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5 Pro Tips for Long Haul Flights with Toddlers

long haul flights with toddlers
Posted by on October 25, 2016

Planning For Long Haul Flights With Toddlers

A reader recently asked for tips for flying long haul flights with toddlers. So far the longest flight I’ve been on with my kids was scheduled 6 hours, becoming 10 hours long with delays and diversions. I reached out to some of other great family travel bloggers and they shared with me some of their best tips for flying long haul flights with toddler.  These are great tips to follow even if you are on shorter flights with toddlers. Comment below if you have any tips to add! I’d also love to hear which tips help you the most, so come back and comment after your flight!

Although toddlers usually require more attention in flight than older kids, you can still have a fun time traveling with them. Be as prepared as you can, slow down and enjoy the things they find joy in, and don’t stress when schedules are interrupted. When your toddler gets fussy, just focus on meeting his needs and remember we all get a bit fussy when tired/hungry/hot/cold/irritated. One of the best ways to help your child calm down when irritated is to show empathy. “I understand” are such useful words.

long haul flights with toddlers

1) Create a Routine

Kid World Citizen shares how they followed a routine to get through the flight: “This is what our 13+ hour flight looked like with a 3 year old: snack, walk to potty, read books; snack, walk to potty, put stickers in in-flight magazine, color; snack, walk to potty, play dough, play peekaboo with neighbors; snack, walk to potty, beg Vivi to snuggle and rest for a bit (to no avail).” Read here about their 13 hour flight from the US to China.

2) Learn From Experience

One of the best resources I’ve found for travel tips is the book The Travel Mama’s Guide. This book gives so many great travel tips, including an entire chapter about flying with kids. Even though I have lots of experience with flying with kids I still found a few great tips in this book. Packing lists, entertainment ideas, snack ideas and humorous stories are all included in the chapter on flying. The rest of the book gives tips for all kinds of travel, from road trips to camping, hotels to hostels. It’s time for me to read this book again! There’s so much great information for all types of travel!

3) Find Space

When booking your tickets, select seats that will offer you a little wiggle room. Bulkhead seats might work well for your child to play on the floor in front of the seats. A grouping of middle seats for your family might work out, especially if the flight doesn’t end up being full and you get lucky with a seat or two empty next to you. Travel With Bender, in this blog post of 10 Tips for Perfect Flight with Kids shares these recommendations about finding space on your flight:

“When you travel with a baby the bulkhead seats are a lifesaver. Not only does it offer more legroom, which is great for a crawling baby, but often comes with a bassinet for sleep time.

With older children, attempt to gain extra seats at the back of the plane after take-off. There won’t be more legroom, but there are often spare seats to spread out on and catch a few z’s.”

4) Consider Your Child’s Temperament

long haul flights with toddlers

When traveling with your child, it will help everyone function better if you consider your child’s temperament. Plan activities and distractions to meet your child’s needs. Shelly Rivoli’s Travels with Baby has a blog series on temperament. Read these to determine your child’s nature and find ways to travel well with them. Positive, Negative, High-Sensitive, Low-Sensitive, Intense, Mellow, Slow-Adapting,….What type of child do you have?

5) Pack Essentials

Be sure you pack everything in your carry on bag that you might potentially need for the next three days. That way if your checked bags don’t make it there with you, you will have what you need until you either get your bag or can get to a store. Diapers and wipes, snacks, thermometer, fever-reducing medicine, several changes of clothes (for everyone in the family) are examples of the things you need to be thinking about when packing your carry-on bag. Click here to read a more detailed list of what I pack in my carry-on when flying with toddlers.

Do you have tips to add for flying long-haul flights with toddlers? We’d love to hear them! Comment below to help other readers as they plan for their flights.

long haul flights with toddlers


17 Responses to 5 Pro Tips for Long Haul Flights with Toddlers

  1. Dana

    Lots of great tips! I always packed the essentials in a carry-on. I did NOT want to deal with arriving at my destination and possibly not have out suitcase follow. Love Bulkhead seats too!

    • Beth Henry

      Exactly! I always try to think of what I might need for 48 hours if my checked bags don’t make it. Swimsuits for sure if there is a pool or beach!

  2. Claudia Laroye

    Thanks for the great tips! We used to swear by bulkhead seats with our wee ones whenever we flew across oceans.

  3. travel with my kids

    Thanks for the tips 🙂 My kids are now old enough to watch the movies, things are finally getting easier 😉

  4. Kids Are A Trip

    These are fabulous tips. I always used to try and find those bulkhead seats when we were on long haul flights. We also packed a change of clothes for the kids and a spare t-shirt (adult size) for mom and dad. Accidents always seemed to happen!

    • Beth Henry

      It sure is nice to have a little extra room! The only reason I don’t like the bulkhead seats is that I don’t have under seat storage. I like the accessibility of having my bags ready to grab when needed!

    • Beth Henry

      A change of clothes for everyone is a must! You are right, accidents happen and you really don’t want to be stuck wearing [whatever smelly thing] for a long flight!

  5. Jody Robbins

    Great tips! Especially the one about knowing your child’s temperament. I’m so tired of people advising me to give my daughter cough syrup. What works for one, doesn’t work for everyone.

    • Beth Henry

      I love the Travels with Baby series on child temperaments as they relate to travel. It’s so important to remember that we are individuals and everyone has different needs.

  6. Colleen Lanin

    Thank you for including my book in your post! Most appreciated and so glad you like the tips!

  7. Katja

    Great tips! I also always carry spare clothes for everyone. We’ve had enough delayed / cancelled flights to know that a change of clothes and a toothbrush help a lot!

  8. danontheroad

    I’ve taken my little one on a short flight to get him familiar with flying so these tips will be really helpful when we go on flights with longer duration.

  9. Robin

    This is a great list! Toddlers are definitely the toughest age to travel with.

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