Packing for a long haul adventure


luggage photo

There are already 1000s of blog articles already about what to pack/take with on long flights, but here’s my essential packing items to add to the mix. NB you’ll need fewer toys/activities if it’s a night flight with no stopovers, but still come prepared as there is  always waiting time and the potential for delays so come prepared!

  • A separate little rucksack for each child (which they then carry themselves when possible) with their books and a few loved toys and new art activities for the flight.
  • My children sleep better with a favourite teddy or doll so I include mini favourites also.
  • Lego people for my older two and some Lego and “Happyland” people for my youngest. This is because I hope that toys involving imaginary play will keep them amused for longer periods!
  • Some new small toys (e.g. Lego people or card games like “snap”, “Dobble” or “Uno”).
  • Tiny pots of play doh and cutters also work well for day flights.
  • Stickers, scratch art, sticker/mosaic art, small colouring books with a pencil case of different writing/drawing options.
  • Usbourne “I Spy” books. When we fly I like giving at least one child the “I spy at the airport” book. There are also others which might be relevant (e.g. “I spy on a roadtrip”, “I spy at the seaside”) for other parts of your journey.
  • The above list can be adapted for road trips also, but I’d recommend giving each child a clip board so they have something to lean on in the car. In it you can include various different kinds of paper and stickers and provide each child with a pencil case as well.
  • In my own bag, I pack a change of clothes for everyone for the flight, toothbrushes, pyjamas for the children, long-sleeve tops for the flights (it can get cold!). I also pack “arrival” clothes, e.g. shorts and t-shirts for the children if we are going to be somewhere incredibly hot. These are put in colour-coded (different for each child) packing cubes for the children’s clothes in my hand luggage, so I can quickly and easily find replacement clothes when they get wet/thirsty.
  • Baby wipes, child ear plugs and eye masks for all. A friend of mine says she buys new cute kids’ eye masks every time they fly to make sleeping in the air more “fun” for the kids, which I think is lovely.
  • A decent picnic in the airport before the flight is a good idea, as I find flight food is rather hit and miss with my children. I think some airlines do “kid-friendly” meals which you can order and interested to hear what they are like (unfortunately can’t use them myself as my kids would need a vegetarian or fish option, and the kids’ meals don’t let you choose this).
  • Spare warm socks for all. I take my kids’ shoes off on long flights and put warmer socks on them. At the end of the flight I change them into clean socks.
  • I pack a lot of snacks! I take water (which I buy at the airport), as you can be waiting a long time for it to come around and my children always seem to get thirsty  at the wrong time! I also pack marmite rice cakes, apples and other fruit, cucumber, pepper and fruit bars). On a good flight, especially at night if they sleep, none of this gets eaten, but it’s an excellent back-up to have.
  • I’ve always been provided with blankets on our night flights and cope with those, but if your child is particularly sensitive to new environments, I’d suggest packing an oversized muslin and using that as a blanket, with the airline’s one over the top for warmth.
  • Nappies. My daughter is toilet trained but usually wears nappies at night time. On a night flight she wears a nappy for the entire flight and I have at least 2 spare ones. On a day flight she no longer wears one, but as you can’t always get to the toilet as quickly as usual if you’re worried about a pre-schooler having an accident don’t feel bad about using nappies on the flight. I used to tell my daughter that we had special “aeroplane” nappies just in case, but regularly took her to the toilet so they weren’t used.
  • With younger children/babies, take anti-bacterial wipes so you can confidently put their food down on the tray table.
  • Just before a night flight, I change all my children into their pyjamas (or tracksuit bottoms and a long-sleeved top for day flights) and clean their teeth. With my 3 year old I’d also try and follow our usual bedtime routine if possible, e.g. read a favourite sleepy bedtime story. However, experience has taught me that if your night flight starts 7-9.30pm the children will likely be so excited that they will stay awake for the first 1-2 hours. This astonished us the first time it happened but now I am ready for it, and try and keep them off the screens/their tablets until they’ve slept. On a later flight (e.g. 11pm or the middle of the night) in my experience the children thankfully fall asleep instantaneously.
  • I didn’t have this for almost 8 years, but I now swear by our Pockit-GB buggy. I bought it new for £99 and it’s changed our life. It’s so small and light that you’re allowed to actually take it onto the plane as hand luggage, which means no long walks at the other end or in transit without a buggy. It made a ridiculously long journey and 7.5 hours in Singapore airport significantly easier.
  • Pack 1 small lollipop per child in case their ears start popping a lot. I’m not convinced the lolly helps that much but the excitement it creates is a great distraction!
  • I pack myself some mini “treat” toiletries which I use at the end of the flight to feel human again, including some cleansing wipes which I use mid-flight as needed. Face moisturiser at the start and end of the flight also helps!

