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How to survive a long-haul flight stopover with kids

Long haul with kids can be the pits; time to explore the pit stop options. 

Years ago, when I was living and working in Europe, I was an expert at long-haul flying. I’d slip on my travel socks and padded satin eye mask, slather myself with moisturiser and face mist, avail myself of the drinks trolley and that 26-hour trip from London to Melbourne would be a breeze (even in economy).

I was focussed on getting to my destination and I didn’t have time to waste en route.

It was a rude shock on my first long-haul flight with a baby that it wasn’t about me anymore. Toys, snacks and muslin drool cloths quickly replaced glamorous travel accessories.

Being responsible for a baby meant that I couldn’t sleep like I used to, but popping a Temazepam was not a good look. What I realised quite quickly was that if I wanted to travel far and wide with my kids, the only way to survive with sanity (and dodgy back) intact was to break the flight.

Stopovers have other benefits too. They give kids a sense of distance and cultural difference and can whet their appetites to return to a place.

When I’m travelling to Europe with my kids, I’ll often choose the airline we fly based on its hometown hub, Singapore being a firm favourite.

I know a lot of people pick the Qantas/Emirates combination routed through Dubai because of the stopover. Despite the desert city’s bells and whistles, for me it just doesn’t have the authentic appeal of vibrant places like Hong Kong or
Bangkok.

Here are my top tips to stopover well.

1. Don’t skimp

The purpose of a stopover is to make you feel physically rested and nurtured (the antithesis of the flight itself) and five-star hotels don’t have to cost the earth.

You’re only there for a night or two, so you might as well enjoy it.

Ask your airline or travel agent about special deals – there are plenty of them.

2. Take a transfer or a taxi

You might have been an intrepid globetrotter once, but travelling with junior nomads means your days of discovering the delights of the local public transport system are over.

Most hotels can organise transfers and the driver can assist you with your luggage.

If you’ve got little ones who need car seats, a limo is usually a safer bet than a local taxi.

3. Check bags through

Do your airline and airport research to see if you can store your luggage, and then just take an overnight bag into town.

Alternatively, leave most of your bags in the hotel’s luggage storage area so you’re only unpacking one or two pieces in your room.

4. Order room service

The novelty of having a waiter wheel a white-clothed trolley into your room, with food hidden beneath silver cloches is something the kids will talk about for years to come.

5. In the swim

A splash in the hotel pool is an ideal way to relieve symptoms of jetlag and fix those swollen ankles.

It’s always a good idea to pack your bathers no matter where you are heading.

6. Take it easy

Rest. Sure you’re in a new destination but don’t try and see it all in 24 or 36 hours.

Choose one or two sights or activities, find a good local eatery and then just chillax.

 

 

Sally Webb is the founder of Travel Without Tears, travelwithouttears.com, which provides inspiration, advice and bespoke journeys for families.

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This article appeared in issue 20

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