Long Haul Travel – Then & Now

My Grandparents emigrated out to the Middle East with their two daughters (my Mother and Aunty, aged 5 & 7) in the 1950s. Flying to the Middle East in the 1950s was my Granny’s first ever flight and experience of travel outside of England. I loved hearing her tales of life out there. What an adventure long haul travel must have been back then!

Recently, I have been thinking about where my next long haul adventure will take us. The logistics of long haul travel with young children plays quite a large part in the decision making process. This has got me thinking about what it must have been like for my Granny, all those years ago, embarking on her first flight with her young children. As I am taking a little trip down memory lane I thought I would share with you what I have learned about how long haul travel has changed over the past sixty years.

  • Entertainment
    • Then – No in-flight entertainment systems and most definitely no seat-back TVs. If they were lucky and their parents had had the foresight to plan ahead, children were given colouring books, pencils, a small pack of teddy bear toys from Woolworths and a book to read. My Grandmother told the tale of how her girls (my Mother and Aunty) were given an airline pin broach to play with by one of the air hostesses, which was a complete highlight for them – no health and safety in those days!
    • Now – If you are flying anything over six hours then it is almost a guarantee that you will have a full in-flight entertainment system at your disposal, complete with a personal seat-back TV. A huge range of movies, kids programmes, music and games at the bare minimum will be provided for each of your discerning little travellers. Many airlines such as Virgin Atlantic also provide ‘kids travel packs’ stuffed with goodies to keep the kids quiet. Failing that, most parents are pretty savvy these days and will bring a whole host of toys and games as well as an ipad or two so that boredom really isn’t going to be an issue.

2014_06_01_a4_VirginAmeri_7c740 2


  • Children
    • Then – My Granny tells me that children were not catered for in any way. I’m sure we have all heard the age old saying that “children should be seen and not heard” – well nevermore was this true than whilst flying apparently. Not only were children expected to be quiet and well-behaved, there was no such thing as a children’s menu so children were expected to eat was put before them. Baby changing facilities were unheard of. If you did travel with your children, not only did you have to contend with all of the above but you also faced a long haul flight enclosed in a cloud of cigarette smoke. Smoking on planes was the norm in the 1950s. I can’t begin to imagine how claustrophobic that must have made the experience.
    • Now – These days, airlines have got flying with children down to a fine art. Baby changing facilities, children’s menus and even special Kid Backpacks (Virgin Atlantic) packed with goodies are the norm these days for long haul flights. People do not expect young children to sit still and be silent for hours on end and unless your little darlings are kicking the seat in front of them, you are unlikely to receive anything more than an understanding smile from your fellow passengers when things get a bit noisy. Oh and you don’t have to breathe in toxic cigarette fumes for eight hours. Bonus.
  • The Experience
    • Then – Back in the 1950s, air travel was something that most people had not experienced. High flight costs and a general lack of interest in foreign travel left long haul flights out of reach for most people. If you were one of the lucky ones then you would have been unsure what to expect, what to pack or how to plan for it. Not the ideal situation when travelling with children. Once aboard the flight you would immediately be faced with a firmly segregated class system; FIRST class and SECOND class. If  you were to find yourself in a SECOND class seat and dared to venture into the curtained off FIRST class section then you would be made to feel very inferior indeed and quickly escorted back to where you came from. Not too dissimilar to 1950s society in general I imagine! Meals were eaten with three ‘proper’ courses on bone china plates with linen napkins whether you sat in first or second class. It was quite an event I’m told!

Long Haul

  • Now – Flying is a common occurrence for many families. If we didn’t know what to expect or what to pack then there are endless resources (namely the internet) at our disposal which will quickly point us in the right direction. Although flight costs can still be high, many families feel able to save up and afford them, which puts air travel well within reach for the majority of us. Class systems on-board still do occur but without the social stigma of the 1950s. It is highly unlikely that anyone would make you feel inferior for sitting in an economy seat these days. Sadly in my experience, meals are no longer eaten on fine china plates with all the pomp and ceremony that they deserve unless you are sitting in business class or above. On a long haul flight it is however still usual to be offered a hot meal and several snacks and drinks.



There are always going to be challenges to face when taking on long haul travel with little people but writing this post really makes me realise how easy we have it these days. There are so many brilliant countries and places to visit in this big, old world of ours that it seems a shame to limit ourselves to places within a 2 hour flight time. Having survived long haul travel alone as a single parent I can say for sure that it is definitely both doable and enjoyable if you are organised about it. I hope that you enjoyed my little trip into the past and hope that it might persuade you to get those flights booked if you have been sitting on the fence, wondering if it is possible.

Wherever you are off to this summer, be it home or abroad, I wish  you very happy travels.


This post is written in memory of my beloved Granny who passed away on June 25th after 97 long, exciting and much loved years with us.

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  1. Julia
    July 7, 2016 / 07:31

    This post really takes me back down memory lane. It’s so much easier to travel
    ‘Long haul’ with children now & as you say,well
    Worth the effort.
    The major hassle now is the security hurdle, which of course was not an issue at all in those days!

