How to Survive a Long-Haul Flight With Kids This Christmas

11/12/2015 12:10 GMT | Updated 10/12/2016 10:12 GMT

It is Friday lunchtime, and my family have joined the throng of holidaymakers piling onto an aeroplane preparing to leave London for Bangkok. We're laden with backpacks, pillows, teddy bears and tantrums as we battle our way back towards row 37.

It should be a scene of joy and relaxation at the beginning of a ten-day family holiday, but tempers are already frayed amongst the senior members of the party.

"That terminal building was horrendous," I yell to my partner.

"Well, it is half-term!" she shouts back.

We've already spent forty odd quid on a truly dreadful breakfast back at the terminal building.

Tip 1: Eat at the Gate

Just because you're going on holiday, it doesn't mean you're suddenly going to have a relaxing breakfast with your children. Head for the terminal gate with sandwiches and nibbles where you'll get a seat, you won't have to queue in a busy loo, there maybe the odd shop or two and the children will be able to race around freely.

Having finally taken our seats towards the back of the aeroplane, there follows an excruciating 45 minutes before take-off, during which I deal with repeated requests to retrieve bottles of water, crayons, iPads, stickers and socks from the overhead lockers.

Tip 2: Take Distractions

Take as many books, drawing pads and games as you can carry; and if possible wrap them up. Your children will feel like they've won the lottery each time they receive a surprise, say every hour, and so will you if they're happy.

Due to the seating configuration on the aeroplane, I find myself sitting across the aisle from the rest of my family, in splendid isolation. I'm quietly delighted with the arrangement and for a while successfully avoid eye contact with members of my family.

Shortly after take off though, I can't resist but take a peek at my family only to find mother gesticulating frantically at me. "Their TVs don't work," she mouths.

"What do you want me to do about it?" I mouth back.

Now I'm a TV repair man.

"Can't they use their iPads?" I shout, desperately not wanting to stand up.

With the vast majority of passengers now watching either Mr Bean or Ted2 the movie, my month-long careful preparations maxing up their iPads with CBeebies, Minecraft and movies was simply no substitute for audio and video on demand on a 5-inch screen with a grainy picture and terrible sound.

They wanted what everybody else had.

Tip 3: Max Your Tablets Up With Downloads... But Don't Rely on Them

There's loads of free downloads out there to max your children's tablets up to the hilt. Children like flicking around what's on a tablet just like big people like browsing magazines.

Two hours into the flight I get up to try and walk off the boredom and nearly bump into a steward who has arrived with trays of food for our two children. He's the same steward who failed with his earlier offer to try and reset the TVs and clearly he's avoiding eye contact with me.

Unfortunately for him, the carrier's well-intentioned policy of feeding children first doesn't take into account that our youngest refuses to eat anything at the best of times.

With the table finally forced into place, mother attempts to spoon feed our daughter around a large pair of pink headphones and an iPad clutched inches from her face. Losing her will to live, mother unleashes a stream of venomous language which puts me in no doubt that it's my turn to hold the spoon.

Tip 4: Steer Clear of Sugary Snacks

Your long-haul flight will seem twice the distance if you have a hyper child demanding your entire attention and kicking the seat in front of them. Stay away from sweets and sugary drinks. Anyway, the in-flight meals will usually include a treat which will come as a welcome surprise to your sugar-starved child.

Halfway into our 12-hour flight, I see my partner staring at me as if she's approaching the 25th-mile of a marathon. So far I have avoided her stares by feigning sleeping.

 

"Can we swap seats? Just let me sleep for a while," she mouths across the aisle.

I did feel sorry for her. Our son passed out hours ago, but our four-year-old daughter is showing no signs of putting the iPad down.

I needed to conjure up a plan to save my seat, and quickly.

Tip 5: Use Routine to Send Your Child to Sleep

Make going to sleep another activity for your child on an aeroplane. Wander up to the toilet with them, change them into comfy pyjamas and new special sleeping socks, and then read them a bedtime story in their seat. Just like you do at home.

"Let's go for a wander," I say to my daughter.

She raises an eyebrow suggesting that she's perfectly happy doing what she's been doing for the past six hours thank you very much dad, but that a short walk would be perfectly acceptable.

Mother smiles with relief, our son continues to snooze away and I still had control of my prized seat.

One could mistaken this for a family embarking on a holiday.

This article first appeared in the parenting blog Man&Buggy

Follow Jamie Last on Twitter at Man&BuggyBlog