long haul night flight

Long Haul Night Flights with Children

This post was originally published on the 17th October 2013 on the website Mums on the Go. With Mums on the Go closing down in March 2016 I wanted to ensure this story was preserved.


A while ago I wrote an article for Expedia about surviving long haul flights with kids. I had personally practiced every tip in the article myself except for flying at night as this wasn’t an option for us last time we did a long haul flight. So our trip to Sabah, Borneo, was the first time I have done a long haul flight overnight with young children – I learned many valuable lessons!


Don’t fly on Friday night: this is probably the only ‘mistake’ we made. Everyone was very tired on Friday night after a long week and kids were totally hyped up with the excitement of going to Borneo. There were a number of meltdowns on the plane and I can honestly say my husband and I did not deal with them as well as we would normally because we were so tired. I think we would have been more patient parents if we had flown 24 hours later.


Lights won’t be dimmed for nearly 3 hours: I had forgotten how many things are done on a plane at night before lights are dimmed for sleeping – meals are delivered, entertainment units are handed out, Duty Free is offered. My children were not interested in the idea of sleep until lights were dimmed on all flights which meant they were insanely tired at that point.


Eventually all children will sleep: On our return to Sydney my 5 year old was awake until 2.30am! Which is also the time lights were dimmed on our second flight of the evening. I let her sit up and watch a movie on my ipad until then because at least she was calm, happy and resting. Poor sausage went into overtired hysterics as soon as lights were dimmed and we suggested it was time to lie down and sleep. This lasted less than 60 seconds before she fell asleep.


sleeping in transit

               Miss 2 sleeping in transit


When the shit hits the fan my kids want their Mum: On our flight from Sydney to Kuala Lumpur (when our parenting was not at it’s finest) our three children seemed to rotate being in meltdown mode all through the night. We would get one to sleep and another one would set off. I discovered that when my kids are hysterical they just want their Mum to cuddle them, not Dad. Challenging if more than one child is crying for you at a time and it ensured I did not manage any sleep of my own.


Don’t order meals: we didn’t order meals so technically not a new lesson but one I wanted to share with you. If you order meals the airline staff will wake you/your children when meals are served – not what you want if you have just managed to get kids asleep! Just bring plenty of snack food in your carry on to see you through the night.


Our flights from Sydney to Kuala Lumpur and beyond were pretty horrid at the time but things went much better for us through the night on our return to Sydney. I have been asked if I was given the chance to book again would I still choose to fly overnight – “yes” is the simple answer.


Long haul flights with kids are tough at anytime of the day or night. We had minimal fallout at either end from sleep deprivation and in fact it ensured our kids slept really well on our first night. At heart I am still a backpacker so I like the fact that flying overnight saves us one night in a hotel, which for a family of 5 is a pretty good saving!

At the end of the day, long haul flights are just something you get through the best you can knowing that they will end, and when you arrive at your destination it will all be worthwhile.


Have you got any lessons/experiences to share? Or perhaps a question you would like to ask?


Linda {RGB}

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