On children and long haul flights

We have had some peaks and troughs, flying with four children over the years.

This time some kind of frugal wave overtook me and we didn’t buy a seat for Wilf for our BC-UK flights. Just a casual 18hrs in transit.

He might carry his own backpack but he’s not getting his own seat.

A bold move, and one mr tMatM may have some strong feelings about, after spending close to four hours on our outbound night-flight (an infamous “sleeping plane“) standing up in the aisle so that the children could lie flat and sleep.

Overall, though, this was probably our easiest flight experience with all four – especially for those of us that didn’t have to take up residence in the aisle.

Nobody warned me how helpful 8 year olds can be.

But really, while there is a longer post on travelling with children in the works, and some ideas already mooted here – this post is about some surprising successes I had, with small items to keep children entertained.

The old School part of the entertainment: no screens, just windows.

Surprising items, in the sense that these aren’t your traditional travel games. In fact some of the classic travel games can be a bit of a hindrance when you are flying with multiple children. A complex game (often with tiny miniature parts) that requires adult supervision and / or participation? Disaster.

Looked promising but the microscopic pieces were immediately lost. Lesson learnt (again)

I’m assuming, here, that you have the basics covered – books, snacks, maybe an activity book, some music, etc.

The following are ideas for low-key little things to hand out when things start to look dicey; when your three year old is starting to fade just before you board your last plane, or while you are standing at the check-in desk at Heathrow and the woman is telling you that your (perfectly valid) visa is not valid and that you won’t be flying home today while you quietly clench your jaw and imagine what the back-up plan could possibly be in this scenario.

Enough preamble: here’s what I’m talking about.

Key-rings: I highly advocate anything that can be immediately attached to your children’s backpacks and not, therefore, immediately lost.

Can you tell I was pretty taken with the keyring theme? This one is a bit special though – wait for it…

Yes! Terrifying but loved by the under-fives, as is anything that lights up / makes a hideous twit-twoo noise.

These books deserve a special mention. Not all water magic books are created equal, but these Galt offerings have been used and loved in our house for the past six years – and still going strong.

Magic sequin-covered notebook, anyone? Actually this prize might have been the overall winner:

I mean, just look at it! Elsa (6) and Mim (nearly 4) both loved these fervently. Wilf (1) was just as fervent in his desire to get hold of one. The magic sequins, like the glitter keyring above, both had some kind of sensory-soothing-meditative effect.

Luckily I had a pretty exciting distraction for Wilf, too :

Let’s just say you don’t want to get a wind up toy that goes anywhere fast and so this slightly wonky dancing dinosaur, restricted to moving in circles, was just perfect.

I know I said I wasn’t talking about traditional travel entertainments like sticker books, but while I’m on the topic these sticker books – despite slightly insipid topics – these are my go-to books for Mim (3). They are compact enough to not be unwieldy, complex enough to be entertaining, but simple enough that Mim can work completely independently.

If nothing else, travelling with four small children under eight is probably worth it just for the look of terror in everyone’s eyes as you (painstakingly; slowly) make your way down the aisle of the plane to find your seat.

Like some sort of terrible game of in-flight roulette, you slow to take your seats and your new neighbours see the next nine hours slowly unfolding with you as their compatriots.

And then it’s all over and those nine hours were absolutely worth it.

More soon, with a long-overdue debrief on our UK trip.

tMatM x

PS! Panicking about flights? Looking for more helpful travelling-with-children posts?

Flying with Children

Extended Travel with Children

Packing for a Family Holiday


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