How to “survive” a long-haul flight with a young child {our top tips}

Raluca Loteanu May 17, 2017
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Are you preparing for a long-haul flight with a young child? This can be challenging, so I've gathered here our top tips to help you enjoy this experience! | Long-haul flight with toddler | Long-haul flight with baby | Long-haul flight with preschooler | Tips for long-haul flight

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Going on a long-haul flight with a young child can be a really challenging experience! Young kids don’t have a lot of patience and an exhausting trip can get them in a fussy mood. To make a long-haul flight with a young child easier to handle, I’ve gathered here a list of tips to help you “survive” the trip! From my experience, I can tell that long-haul flights can be really tiring. But if you are well-prepared and have realistic expectations you can manage them really well. And at the end, you can even get to enjoy the flight and make it a pleasant experience! 🙂

 When I found out last year that I will have to go on two long-haul flights alone with my son, I got a bit worried. To be honest, I was afraid that I won’t be able to manage the difficult moments during the trip. So I started to search for tips to prepare for the trips and I found a lot of good ideas. The trips went really well (even better then I’ve imagined!), so now I want to share with you the best tips that worked for us. Hopefully, they will work well for you as well!

Preparing for a long-haul flight with a young child

1. If possible, book a flight that includes a night.

Spending 12 hours in a plane is challenging, so it’s better to have some of the time “booked” with sleeping hours. It’s not easy to sleep in the plane seats and it’s not very restful, but it’s better than having a lot of hours when you need to entertain the child.

2. Reserve seats with extra leg-room.

This is very helpful! These seats give kids more space to move around and children will not feel “trapped” in the seats. Some airlines require you to pay an extra fee for these seats but it is totally worth the cost! You need to book them in advance and you can usually do this when you buy the tickets.

At the airport

3. Bring an umbrella stroller or a baby carrier to use during the time spent at the airport.

International flights mean also a lot of time spent at the airport. It’s important to be prepared for long lines at the security check or at the passport check. An umbrella stroller or a baby (or toddler) carrier are really useful!

I preferred the carrier even if Bogdan was already 3 years old (and really heavy). The carrier allowed me to have my hands free and not to have to worry for a stroller too. It also helped me to keep Bogdan near me when I was busy with the formalities. At our next long-haul flight, I will certainly use a stroller because Bogdan is older now.

4. Let your child burn out energy!

This is very important because during the flight the child will have a limited space to consume his energy! Prior to boarding or during layovers let the child run through less crowded areas, jump around, or just walk through the terminal. You can also check in advance if the airport has playing areas or other facilities for kids.

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During a long-haul flight with a young child

5. Pack a carry-on with all necessities.

The list of items in the carry-on depends on the child’s age and preferences. But I think that some items are universally helpful.

Here is the list of things that I always take with me during the flight (even for short flights):

– a bottle of water (You are allowed to go through the security check with water or milk for your child. You just need to let them know that you have a special bottled for the child and they will scan it separately.)

– some of our favorite, easily portable snacks (A hungry child is not easy to handle, so I make sure that I always have snacks with me.)

{ Read also: 10 must-have items for traveling with kids (from our experience) }

– toys (Snacks and toys make kids happy, so they are a must-have in the carry-on. I will write more about toys at the next point on this list.)

– additional clothes (I have at least one change of clothes with me. Kids can easily get dirty and it’s better to be prepared.)

– a small blanket (even if you travel in summer, it may get very cold on the plane and you’ll need a blanket for the child. Most of the airlines provide blankets during long flights, but I prefer to take one blanket from home because sometimes we use it at the airport too.)

– warm socks and a sweater (the child might need them during the flight when it gets cold, so it’s good to have them.)

6. Bring toys and activities for the child (and pack them smart).

I’m sure that every parent has toys on the packing list. 🙂 Still, there are some tips that can help you use them better to keep your child entertained for a longer period of time.

– bring the child’s favorite small toys (These are more likely to keep him busy!)

– bring some new toys (Kids are always happy to discover new toys and they will be busy playing with them.)

– pack some interesting activities (There are a lot of busy bags ideas that you can find on Pinterest. Activities are good because they keep kids focused and engaged.)

– pack some nice books (They are great especially if you want to get a fussy child to fall asleep.)

– use ziplock bags to organize everything (This is the best advice that I’ve discovered! I always pack toys, books, and activity bags in different ziplock bags and I use them gradually during the flight. If the child has all the toys at hand he will get bored easily. If you take out only a few of them at a time, you will be able to keep the child busy for a longer time.)

7. Use this nice idea to make your child happy during the flight!

This is a very simple and nice idea that worked great for us! I take some very lightweight presents on the plane. They are usually cheap toys, sticker books, magnetic games, but they are very nice wrapped. When my child starts to get in a bad mood, I offer him a present and his mood immediately changes. 🙂 This tip is really easy to put into practice and has amazing effects!

The most important advice

Take care of yourself and have realistic expectations!

As parents, we always put our kids first and we make sure that they have a pleasant experience during the flight. But we should never forget to take care of ourselves! If mom is calm and she feels good, the child will be more likely to feel good as feel.

So be sure that you also pack everything that you need for feeling comfortable. Taking care of our own well-being and comfort is giving us more energy and resources to deal with the difficult moments that we might face during the trip.

{ Read also: An important thing to know when flying with young children }

Also, don’t be stressed about what other people might think! I always teach my son that he is not allowed to bother other people in the plane and I don’t let him do things that might disturb the other passengers. Still, I always keep in mind that he is a young child, so he might cry or scream or even have a temper tantrum during the trip. I do my best to help him get over the difficult moment but I also learned not to be stressed by the mad looks from other passengers. I understand that a child can make a lot of noise in these moments, but I do my best and I expect some understanding from their part too.

The most important thing that I’ve learned from our experience is to have realistic expectations. Even if we prepare well, sometimes it will not happen as we planned. And this is ok! We should admit that unpredictability is part of our life as parents and don’t let unexpected things ruin our trip!


I hope that these tips will be helpful for you! If you have any questions just let me know and I will be glad to answer. I wish you happy holidays and easy long-haul flights!Are you preparing for a long-haul flight with a young child? This can be challenging, so I've gathered here our top tips to help you enjoy this experience! | Long-haul flight with toddler | Long-haul flight with baby | Long-haul flight with preschooler | Tips for long-haul flight

photo credit: Sunny Studio / Canva.com

Category: Tips
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Raluca Loteanu

If you find yourself on this blog I invite you to discover us as the happy family we are, who look with optimism and joy at life. If you want to contact me, you can find me on email, I gladly respond to each message.

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Comments (1 people commented this post)

  • avatar image

    Aubrey @ 53 weeks

    May 18, 2017 Reply
    I have yet to try and international trip with both of my boys, but we have done the CA to FL haul a few times. You offer some great tips....one thing Moms always ask me about are tips for traveling with the kids! And -- I totally agree with night flying..I may not get sleep (stuck int eh middle), but if they knock out, it's a much more peaceful experience!

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Comments (1 people commented this post)

  • avatar image

    Aubrey @ 53 weeks

    May 18, 2017 Reply
    I have yet to try and international trip with both of my boys, but we have done the CA to FL haul a few times. You offer some great tips....one thing Moms always ask me about are tips for traveling with the kids! And -- I totally agree with night flying..I may not get sleep (stuck int eh middle), but if they knock out, it's a much more peaceful experience!