Tips for Flying Long Haul with a Toddler: Essential Guide

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Traveling the world is can be a great experience for your family. While the experience is filled with fun and excitement, getting there… not so much.

Flying long haul with a toddler can be challenging, but with the right tips and strategies, it can also be a fun and rewarding experience for the entire family.

Whether it’s your first time flying with a little one or you’re just looking for new strategies to make travel easier, this guide is here to help.

In this post, i’ll share practical tips from our experience traveling with toddlers. I’ll share everything from the best times to book your flight to the best toys and snacks to bring along.

So, buckle up and get ready for takeoff, because your next flight is about to get a lot easier.

25 Tips To Make Flying With A Toddler Easier

1. Planning For Your Long Haul Flight

The first step in making long haul flights more enjoyable is the planning process. You really get what you invest when it comes to planning.

Proper planning and preparation is essential for a smooth and enjoyable journey for both you and your little one.

1.1. Choose The Right Flight Time

When traveling with a toddler, it’s important to consider their normal routines and schedules when choosing the flight. You may want to book flights times that align with their natural sleep patterns.

This can help them rest better during the journey, reducing the chances of crankiness and meltdowns.

Additionally, try to avoid peak travel times to minimize crowds and long queues, which can be overwhelming for young children.

Of course, this isn’t always feasible, but definitely worth considering.

1.2. Book Your Seats Ahead Of Time

Where you sit on an airplane can really make a difference in your experience. This is especially true for. along haul flight where you may be seated in the same spot for 10-12 hours.

When choosing your seats on a long haul flight, it’s important to consider factors such as how close you are to the restroom. Do you need a seat with more leg room? Perhaps a seat in the bulkhead row that would allow you to use a travel bassinet. You also need to ensure that you book seats in a good configuration for your family size.

Seatguru is a great resource for finding information about the seats on your flights.

1.3. Research the Airline’s Policies

Each airline has its own policies and regulations when it comes to traveling with young children.

Take the time to research and familiarize yourself with the specific rules of the airline you’ll be flying with.

Make sure to pay attention to information on baggage allowances for infants and toddlers, stroller and car seat policies, and any special amenities or services they offer for families.

Understanding these policies in advance will help you plan accordingly and avoid any last-minute surprises or complications.

1.4. Consider Buying A Separate Seat For Your Child

Children under the age of 2 fly for free domestically and get a discounted rate when flying as a lap infant on long haul flights.

While this is a great cost-saving option, it may not always be the best.

It is hard to get my almost 2-year-old to sit still for 5 minutes on a good day. Now imaging trying to get him to sit still on my lap for the duration of a long-haul flight.

The thought alone is exhausting.

You know your child best, so use your best judgment and purchase a separate ticket if you would like to avoid dealing with that additional frustration.

Be sure that you are aware of any airline’s regulations regarding safety when traveling with an infant in their own seat. You may need to bring your car seat on board.

1.5. Talk To Your Toddler About The Flight

Prepare your toddler for the flight by talking to them about it even before you leave the house.

Tell them about the destination, where you’re going, who you’ll see and the things you’ll do.

Talk about the plane and the airport going through everything from what they will see, people who may talk with them (such as airplane staff), and all of the fun activities that might happen on the flight.

Toddlers love to feel in control and preparing them in this way gives them a greater sense of security especially in the midst the unfamiliar environment of the airport and the travel destination.

When preparing your toddler for the trip, you can even talk through some of the items you’re packing.

For instance, you can show them their swimsuit and tell them when they will us it.

This book about the airport is great to read to your little one in the lead up to the trip.

2. Keep Your Toddler Comfortable

When flying long haul with a toddler, it’s important to prioritize their comfort to make the journey as smooth as possible. Here are some tips to help keep your little one comfortable throughout the flight:

2.1. Dress Your Toddler Appropriately

When it comes to dressing your toddler for a long haul flight, layers are key. The temperature onboard can vary, so dressing your child in layers allows you to adjust their clothing accordingly.

Dress them in comfortable and breathable fabrics that will keep them cozy without overheating.

You should also dress your toddler in clothing that will allow them to move around freely.

2.2. Pack An Extra Set Of Clothes For Your Toddler (and for yourself)

It’s always a good idea to pack an extra set of clothes for your toddler when travelling.

Most parents forget to pack extra clothes for themselves too.

It’s not only your little one that will need changing. You never know when a milk spill or snotty tissues or even worse a poop explosion will occur.

Save yourself the potential for embarrassment by planning ahead with an extra set of clothes for both you and your toddler.

Mini packing cubes are great to have in your carry on luggage so that you can keep the extra clothes separate. You’ll find it so much easier to find the clothes when they’re in a separate bag.

