How to fly with kids and stay sane Pt2

Being locked in a metal tube with your children and a bunch of strangers for hours on end is probably not on your bucket list. Lots of other things are, like going to Machu Picchu, visiting Cambodia or spending some time in Cape Town and going on Safari in South Africa, but maybe you’re in your late twenties or thirties, have children and have pretty much given up on achieving any of these travel-dreams until your kids grow up and move out. It doesn’t have to be this way.

In the first part of this mini-series on flying with kids I covered hand luggage, plane essentials and my view that flying with kids does not have to be a nightmare. Today I’m looking at drugs and unavoidables.


My wife and I have friends who have had totally contrasting experiences. These instilled in us certain key principles for how to approach the issue of ethically medicating your kids for a flight so that they sleep for most of the time.

One friend of ours was flying to and from the UK alone with her full-of-beans 2 year-old and was understandably concerned by the prospect. She was told that antihistamines are an absolute winner; just dose up your kid at the start and they’ll fall asleep. So she got a prescription, got the meds and prepared for travel. When the time came for the flight, she dosed her kid as advised and… endured the worst flight of her life. The antihistamines had the complete opposite effect on her child than hoped. For 12 hours on a plane she had to contend with a completely hyper child who insisted on running around.

The second cautionary tale comes from someone who did test meds before flying. In this instance our friend had been advised to get child-friendly sleeping pills. So with due diligence she got the prescription and the drugs and proceeded to test them. She decided to see what effects a child’s does would have, so she took half a pill. Eight hours later she woke up feeling groggy and awful. This was after taking a child’s dose. She was so overwhelmed at the impact had on her, a fully-grown adult, that she ditched the sleeping pills idea entirely.

Through the experiences of our two friends we were able to distil a couple of key principles.

  1. Always test the meds in advance. What worked for another child may not work for your own. You do not want a hyper child on a plan or a child who is in a borderline drug-induced coma.
  2. Drugs can make it worse, so proceed with EXTREME caution, if at all.


The Unavoidables

Flying can be ok with kids, but it will never as peaceful as it was childless. Here are some unavoidable realities of flying.

  1. You cannot stick to a routine on a plane. It’s just not possible. The 11pm meal service (?!) and cabin lights means that you’re fighting an uphill battle to get your child to sleep on time. I’ve found it’s best to wait for the main cabin lights to be switched off (If it’s a night flight).
  2. Long-haul day flights are hard work. Your child is awake and wants to play, need I say more? Aim for night flights unless your kids are super well-behaved on a plane or easily engrossed in playing games on a tablet for 6+ hours.
  3. Your baby will cry. At least a little bit. Both of my boys were great flyers as babies – but they did cry from time to time. It’s not the end of the world.
  4. Meal service can be tricky. This is especially true if you’ve got a baby that one of you is holding.¬†Also, tiny tables full of things in front of small humans usually ends in stuff getting knocked off.

Essentially, you need to change your expectations about what a pleasant flying experience will look like.


In conclusion, flying with kids doesn’t have to be a nightmare. Sure, a bit more thought and planning needs to go into it, but I think the same applies to every aspect of life when you become a parent.

So go on adventures, see the world, and take your kids!


Think I’m missing some key flying tips? Add them in the Comments below!



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