul travel, especially with babies and toddlers; I remember it only too well. The benefit of travelling with school-aged kids is they can be more involved. They can choose what teddies/books/games they want on the plane but also enjoy looking forward to their big 'adventure' overseas.

My kids could also understand the geography side of it; which countries they were flying over, how many kilometres they would cover, and how amazing air travel can be! 

This was our first experience of long haul family travel where we could make it a bit more adventurous and while they still got tired and scrappy, they mostly handled it well. 

I had to rally myself on our way home as the prospect of that long journey is tough just after we had said our emotional goodbyes to family. But we had a nice brunch at Heathrow in the departures lounge and of course the prospect of plenty of snacks and screen time always helps!

Getting excited to be onboard! Image: Supplied. 

ADVERTISEMENT

7. Ask someone to put some basic groceries in your fridge for your return.

Arriving home to a stocked fridge and a tidy house was the very best thing ever. 

It was after 1am and while we were desperate for bed, we also had bread, milk, and even some homemade soup for 'dinner'. 

Not everyone has a kind mother-in-law on hand to whip up soup, but if you can ask your neighbour to stick some fresh milk, bread and fruit in the fridge, it makes that long journey home a little more comfortable. 

If you have no one to ask, then an online shopping order, made before you board the flight to be delivered on your return home, will give future-very-tired-you, a little end of holiday boost.

Sometimes I just really need a cup of tea and toast and after 32 hours on the road, it might have been the best tea and toast (with a side of soup) ever!

Listen: This Glorious Mess and one family's big adventure. Post continues below. 

You can catch up on our previous Parenting Hacks articles here: 

Do you have any long haul travel hacks to share? Please tell us in the comments below. 

Laura Jackel is Mamamia's Family Writer. For links to her articles and to see photos of her outfits and kids, follow her on Instagram and TikTok.

Feature Image: Supplied.