2.3. Consider Bringing a Travel Pillow

A travel pillow is great for toddlers and adults alike as they help make the flight more comfortable.

You can find child sized travel pillows that provide adequate support for their neck and head.

This can help them relax and potentially even sleep better during the journey.

Adorable travel pillow for kids

Travel footrest

2.4. Bring Along Your Kids Favourite Toys

Make sure to pack your toddler’s favourite toys and books. Before your flight, make sure to pack a selection of your toddler’s favourite toys and books.

Familiar items can help provide comfort and keep them engaged during the journey.

Consider bringing small, lightweight toys that are easy to carry and won’t cause disturbance to fellow passengers.

Books with colourful illustrations and interactive elements are great. They’ll capture your child’s attention and make the flight more enjoyable for them.

In addition to their favourite toys, you may also want to pack a new toy that they have never seen before.

Who doesn’t love surprises?

This will help to hold their attention and keep them from being restless.

Here are some of our favourite toys and activities to travel with:

2.5. Download Apps and Movies

If your toddler enjoys screen time, you can also prepare for the flight by downloading age-appropriate apps and movies on a tablet or smartphone.

This will help them stay entertained while also decreasing your risk of meltdowns.

Remember to bring headphones suitable for their age.

2.6. Play Interactive Games With Your Toddler

Engaging your toddler in interactive games can be a great way to keep them entertained during the flight. Games like “I Spy,” peek-a-boo, or simple puzzles can capture their attention and provide entertainment throughout the journey. These games not only distract them but also encourage cognitive development and interaction with you or other family members.

Remember to take breaks and allow your little one to stretch their legs and explore the cabin whenever it’s safe to do so.

2.7. Pack Snacks… And Lots Of It

Snacks are important not just for the children, but also for you the parent.

Airplane food is not known to be the most appetizing and getting food at the airports can be very unpredictable.

To prevent Hanger spells (yes you read that right), make sure to pack plenty of snacks for everyone.

Hanger= Tantrums and meltdowns, so thats something to avoid at all costs.

If you are travelling with an infant younger than two years of age (0-24 months), baby food, milk, formula, water and juice are allowed.

CTSA (Canada’s air transportation system)

This is important to remember because we sometimes think we can only pack breastmilk or formula. The quote above (directly from the CTSA website) clearly states what is allowed.

So if you need to pack water or yoghurt or any other snack in a liquid or semi solid consistency for your little one (provided they are less than 2), go ahead and do so.

When choosing the snacks to bring along, opt for convenient options that are easy to eat and mess-free.

Also avoid sugary and processed foods that can lead to energy crashes and restlessness. Instead, prioritize snacks that offer a good balance of carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats to keep your little one energized throughout the journey.

Our favourite on the go snacks:

  1. Fruit (apple slices, oranges)
  2. Veggies (Carrots, celery sticks)
  3. Fruit & food pouches
  4. Freeze-dried fruit
  5. Nuts
  6. Cheese sticks
  7. Granola Bars
  8. Goldfish Crackers

Portable stackable food storage containers for snacks

2.8. Request a Toddler Meal

If you’re flying with an airline that offers special meals for toddlers, take advantage of this option. When booking your flight, check with the airline if they provide toddler meals and make a request in advance. These meals are often more suitable for young children, with child-friendly portions and flavours they are more likely to enjoy.

A toddler meal can save you from the hassle of carrying extra food and ensure your child receives a well-balanced meal during the flight.

However, it’s always a good idea to pack some backup snacks in case your child refuses to eat the provided meal or gets hungry between meals.

3. Boarding The Flight

3.1. Use A Baby Carrier For Boarding And Deplaning

This is especially useful when you are traveling alone with a baby.

It is nice to have your hands free for boarding and also when getting our of the flight. Our baby carrier has worked really well for us throughout the years. I actually prefer traveling with a baby carrier to pushing a stroller through the airport.

The Ergobaby Carrier is a great option. It allows you to carry your baby in 4 different positions.

3.2. Do A Bathroom Stop Right Before You Board The Plane

This seems like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how often it goes overlooked with all the hustle and bustle at the airport.

It’s worth the extra time to make sure that both you and your toddlers use the bathroom before going on the flight. Nobody likes having to use the tiny bathroom on the airplane and if you can avoid it for a couple of hours, then why not?

3.3. Take Advantage Of Priority Boarding

One of the perks of traveling with toddlers is that you get priority boarding. This means that you get to board the plane before everyone else.

This is a travel hack that every parent will love- and most airlines offer it for free!

It gives you time to board the plane with your toddler before everyone else gets on and makes sure you’re all settled in comfortably. More importantly, you get dibs on the space in the overhead compartment for all your carry on items.

