How I coped with three small children on a very, very long flight (plus layover!)

by Cassie Martin

In April last year, my father and step-mother very kindly offered to fly the whole family out to Palm Springs to celebrate a very special birthday. My husband and I had been pre-children (my dad is a visiting professor at USC and often holidays there), and I had been as a teenager so we knew it would be a lovely place for a holiday – endless sunshine and plenty to do – but THE FLIGHT was a somewhat daunting prospect!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt time of travel our boys were 6, 4 and 2 and, having had bad experiences with American Airlines and children on a previous visit (with only two children!), we decided that BA was a must (see Graham’s article on travel to Barbados). In short, when we travelled with AA we had one child on lap throughout – no skycot – and were told if the child didn’t have a seat they didn’t get a meal! In addition there was no priority boarding and the cabin crew were the antithesis of ‘can do’. So we vowed never to fly with them again!

So just to do the maths. We were looking at one flight of 8 hours, followed by a layover of 3 hours, followed by another 2 hour flight, making 14 hours in transit (plus of course the obligatory 2 hours kicking around at Heathrow to begin with). How did we do it?!

In no particular order here are things that worked for us:

  • One backpack full of snacks – raisins, breadsticks etc – for distribution as needed.
  • One backpack full of previously unseen small toys and books. The most successful of these were bendadroos – brilliant and versatile. The best use was sticking to the seatback trays and making mazes and routes for a small car to drive through.
  • A lovely stewardess/cabin crew person who took a fancy to our youngest and fed him fruit and mini cakes from first class! She even got him a proper pillow also from first!
  • Our 6 year old pretty much watched in flight kids’ videos and played his game boy for the whole flight. Dreadful parenting but in our defence, he was happy and quiet and the other two were a handful.

Dallas Ft Worth is a very good stopover – it has an amazing monorail which you can happily kill an hour riding round on watching the planes take off and land, plus lots of sculptures like a giant plastic maze which the boys loved.

By the time we got to the last leg, they all conked out and fell asleep which made life a lot easier. We were expecting the worst but were actually amazed by how well they all did – and no iPad either!

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