Coping with delays

action architecture blurred background building

Photo by Nubia Navarro (nubikini) on

Our 20+ hour journey to Thailand ended up involving some delays so the return leg unfortunately took over 30 hours. We may as well have flown to Australia!

It really was surpringly fine though, astonishingly. Rather than whinge lots about it (which I would definitely have done pre-children for sure!), Mr R and I put a brave face on and told the children we had 7.5 hours to “explore Singapore” and have an adventure. Which we certainly did.

We became one of the last of 1000s of people to get a Singaporean stamp in our passports. We visited the world’s largest indoor waterfall at Jewel, during its second day being open. We chatted to local shopkeepers and shoppers and learned (a small bit) about life in Singapore. Our children made brilliant artistic creations at a shop in the mall at 11pm-midnight, oblivious to the time (with the long flight home delayed until 3am, we figured “why not?”). We blagged our way into the first class Qantas lounge.

We finally got onto the plane at 3am with three happy (and two asleep) children and somehow passed +13.5 hours together in economy, much of it with them asleep.

For us the – extremely long – journey became a significant part of the adventure. 7.5 “stuck” in an airport with three small children could have been horrendous but instead undoubtedly helped to make our holiday adventure extra special!

Round the world we go

Our addiction to adventurous travel has returned!


Last year we visited Thailand with our three children (then 2, 4 and 6) E, J and L. It was so incredible that we returned there this April. We also have further “round the world” adventures planned for later in 2019 and beyond.

The place we just visited is remote to say the least (in the Phang Nga province, 25 minutes north of Khao Lak). Getting there involved indirect flights followed by a long overland journey. But once there we had 5km of unspoilt natural beaches to explore. It was paradise.

“Are you mad?” friends uttered before we left. “2 flights / 20 hours+ to get there, and with small children?” they cry. “Are you sure you don’t fancy staying in the UK or going somewhere closer with an all day kids club?” others stammer.

Even the nurse at our GP appears to be in on the idea that one should Never Go Anywhere Exciting Or Far Away With Children. Last year, when considering what immunisations we needed, she sternly asked – no informed me – that we “presumably would not be partaking in any local street food whilst away”. Amused I calmly responded that we most certainly would be, but that we’d be careful with our choices. The look she gave me was so disapproving that I may as well have said I regularly beat our children.

This year, we returned to see the same nurse for some follow up/new vaccinations. She looked at me, sighed and asked critically whether I was “planning on making these trips a regular occurrence?”. I smiled demurely (unusual for me) but firmly said that we would be. After a further and prolonged sigh, she agreed that certain vaccinations with a 25 year shelf-life (Hep A) were worthwhile. I left feeling irritated and unnecessarily criticised: it was not about the cost to the NHS etc but simply disapproval that we should take our children so far away. It felt like she would have preferred we go to a huge family-friendly European/American package resort, or self-cater somewhere more local.

I am very fortunate. Mr R and I have travelled extensively together. Before that, I had an incredible 6 months travelling on a round the world ticket when I was 25 and backpacked most university vacations (after 6-8 weeks of “temping” to earn my fare, as I paid for all these trips myself). I want to share with my children the experience of travelling off the beaten track as much as we can, whilst doing so in an environment that is extremely comfortable (more for me than them!) and safe. I want them to walk on silky white sand beaches. I want them to snorkel in water warmer than bathwater and see incredible marine life. I want them to try food they’d otherwise not even see, let alone taste. I want them to leave their North London (lovely) bubble and understand how privileged we are, but also that difference is not always so different (I love the Thai expression “same same but different”. Works in so many contexts). I want them to shop in local markets, soaking in the smells of eastern foods and spices. I want them to see so much beauty but also the poverty and reality of life outside our immediate world.

On a selfish level, I sometimes worry that I’m doing this just because I want to relive my backpacking adventures and pretend I’m not actually approaching 40. Or that our rose-tinted version in posh hotels is no different to any other family holiday. Or that my obsession with finding the most perfect, isolated and idyllic white sands and turquoise waters has gone too far. All of which are probably completely accurate, but my desire to share my love of travel with my children is also extremely real. With no complaints as yet from the children or Mr R (other than my travel addict perhaps getting out of hand when I suggest three such trips a year) our adventures look very much set to continue. And I for one cannot wait.