Travel essentials for a long-haul flight with kids
I finally learned how to pack light after my daughter was born – for myself at least, with only a minuscule corner of the suitcase left for me after putting in everything she might possibly need. And then a few more items just in case.
And for those nerve-racking first flights – the very first, the first long-haul, the first solo long-haul – knowing there was a back-up plan in place left me feeling more relaxed about the journey. I doubt I’d have believed that by the time she turned five, I’d be approaching a long-haul flight to Asia with something like nonchalance.
I’m sticking to my mantra that sometimes more is more, especially wipes and snacks when you have 11 hours in a confined space. But with each trip, I’ve learned more about what really are the essentials for a long-haul flight with kids… and how to claw back a bit more luggage space for myself by leaving the rest at home.
Thinking back to those baby days, after John Lewis challenged me to come up with my tips for anyone approaching their first long-haul flight with a baby, I realised it’s often the little things which made the biggest difference.
Major purchases like travel cots, buggies and car seats might have taken the time, but as I sat in my plane seat or watched my baby daughter try to eat the beach, those weren’t the practical essentials I needed. Unlike her beloved ‘babbit’, who’s seen almost as much of the world as she has.
The real essentials for a long-haul flight with kids
A baby carrier, for example, was worth its weight in gold. Because while you can normally take your buggy to the gate of the plane, you rarely get it back before baggage reclaim – with bags, immigration queues and a tired small child, my arms wouldn’t have coped otherwise. The fact she dozed off instantly in it was a bit of a bonus.
And muslins. Every new parent gets told they need muslins – but I never realised quite how versatile they are. Ours doubled as a blanket, a bib, emergency clothes, a sun shade, a way to play peekaboo and a comforter, as well as the usual feeding and burping duties. A fun pattern went a long way to making her smile too – well, who doesn’t love Winnie the Pooh?
The practical essentials to pack
If I was doing it all again, I’d look for more battery-powered gadgets or those with a USB charger – rather than fiddling with block plugs and adapters around a single badly positioned socket: the Gro Hush white noise calmer has seen us through flights and bedtimes galore, while the Pabobo Super Nomade Night Light charges superfast and is sturdy enough to chuck into a bag.
But my biggest realisation – apart from the brilliance of microwave sterilising bags – was finding the multitasking products. Why put two things into the suitcase when you only need one?
So every toy needed at least two uses. A toy whale works as a distraction on the plane, playtime in the bath and swimming pool, a fun way to rinse shampoo out and wipes clean after a day on the beach. The Happyland range is equally plane, sand and waterproof.
A foam baby mat is great on hard floors, and can be pulled apart endlessly by inquisitive small hands
Anything which plays cheerful tunes or has millions of little pieces can definitely stay at home though, unless you fancy making apologetic faces or clearing up mess for the whole journey. Finger and hand puppets are a source of endless amusement, while cloth books help lighten the hand luggage load (although stickers and lift-the-flap books should be on the list too).
The Galt Water Magic range means even little ones can colour without accidentally decorating the plane, while once we got past the ‘all things go in my mouth’ stage, magnet games saved me from rummaging around on the floor every two minutes.
The back-up plan
Those just in case scenarios? If I did it again, I wouldn’t rely on a couple of sachets of Calpol in hand luggage – teething can strike in an instant, so a well-stocked family first aid kit is now always to hand.
And if things don’t always go according to plan, every flight must end… eventually. When you’re cuddled up on the beach showing off that holiday wardrobe, sunglasses on, floatseat or floatsuit and snuggly towel at the ready, it’s always worth it.
Happily the final travel essential is one you don’t have to pack: ice cream…
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Disclosure: Compiled in association with John Lewis*
This post contains some affiliate links – any purchases you make are unaffected, but I may get a few pennies towards entertaining my daughter on our next longhaul flight
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