Yes it is possible. It can be OK. Maybe even enjoyable! Here are some of our tips.
While a 2am flight may be OK for adults or older teens, if possible avoid late-night/early morning timeslots for young children unless they are babies.
It’s better to get them on the plane and settled, so that their night-time sleep will be as routine as possible. If you leave in the afternoon, try to keep them awake on the first leg and let them sleep on the second.
Very young children seem to bounce back more quickly than their exhausted parents! Follow all the normal jetlag tips – change to the new time zone and adjust your routine as soon as you arrive, get into the sun, lots of fresh food and water for rehydration.
Melatonin supplements, lavender essential oil and homeopathic jetlag remedies can also help a great deal – check with your health practitioner.
Many airlines tend to serve children very sugary food with lots of colourings and preservatives, as well as chocolate, which, together with the excitement of the trip, can hype children up and make the trip difficult for everyone.
If you can (depending on the health regulations of the country you’re visiting), take some snacks and familiar food (health bars, dried fruit, yoghurt) as an alternative, confiscate the sweets ‘for later’ and ask the airlines to fill up your water bottles regularly to ensure you are all hydrated.
If you’re travelling with a baby or toddler, try for a bulkhead seat with a bassinet. Otherwise, if you think you may need to get out of your seat a lot, aisle and middle seats are best.
Keeping children entertained while travelling can be a challenge. Visiting places they want to see, like Euro Disney, as well as your preferences, is an obvious choice. For older children, a photo or video journal posted to Instagram or Facebook (if you allow this) can be a good way of keeping them occupied.
Other children could make a journey scrapbook of photos, tickets, entry passes and fun facts of the places you’re visiting. Old-fashioned games like Spotto (a list of things to spot on the way), finding car registration numbers in alphabetical order, or ‘pink car’ can help as well.
Check the entertainment options on your airlines. Some have a massive range of the latest movies, TV shows and videos. Some have iPads that they supply, and some have apps where you can download their entertainment onto your own device to watch in-flight.
It’s also good to have a couple of old favourites loaded on your own devices to watch if nothing else appeals.
Customs requirements vary with the country you are entering, but make sure your child’s name is the same on the passport as on the ticket! Also, most customs will require that you remove children’s hats and turn them full face towards the desk, even if they are sleeping or crying, so be prepared for this.
Some airlines also have random metal detector checks and will not make allowances for a child, beyond formally requesting your permission. Reassure the child that they haven’t done anything wrong, and ensure you stay with them during the check.
Involving children in the journey planning can give them a sense of control and this is often enough to prevent them becoming anxious and sick. Show them on the map where you will be travelling, research some sights with them, and let them make a couple of choices of their own for places to visit. You’ll find the journey will be easier for everyone.
Motion sickness medications, some of which are available over the counter, can be very effective. Always check with your doctor or pharmacist before taking any medication for the first time.
If you prefer more natural remedies, ginger or spearmint tablets or spearmint are often helpful, or you could try motion sickness wrist bands, available at most pharmacies.
If possible, allow for breaks for the children to stretch their legs during the trip. If time permits, a stopover is even better and will help with jetlag. Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok or Hong Kong are 7-9 hours away and good for a quick layover.
If you are travelling to Europe, then Dubai or Abu Dhabi are around 8 more hours from these airports – so it’s possible to break the journey up further if you need to.