  2. July 7, 2016 / 07:45

    We try to avoid long haul flights with our two and go on lots of cruises instead – cunning! Although we do lots of short haul flights as we have to leave to fly anytime we want to leave Jersey. #coolmumclub
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  3. July 7, 2016 / 12:37

    This is a beautiful tribute to your Granny, Fi – I loved it. My parents emigrated from Hong Kong to the UK when I was 2 years old, and my Mum flew over with the four of us (aged 2 months, 2,6 & 8) by herself. When I ask her about it – as I am suitably daunted about flying over with Emma to Melbourne for my brother’s wedding – she shrugs her shoulder and says “ah you just do it!”. So true that we have so many devices and comforts (and snacks!) at our fingertips now, it’s a very different ball game. #coolmumclub
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  4. July 7, 2016 / 16:52

    Fascinating post, my kids loved our first long haul together last year, they were easier on that flight than going round the supermarket today! x

  5. July 7, 2016 / 18:42

    So sorry to hear about your gran. I can’t imagine what it would have been like to travel on a long-haul flight with a baby in a smoke-filled plane and NO TV. We recently took our first long-haul flight with our daughter and it was bad enough – all the snacks and toys in the world couldn’t have made her enjoy that flight. #ablogginggoodtime
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  6. July 7, 2016 / 20:34

    What a lovely piece of writing. It reminded me of going on holiday as a child sitting next to a guy smoking a cigar…the whole flight. Imagine that now? Thank God some things changed for the better.
    Thanks for linking up to #coolmumclub
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  7. July 9, 2016 / 08:17

    I had totally forgotten about smoking on airplanes. I just can even imagine that now! I do remember flying as a child without in flight entertainment – once the initial I am on an airplane excitement wore off it was very dull. Your Gran must have been so brave to undertake such a journey in the 50s. #forthekoveofBLOG

  8. July 9, 2016 / 08:27

    I love that you dedicated this post to your granny at the end. It must have been such an adventure moving to a completely different culture in those days, even more so than now. I am yet to fly with Piglet, so I had no idea what was provided for little ones on flights and assumed it would just be a lot of walking up and down the aisles, annoying people, refusing to eat any of the food and trying to placate with endless episodes of Chuggington. I’m pretty sure that would still be the case! #fortheloveofBLOG
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  9. July 9, 2016 / 08:33

    Oh gosh I regularly take my kids on short flight from Ireland to UK – cannot imagine having them on plane for much longer than that ! In terms of then and now comparisons – my kids can’t seem to spend more than 5 mins in a car journey without whining ; we used to drive from north east England to Italy with nothing more than a pack of cards for company ! So sorry for the loss of your grandmother #fortheloveofblog

  10. July 9, 2016 / 08:44

    97 years! Wow, well done to your Granny. A really lovely tribute to write this interesting post. It always amazes me how quickly things change and we may well wonder: how did they cope? Sometimes I think that moving forwards can actually make life harder – internet safety with kids etc. However, flying must surely be so much easier now, as you point out. My sister lived in Hong Kong and Singapore with 3 little ones for 7 years and travelled to and fro with them on her own. I think it was hard work but certainly not a deal breaker. Happy travels whenever you go 🙂 Alison x #fortheloveofBLOG

  11. July 9, 2016 / 08:48

    It’s great to look back and compare I think and show you how much things have changed! It’s great that airlines are more family friendly now too #fortheloveofblog
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  12. July 9, 2016 / 09:05

    What a lovely post in memory of your Granny! I work for an aircraft company and love looking at the way air travel has developed and trust me it’s still developing as we speak!! Even more excuse to travel to new places! #fortheloveofBLOG

  13. July 9, 2016 / 09:05

    So sorry to hear about your Granny. What a great age! This was a really lovely read. I the thought of being in a smoke filled cabin is horrible. My Dad tells me that my Grandfather was once asked to move seats on a plane to balance it out! #fortheloveofBLOG
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  14. July 9, 2016 / 09:42

    Brilliant post! Thanks goodness for iPads and iPhones 😉

  15. July 9, 2016 / 11:54

    A long haul flight with kids and no TV’s, nightmare! x #fortheloveofBLOG

  16. July 9, 2016 / 12:28

    This is such a lovely way to pay tribute to your granny and really interesting to read what’s changed! I’m about to go on our first long haul flight next week! Fingers crossed the 8mth old Little Lord is kind to mummy! #fortheloveofBLOG
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  17. July 9, 2016 / 17:53

    Super interesting post, amazing when you look back, not that long ago! What a transformation. I love the idea of travelling with children, seeing the world together, experiencing different cultures is priceless!!! #fortheloveofBLOG
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  18. July 9, 2016 / 18:19

    Ugh long haul.. I hate the journey, love the destination.

    The simpler times may have been better!



