La Jolla Mom

Long Haul Flights With Young Kids: What to Pack Carry-On and In-flight Meals (Part 2)

BY La Jolla Mom
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To start from the beginning of this Long Haul Air Travel With Young Kids series, please see part 1 for planning your flight and how to address jet lag in kids.

Clean, Clean, Clean The Airplane Seat

The first thing I do when we get to our airplane seats is take an antibacterial wet wipe and wipe off everything that my daughter and I could possibly touch in our zone. I think the key word here is antibacterial. Burts Bees make a hand sanitizer spray that I sometimes use or Wet Ones has travel antibacterial wipes.  Sometimes, I use both together.

The ONE time I forgot to do this on a flight before she had touched a bunch of stuff, she came down with a scary flu that almost landed us in the hospital. It might be a coincidence, but it doesn’t hurt to be a clean freak.  You will get odd looks from other passengers, however, when you’re doing this! If you’re fast, this takes about a minute or two, at the most. Just bring whatever antibacterial you like.

Bring Kid-Friendly In-Flight Snacks

Asian airlines tend to be a little bit more relaxed regarding the “strap your kid in the seat” type rules during takeoff and landing. My daughter was not cooperative at a young age, typically, because she lacked patience. Sometimes, I just had to hold her or do whatever it took to keep her quiet, which the flight attendants on these airlines are nice enough to understand.

When she was little, what usually worked was stuffing her full of snacks, while praying for zero turbulence right after takeoff so I could quickly release her to do whatever. Now, she’s interested in the actual airplane taxing and taking off so that’s enough, along with a packet of Goldfish.

Do pack a ton of snacks–even the kind you swear you’d never let them eat in abundance. If they want to eat it, and it won’t make them sick, then really just lighten up and allow it. We once went through three tubes of Gerber Puffs on a 9-hour flight. She didn’t cry once the entire flight. That’s a lot of puffs for a baby, but it was worth it.

In-Flight Entertainment For Kids

A DVD player with an external battery, iPad, iPod or fun electronic device will be your best friend.

This brings me to another point: You may disagree, but I personally think that you must do whatever it takes for you and your fellow passengers to survive this long, international flight together. If you don’t let your kid watch TV at home, on the airplane is not the time to keep reinforcing that rule.

If it keeps little traveler in the seat, allow it for the sake of everyone involved. In fact, we started bringing a portable DVD player with all sorts of DVDs as soon as she was remotely interested in that kind of thing. I also bought extra external batteries so that DVD player never, ever runs out of steam. In most business and even some economy classes now, there are plugs so you don’t have to worry about this sort of thing.

The DVD player (and now iPad) saves my life because she and I know the DVDs I bring are going to be of interest. I thought that the Disney Channel on one airline once was “good enough” but she’d never seen the shows before and it just didn’t hold her attention. Lesson learned.

Also if you are flying business or first class, the TV might be too far away for a young child.  Remember that batteries never last as long as they say. My external battery is supposed to last 8 hours and it’s usually 5 (which is still a long time for an external battery). Big difference. Be over prepared.

***In Case Of Meltdown***

The best trick I can give you is the following:  Take about 5-6 very lightweight, cheap presents on the plane. When my daughter starts to fuss, I bust one out.  This works because just the process of opening a gift resets her mood.  That’s what these gifts are, actually–a giant reset button.  

Any human being is prone to some fussiness on a long haul flight, so expect your little traveler to at some point express his or her “are we there yet” or “I’m SO tired” thoughts.  These presents are usually items such as new stickers, pop-up books, a small toy, or something like that.

You could even wrap them in multiple layers of wrapping paper to drag out the process. Kids love presents, right? Once, when she was not yet 1-year-old, I even wrapped a few toys that she already had and it yielded the same effect!  I probably am really paranoid about stopping crying immediately on these flights, because of the large number of people trying to sleep.

Sleep on long haul flights was so important to me when I was flying sans kids. My daughter is now 6 and the present trick still works, though not as well as when she was a toddler.

Give Other Passengers Space

The one thing that makes me crazy, is when parents don’t have control over their kids on the airplane. Under no circumstances should you allow your kid to kick the back of the seat in front of them–period. I can’t believe how many parents let this happen. 

Also, you really should keep your kid from invading someone else’s personal space on the plane unless he or she is invited to. I don’t have sympathy for this kind of stuff anymore because I’ve flown with my kid so much. I watched a little boy bug the heck out of a business man trying to use his laptop on one flight and his parents did nothing to stop it.

Meals Served On-Board

What one baby or kid eats in one country may not be what your little traveler eats.  This is another reason to bring lots of snacks.

My daughter has had some very bizarre airplane kids meals.  The one that really cracked me up is her kids airplane dinner of potato salad, tiramisu, a little bit of fruit, Oreos, chocolate, gummy bears, chocolate milk and some other stuff like that.  She was barely 1-year-old at the time.

I laughed and sent the meal back (well, not really–I ate the Oreos) and re-ordered her some noodles. If you’re in business or first class, you can request whatever you want whenever you want, however, there will be times when even the flight attendants have to sit down and service is stopped. Have plenty of snacks within reach.

