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The Dadventurer Long Haul Survival Guide

Having been to the UK (again!) after another big flight with the kids I thought I'd use my jet lag productively to give a few tips and tricks that have worked for us to get ourselves and our kids through the experience. We fly regularly and go long haul once a year - usually back to the UK to keep our kids and their families on playful terms. This year we arrived in England after a short stay in Vietnam and had a long flight from Ho Chi Minh to Zurich followed by a short one to Manchester in England. The kids were amazing but it can still be a horrific experience if you don't do a bit of careful planning to help get the most out of the trip.

1. Link the worst bits to the kids' bedtime.

Book flights so that the longest leg links in with when the kids would normally sleep (ie night time where you set off from!). This gives you the best chance of getting off the flight still liking your beautiful children. This year we did the shorter leg during the day and got Isla (2 and a half) excited about it all and kept her awake, playing and reading, peppa-pigging and singing. This meant she was ready for a big sleep on the worst leg, and she did sleep for the first 9 hours of it. It is well worth paying a bit extra to get a flight schedule that works well with bedtimes. You just need to suck up that jet lag on the other side - good luck! Or...

2020 Update: Jetlag avoidance

This year we flew during the day and as we were heading East we were also heading back in time (with respect to time zones!) So effectively we had one hell of a long day travelling and stayed away on the flight. In fact we set off Early morning in Vietnam, and arrived in Manchester after 2 flights, a layover and a 3 hour delay on Zurich's finest tarmac runway (!) around 20 hours later, at about 9PM. The kids were exhausted and the parents were too, but we all slept through the night and completely avoided any jetlag. This is only an option if you're confident the kids can enjoy themselves while staying awake on the long hauls (and the parents!) but it's worth a look, particularly if you need to be up and about when you get where you're going.

2. Use a good airline

We always fly with Singapore Airlines when we can, they're just good. They don't mess you around, they look after families well and their staff are consistently ready to help and look after you all. We've had some pretty crap experiences on other big airlines that have left us struggling with the kids and its not worth it. There's heaps of reviews online so check out the rep of the airline (specifically how good they are for traveling families!) before you book and spend a little extra if you need to and can afford to make sure you will enjoy the experience. A crap flight is an awkward way to start your family adventure!

3. Don't stress about the people around you

Now that I'm a father I have convinced myself that I was previously a patient and compassionate co-passenger and would sympathize rather than curse the parents around me, that's probably bullshit . The truth is that flying is pretty shitty and stressful for most people, and an endless clock-watching exercise. The trick for the traveling parent is to do all you can to manage your little adventurers for everyone and then don't stress beyond that. There will be times that the kids are difficult and noisy, most people will be cool, some won't. If you let that stress you out it'll be a difficult few hours. Engage with all the nice folks who look interested in the kids and you'll feel better about how many people you've woken up.

4. Pack smart and pack fun

OK you're not a moron, we're not talking "remember to pack nappies" here or "don't home-alone your young adventurers". I will remind you to make sure everything is accessible and easy to get to - especially those nappies! And to take a Baby Bjorn (other baby carrier brands are available!) so your arms are free while you do your wingwalks (or aisle walks - depends on your dadventure level!) We, and by we I very much mean my wife - the key to our family's organised travel! pack the kids a goodie bag of stickers, colouring books, jigsaws, cuddly toys, earphones etc and let Isla open it on the first flight or at an airport (where you desire a few hours of wake up time). Try to get activities that will take an hour or so - you'll need a hell of a lot of ten minute activities for a long haul!. I'll do a further post on our "Dadventurer travel goodie bag" if you're interested in which bits and bobs worked best to engage/relax/knock out our beloved little travel clan!

5. Sacrifice yourself (do whatever works)

Do not plan to enjoy a couple of Singapore Slings while watching a movie, you probably won't even have time to enjoy your horrific aircraft breakfast in peace. Suck it up dad - you need to give it away in favor of keeping the kids and family happy and relaxed. Expect A LOT of walking up and down airplane aisles singing in your kids ears, a lot of getting in the cabin crew's way, a lot of retrieving food and drink from the overhead luggage and the kitchen (or whatever that bit they keep all the food in is called on a plane?!). Accept this and enjoy... Point 6, handily kept just below, might help here.

6. Be the ultimate fun Dadventurer

This is a good opportunity to give in to a few things you normally wouldn't... Slacken off a few rules and let the kids away with a bit more than usual in the interest of a decent flight. They can eat or drink when they want and get stuck into an iPad or whatever that you usually wouldn't let them near! Give yourselves the chance to enjoy it when they get restless/bored. Flying is an amazing, exciting thing for the kids so try to get them into it and build that excitement. Be active, be fun and enjoy dadding at 10000 feet! In the airports work out everything fun that exists and do each one to death - as long as you can! Keep them up and awake and active so they won't be too restless on the flight on the flight!

I hope these tips work for you as well as they did for us. Hell - I hope they work for us again next time we have some dadventuring to do! Happy family adventures!!

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