  19. The Tale of Mummyhood
    July 9, 2016 / 19:40

    I cannot imagine what it would be like to take my two, one year and three months on a long haul flight! This is such an enlightening post ,for both then and now 🙂

  20. July 9, 2016 / 19:42

    Such an interesting post and I love the images. Amazing how quickly things change, I can’t imagine flying without any of the luxuries and entertainment we have these days, let alone doing it with a child! #fortheloveofBLOG

  21. July 9, 2016 / 20:44

    My condolences to you for losing your Granny – she sounds remarkable. The stories reminded me of travel with my family and my father smoking (60 a day man still) in the plane. There were non-smoking sections but we all sat together so no question of being in a smoke free zone. I also remember crockery instead of plastic – don’t remember them being bone china though maybe that was before my time. We used to collect the tiny pots of salt, pepper and mustard and bring them back to Blighty. Why? Beats me. Thanks for the memories Jo #fortheloveofBlog
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  22. July 9, 2016 / 22:05

    Wow how interesting, I can honestly say I`ve never thought about what flying long haul must have been like back then but now you point it out – its amazing how far things have come and whats changed!! I do not envy those parents travelling long haul with children back then!!! I hate flying though lol. #fortheloveofblog
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  23. July 9, 2016 / 22:19

    This reminded me a lot of my travels as a youngster as my parents moved a lot so we frequently did long haul flights to the Far East, Middle East and the States. It was always so tedious and wherever you sat on the plane the clouds of smoke from the smoking section still engulfed you. It is so much easier nowadays, although I find I can’t stand the long haul anymore and am dreading our own flight to the States in the Summer…maybe those childhood memories are too vivid. Happy travelling! #fortheloveofBLOG
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  24. July 10, 2016 / 03:10

    A great reminder of how lucky we are these days! Life has definitely become a lot easier in a lot of ways (not that that means life is actually easy, of course). I have yet to take my kids on a plane, but I feel like it wouldn’t really be anything to stress about now! #fortheloveofblog

  25. July 10, 2016 / 08:04

    Fi what a lovely post – thank you for sharing and so sorry to hear about your Granny. What a life she led and what a legacy of travel love to leave 🙂 We took our little Bean to New York at 7 months and our fave two tips were: 1) packing a toy and book for each hour of the flight so you can rotate, including a couple of new ones; 2) we put little clear bags on the seats around us containing some sweets and a note saying ‘it’s my first flight! Sorry if I make noise!’ – people were so understanding and loved the gesture. Really glad I’ve found your blog! X #fortheloveofBLOG
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  26. July 10, 2016 / 11:16

    WOh gosh being on a plane full of cigarette smoke would be awful, that God they scrapped that!I like the sound of eating meals from bone China plates!This is a lovely tribute to your granny, hope you’re doing ok xx #fortheloveofBLOG
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  27. July 10, 2016 / 13:27

    We really do have it easy now! So far, my daughter has only been on one plane trip. She was 6 months old at the time and the flight was less than 4 hours. It wasn’t as terrible as I imagined! She slept most of the time. Now she’s entering toddlerhood, a “long-haul” would probably be more challenging but certainly not impossible! This was a beautiful way to honor your Granny. Thanks for sharing!
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  28. July 10, 2016 / 14:58

    This definitely puts things into perspective! We are about a month away from talking our toddler on his first flight (about 4 hours) and I have been so stressed out about the whole ordeal. However, in the grand scheme of things it really shouldn’t be that bad and certainly won’t be as difficult as it was fifty years ago. A good reminder to be positive and appreciative of everything we have now. Thanks for sharing! #ForTheLoveOfBlog
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  29. July 10, 2016 / 18:39

    I’m old enough to remember being on planes when people were allowed to smoke. It seems hard to believe now. You are right, we have things so much easier nowadays. #Fortheloveofblog.

  30. July 11, 2016 / 19:22

    So sorry to hear about your Granny. What a lovely post. It’s amazing to think how far we have come. I have not ventured into any kind of flight long or short haul with the kids yet. I’m not a great flyer and find it stressful at the best of times. I can’t even begin to imagine the cigarette smoke. There is something wonderful though about the three course meal on china plates. x #fortheloveofBLOG
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  31. July 13, 2016 / 21:29

    Im so sorry you lost your granny – i lost mine not that long ago andtheres really only one way to describe it.. it sucks!! Its amazing how different flying is now… i think we have it quite easy compared to how it used to be. we have so many more options for entertaining our little ones now!!
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  32. July 18, 2016 / 19:57

    I really enjoyed this post and what a lovely tribute to your Granny. I often reminisce about the ‘glory days’ of flying – think ‘Come Fly With Me’ and Frank Sinatra! It was my old job and I would have loved to have experienced being crew on flights in the 50’s. Not the smoke though. Thank goodness that has stopped. I remember sitting on numerous pillows just to see the screen at the front of a bulkhead on a B747 as a kid. Nowadays the in flight entertainment is amazing. Some airline shave sky nannies for free, face painting, galley cookie making for the kids. So it has definitely changed a lot!
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