long haul flight with toddlers

How to survive a long-haul flight with toddlers

What’s worse than a long-haul flight? A long-haul flight with toddlers! Especially If you are the parent who’s supposed to take care of them. Because let’s face it, long-haul flights are tiring and difficult for us grownups. Let alone a toddler or kid who has an established routine, based on fixed hours to eat and sleep. But I’m not trying to discourage you. Traveling with our kids is a beautiful experience to share the knowledge of our world and create new memories. But how can you improve it? Continue your reading to know all the secrets to a perfect flight.

The background

Before starting, I feel I should do a short introduction. In fact, who am I to teach you how to fly long distance with a toddler?

If you haven’t read my about page yet, Hi! I’m Anita. An Italian expat, who has been living in French Guiana for 9 years now. In 2021 I became mom to the sweetest boy. On his first flight, he was only 6 weeks old. As an expat, I regularly visit my family back in Italy. The trip is very long. A 9-hour flight from Cayenne to Paris. Between 4 and 8 hours wait at Orly Airport. And last, a 2-hour connecting flight from Paris to Milan or Pisa, depending on who we are visiting first.

By his first year, my baby had more flight time than most adults I know!

So let me tell you that flying with a toddler is easier than it seems. I know what I’m talking about.

long-haul flight with toddlers
Baby Aiden on his first flight

How to prepare your long-haul flight with toddlers

Organized packing is essential! That’s why you should write a checklist with all the essentials you will need. Also, it’s important, if you have a general checklist, you should distinguish the items you will need in your handbag luggage from the ones you will embark on your checked baggage.

Did you know? Even If babies and toddlers don’t have an assigned seat, they automatically have cabin luggage you can fill with diapers and baby bottles.

Depending on the type of diaper bag you have, you should place all your baby’s essentials in his diaper bag: diapers, baby bottle, water, toys, food, and artificial milk if you’re not breastfeeding. And keep your documents as well in the external pocket. The clothes change can be stored in your trolley/hand luggage. If everything goes smoothly you shouldn’t need this before you arrive at the destination airport.

long-haul flight with toddlers

When I’m traveling with big (non low-cost) companies, I prefer to carry an extra paper bag filled with food and a one-litre bottle of water. Don’t forget that when you’re traveling with toddlers, you can carry up to 1 liter of water in your cabin luggage. Sometimes I’ve carried even more but that may variate from airport to airport.

After having packed all your baby’s essentials, you’ll have to select some items to let them play on the endless flight. The best solution is to bring paper-related activities. It may be a sticker album, a coloring book with crayons, or even a simple book. Whatever item you’ll choose remember to keep it light and compact. You must privilege practicality above all.

Should I bring a stroller or not?

I’ve heard so many different opinions about that. Some parents only swear by the stroller, while others prefer not to carry it. So, which is the right answer? I’ll tell you a secret: it’s completely up to you! Take me for example. I used a baby carrier until Aiden was 9 months old. By his 11-month Aiden start to walk, so when we flew again, and he was too heavy for the baby carrier I preferred to fly without the stroller. But even though there’s no correct answer, there are some things you should consider when deciding to bring your stroller with you:

long-haul flight with toddlers

Are you flying on a trip, or are you going to see your relatives?

When we are flying to see our families, I prefer not to bring the stroller. Our family has one for us, and since Aiden can walk, I prefer not to charge our already overloaded luggage.

Is your toddler used to walking? Or does he prefer to be carried?

This depends strictly on your kid’s habits, but remember it will be influenced also by his mood. Of course, he will be tired and needier, so he will probably ask you to take him in your arms frequently. But if your toddler has been walking already for a few months, probably he will be able to walk for the short time he will need to.

Will you be walking a lot or will it be a more relaxed vacation?

Are you going on a see-it-all trip? Or will you be quietly resting on a beach? If you’re planning to go urban exploring, 15 kilometers and 8 hours per day, well a stroller might be a good idea. On the contrary, if you’re about to fly on a paradise island, in an all-inclusive resort, and won’t leave the beach for the next 15 days, you won’t probably need it with you.

On the plane

If you’re preparing for your child’s first flight EVER, remember this: kids don’t know how to compensate for cabin pressure changes.

I don’t know If you have ever experienced that, but not compensating may be painful. Imagine beginning a kid who doesn’t know what’s happening to him. To protect their little ears, you can simply offer them their baby bottle to drink, their pacifier, or juice during take-off and landing. This will make them compensate naturally and it will keep them busy.

Keeping your toddlers busy

You’re ready, tickets are booked, the camera batteries are charged, and the holiday mood is ON! Except, for that little 12-hour flight between you and your deserved cocktail on the beach. How can we improve this long-suffering?

  • Give them their favorite toy, and surprise them with a new one.
  • Pack some snacks and drinks (possibly sugar-free, otherwise they will be even more excited).
  • Interact and play with them. Tell them a story about the place you’re going to visit or let them use their imagination.
  • Let them play with the printable and coloring books you’ve prepared.
  • If it’s a night flight, respect their sleep schedule and let them sleep. You should sleep too by the way; I know if you’re flying ECO that is not always easy.

Also, on long-haul flights, most airlines provide a kid’s kit for your toddler to play with.

long-haul flight with toddlers

Safety instructions

“In the unlikely event of an emergency landing…”

Whether you’re a frequent flyer or not you should always listen to the safety instructions. At least to know where the closest exit is situated, sometimes it might be just behind you. And also, to remember that in case of emergency you must wear your oxygen mask BEFORE putting the mask on your kids. Of course, this must be said, etc, etc. I know you’ll probably never need this (I honestly hope it! and don’t panic you won’t), BUT It’s better to spend a few minutes and listen to the flight attendants. Furthermore, the safety instructions may be entertaining for kids to watch.

long-haul flight with toddlers
AirFrance safety kit for toddlers and babies

In conclusion, you can definitely make this. But please let me know If you have any comments or questions… And hey, don’t forget that you’re about to go on vacation! 😀

If you think this post was useful don’t forget to share it and pin it for later. Thank you in advance for that!

8 thoughts on “How to survive a long-haul flight with toddlers”

  1. Deirdre Jenkins

    Great advice. I always hated bringing my toddler on the plane, especially with a mask. It’s alot better as she’s older now

  2. Excellent tips, as a mom of 6 I approve these practical tips for traveling with a toddler! We loved bringing a stroller, it usually doubled as a luggage cart when the toddler was walking around.

  3. We began flying with our girls when they were babies. Oh, the stuff you have to bring. The day we didn’t have to travel with a car seat anymore? Heaven. And then when they could all pull their own suitcases…

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