You probably should bring your own jarred baby food. Even though some airlines provide this (in my experience), it’s not the time for baby to try new food, if they don’t happen to stock something you’re used to. Imagine an allergic reaction 33,000 feet in the air. I remember asking specifically what kinds of jarred food one airline stocked and was not able to receive a clear answer. It’s nice that they offer it, and my daughter did eat provided jarred food that she was already familiar with.

Pack A Change Of Clothes For Both Of You

In addition to what I’ve already mentioned, I also pack a change of clothes for myself and several changes of clothes for my daughter.  I have needed the clothing changes. I had a baby with acid reflux.

I remember one time she vomited during landing. I was holding her in a Maya Wrap sling so that my arms could be relatively free.  The sling caught all of the vomit, but I just had to sit there until the plane reached the gate. Luckily it was milk, it didn’t stink, and no one saw. Also, once I think she ate something funny and threw up all over me and then there was a time when she spilled a glass or orange juice.

I usually survive without looking like a complete vagabond if I’m wearing black or dark colors.  Black hides all sorts of sins.  It was SO MESSY flying when she first started eating solid food. I also once made the mistake of wearing drawstring pants. It’s not a good idea to try to tie your pants in an airplane bathroom while juggling a baby or toddler. I couldn’t do it so I sort of held them up while trying to get back to my seat. I’m pretty sure someone got a show. Go with elastic.

Bring A LOT Of Diapers

I packed more diapers than I’d ever need because had a fear of being on one of those flights stuck on the tarmac for hours and hours and running out of diapers. This happened to someone I know. Once, I was supposed to get a complimentary diaper pack on the plane and they ran out. Or, I worried about my daughter eating something that didn’t sit well or picking up some quick bug that would have her going through diaper after diaper while on the plane. I wanted to be prepared.

I pack toys, DVDs, crayons, paper, and all sorts of stuff I think she might need.  I usually have two enormous carry-on bags, in case you’re wondering.  I always managed just fine and, remember, I was almost always flying with a baby without my husband.

Medications: I’ll get to this and other drugstore items  in the next post since it’s important and slightly controversial.

Last but not least, I suggest you enjoy the free wine.  Let it flow.

Next up in Part 3: travel gear and getting your little traveller to sleep on the airplane. I’ll write up a more organized packing list for the last post as there are more items I’ll talk about next time! What do you bring on the plane? Please leave a comment.

Here are links to the rest of the series:
Long Haul Flights with Young Kids, Part 1: Planning Your Flight and Jet Lag
Long Haul Flights with Young Kids, Part 3: Getting Little Traveler to Sleep on the Plane and Gear
Long Haul Flighs with Young Kids, Part 4: Packing List and Final Thoughts
Photo credit: istockphoto/vsurkov

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12 thoughts on “Long Haul Flights With Young Kids: What to Pack Carry-On and In-flight Meals (Part 2)

  1. Thanks for your post! I have 16-months old twins and we are planning the transatlantic flight in the next few months. Me and my husband and literally scared to death of this flight and I am looking for any sort of information that would help us get through it. I am really looking forward to your post about medications. I have this little question about medications: Did you actually give your girl something to calm her down and make her sleepy on the plane? We are thinking about it because usually our girls can’t sit in one place even for 5 minutes!!! (I think they are the only babies in the world who literally hate their car seats!)
    Thanks again for your post and for sharing your experience.

    1. You’ll be ok! 🙂 I’m in the process of writing about the medications – almost finished! I gathered a bit more info from some other travel websites so it’s taking me a little longer than I thought. I did give my daughter medication though and am covering that in depth.

  2. I would also recommend books on tape. There are great books on tape for all ages and most libraries have bunches of them. All you need is a cheap portable cassette player, which you can usually get for less than $10 at Target. My best friend and I took our 4 kids, ages 3 and under, from Kansas City to Charleston, SC in the car and didn’t use a DVD player. (We weren’t trying to prove a point, we just didn’t think it was necessary.) The books on tape were a huge hit. I continued to use them when I flew with my kids as well.

  3. That child sure seems to be smart and strong, even from behind (probably to protect the identity), not many children are so active as this little kid (as I have read in the article)… Certainly not at 17 months!

    I believe it is good to bring something to occupy the kid. Possibly multiple things…. Like stimulating the children to draw something or look at some pictures. Many airplanes still don’t have LCD screens on the back of every seat.
    I travelled with Lufthansa and there were like 2 screens very far in front of us and one could not even see that far away. A child wouldn’t see anything and long haul flights are so very boring, even for adults.

  4. Here’s a tip for traveling with kids. Audiobooks and lots of them! You can fill up your iPod at lots of sites, but we found one where you an download original children’s stories for free. Original is the key word here. How many times can I possible listen to Little Red Riding Hood?! Anyway, here’s the link if anyone is interested. Also, chewing gum! Hope this helps.

  5. When i started reading this post it really surprised me to see you telling people to use antibacterial on your seat that is truly i think the worse advise this great article has. I’m not sure what kind of medical degrees you have but if you would do some research you would discover that what most likely got you and your child sick of this flu is not being exposed to germs. There is alot of articles and research about this topic now and if you want to avoid being so vulnerable to diseases you should try being more open to a little dirt and germs now and then. It might turn a terrifing experience into just a little cold.

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