It’s not always entirely possible to take advantage of this, but it is a nice perk!

If you’re flying with 2 parents, one parent can board first to stow away the bags and get everything set up. The other parent can come in towards the end of the boarding process with the kids.

This works really well for kids who would have a hard time sitting still while waiting for everyone else to board.

12 tips to help you when your flying with a toddler

4. Sleep and Rest

When flying long haul with a toddler, it’s important for everyone to squeeze in as much rest as possible. It’s probably the single most important thing for ensuring that everyone remains level headed.

Here are some tips to help create a cozy sleeping environment when traveling on a long haul flight.

4.1. Create A Cozy Sleeping Environment

Creating a cozy sleeping environment on the plane can greatly improve your toddler’s chances of getting some shut-eye.

Bring along a small, soft blanket or favourite stuffed animal that they associate with sleep. These familiar items can help soothe them and provide comfort and help them feel more relaxed in the unfamiliar environment.

White Noise Sound Machine

 Ultra Compact Travel Blanket Pillow in Portable Bag Case

4.2. Stick To Your Bedtime Routine

Traveling disrupts routines, but sticking to your toddler’s sleep routine as much as possible can make a big difference in their ability to sleep on the plane.

If their bedtime routine at home involves reading a story or listening to calming music, try to replicate that on the flight. I also like to change my toddler into his pyjamas. This also helps him understand that it’s time to wind down and sleep.

4.3. Consider a Travel Bassinet

For younger babies, a travel bassinet is a great option.

These are small bassinets that are provided by the airline. Typically they are only provided for passengers seated in the bulkhead row.

I HIGHLY suggest calling the airline ahead of time to book a bassinet. Some airlines require an additional fee to secure the bassinet.

There are also age and weight restrictions for the bassinets.

Check with your airline in advance to see what options they have available.


5. Dealing with Ear Pressure During Takeoff And Landing

Ear pressure during takeoff and landing can really affect your child and lead to further discomfort and crankiness. The key to managing ear pressure during a long-haul flight with a toddler is to be proactive. Here are some things that you can do to minimize the discomfort.

5.1. Offer a Pacifier or Bottle During Takeoff and Landing

Using a pacifier or giving your toddler a bottle during takeoff and landing can help alleviate ear pressure. The sucking motion helps to equalize the pressure in their ears, providing relief. Be sure to have these handy and easily accessible during these critical moments of the flight.

5.2. Teach Your Toddler to Yawn or Swallow

Another way to help your toddler manage ear pressure is by teaching your older kids to yawn or swallow. Encourage them to do so during takeoff and landing, as this can also help equalize the pressure in their ears.

5.3. Consider EarPlanes or Earbuds for Older Toddlers

If your toddler is older and can understand instructions, you may consider using specialized ear protection like EarPlanes or earbuds. These devices help regulate the air pressure during the flight, reducing discomfort caused by changes in altitude. Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and choose the appropriate size for your child.

6. Engage with Fellow Passengers

When flying long haul with a toddler, it’s important to create a pleasant and understanding environment for both your child and fellow passengers. Engaging with your fellow passengers can help foster a positive atmosphere and make the journey more enjoyable for everyone involved.

6.1. Be Friendly and Polite

Being friendly and polite goes a long way in establishing a good rapport with your co-passengers. Smile, greet them warmly, and show kindness throughout the flight. Simple gestures of politeness can make a significant difference in creating a harmonious atmosphere onboard.

6.2. Always Keep Calm And Carry On

This is obviously easier said than done, but do your best.

It’s important to stay calm and avoid getting too frustrated when you travel. Your kids can pick up on your energy. When you are stressed or visibly upset, they’re more likely to get anxious as well.

If your child is already really frustrated, try to distract them with a travel game or activity. This might help ease their anxiety and give you some time to calm down yourself!

6.3. Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For Help

Listen! Traveling with a toddler is hard work- especially when you are traveling by yourself or you find yourself in a situation where you are outnumbered by your kids. There’s absolutely no shame in asking for help when it all gets too overwhelming.

From friendly passengers to flight attendants, you can always find someone who can help you in one way or another.

flying with a toddler through airport security

Final Thoughts

Flying long haul with a toddler can be a daunting experience, but with the right preparation and mindset, it can also be a manageable one. Remember to plan ahead, pack the essential items such as snacks, toys, and comfort items. Take advantage of the amenities provided by the airline, such as in-flight entertainment and bassinets. Additionally, establish a routine and maintain a calm and positive attitude throughout the journey.

By following these tips, you can make your long haul flight with a toddler a more enjoyable and stress-free experience for both you and your little one.

Safe travels!

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