Long Haul Flight With a Toddler

Last time we flew he slept. In the airport lounge. Not on the plane. Great.

We are in preparation mode for what may well be the most challenging thing we, as parents, have had to deal with. Flying long haul. For 12 hours. With a toddler.

The last time we flew with the boy it was a short hop down to Koh Lanta to attend the wedding of our friends. The flight was an hour long and he spent the entire time walking up and down the aisle patting strangers on the knee and trying to steal their bread rolls.

The people on the flight were very good natured in accepting our son’s bread-based crime spree, ruffling his golden hair and offering him snacks as he passed. Of course, he loved the attention and food and after the first few offerings came to expect his tithe from all he saw. As such, he would haughtily wonder over to someone, smack their knee with the back of his hand and hold out his hand.

Startled, the person would (because they were all Thai and Thais love kids) give him a smile and then tickle his palm or give him a low five. The boy would briefly smile to humour them before returning his expression to a level and expectant one; hand still outstretched, waiting for a treat.

I don’t know if you’ve ever felt the piercing, level gaze of a toddler but I can assure you it is massively disconcerting.

At this point I would grab him by the shoulders and forcibly walk him further down the plane, smiling and bowing my head in apology “ka todd” I would say in my terrible Thai accent. “Mai pen rai” – no worries, would come the gracious reply. Then, with the scantest of warnings, the boy would run from my grip heading towards the gantry, a suspiciously bread-roll-shaped object in his hand and a Thai person two rows down from the person I was apologising to looking round in shock.

It was a classic example of mis-direction and had I not have had to offer back the half-masticated soggy remains of a bread roll, I would have been proud of his initiative.

“Ka todd” – my accent was improving because of all the practice I was getting.

“Mai pen rai” a little less graciously and a little more forced.

We are likely to have any number of hours of the same behaviours on our way home. Rather unusually for us we’ve taken the step of kicking around some ideas on how we can keep both our sanity and the sanity of those around us on the flight before actually getting on the plane. I know, right.

Now, some of these suggestions have been rejected out of hand – but it was a blue sky brainstorming session where there were no ‘bad’ ideas. You know, where you have to just say the first thing that comes to mind. No hesitations just say what you think. That kind of thing. Basically, please don’t judge me.

One of those upright gurney/strap/mask combos from Silence of the Lambs.

Pros: Will keep the boy in one place. No need for seatbelt extensions. Possibly able to store horizontally in the overhead compartment.

Cons: Judgement of other people. Difficult to put through the X-ray machine. He’s too young for a nice chianti. Illegal.


Duct Tape

Pros: Cheap. Lightweight. Readily Available. Can stick him to a chair and/or ceiling and go to sleep during the flight.

Cons: Might lose stickiness mid-way through the flight leading to free/falling baby. Removing tape will be really painful. Illegal.


Horse Tranquillisers

Pros: Will make him sleep. Easy to carry. We can take them too.

Cons: Don’t know any vets. Correct dosage difficult to ascertain. Illegal.


Be One Of Those Parents That Just Lets Their Kid Go Crazy On A Plane And Do Nothing About It

Pros: Promotes a positive world view that sees all strangers as potential baby-sitters. Easy to do. Can watch inflight entertainment uninterrupted.

Cons: Will be the focus of low-level hatred from 12 hours. Might fall into the wrong crowd, returning sexpats or Cornish rugby players for example. Will generate long-lasting self-loathing. Should probably be illegal.


As it stands we have loaded about as much Peppa Pig as is humanly possible on to the iPad, have stocked up on snacks and formula and prayed to the great god of infant sleep.

In any case, if you happen to be flying from Bangkok to London tomorrow and you have your bread roll robbed then I am truly sorry for your loss. They are often the best things in the meal. Let’s be honest though, if it stops him wailing like he’s lost a limb then it’s a small price to pay.

In other, less baby-related news, I’ve been interviewed by the rather wonderful Lani Cox on her blog. She’s started a series of expat interviews and was kind enough to ask me – so go check that out, her blog is brilliant.

14 Replies to “Long Haul Flight With a Toddler”

  1. Benadryl is legal, right? I hear good things about Benadryl. Also, preventative care, just in case he turns out to be allergic to seat fabric on that long flight.

    As someone who regularly takes 5-6 hour flights, though, I appreciate even the slightest parental planning rather than the “Be One Of THOSE” parents approach. Thank you!


    1. MORE DRUGS! (read the other comments). In the end we just walked him around a lot and tried to feed him lots of carbs in a bid to get that sleepy, post meal feel going. It kind of worked. Kind of… Cheers!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for the mention. Now, on to more serious matters…have you considered “drugging” the child? Now, I know, that sounds horrible (this is not my idea, btw), but my sister-in-law claims she spoon fed my nephews some “cough sryup” for their long haul to Hawaii from the Mainland. Apparently, it worked like a charm, too.*

    *I absolve myself of any responsibility re: any “suggestions” that might have occurred during this post.


  3. Been there, done that. Took both my kids to Thailand from the central US when they were toddlers. Benadryl works wonders, also how old is your toddler, if he is 2 or younger, long haul planes have bassinets which attach to the bulk heads, the floors in bulk head rows have more room as well, so you can spread out a blanket and let him play with his trains or whatever. DVD player is also a good idea.


    1. Hey man, yeah – we normally have the bulkhead rows for him but we decided to buy him a seat and that seemed to give him enough room. I think when the second comes we might have to seriously look at Benadryl. He’s too big for the bassinets now and hated them anyway.

      Cheers for the advice though, much appreciated.


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