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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 wouldn’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.
This rest pillow is perfect for allowing kids to comfortably sleep during the flight.
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!
If you are looking for a stroller that is great for traveling, you can check out the world’s smallest folding stroller. But you can also find several other strollers that are easy to carry and have a more affordable price.
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 about a stroller as well. It also helped me to keep Bogdan near me when I was busy with the formalities.
For 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.
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 bottle 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.)
– these snack catchers are very practical for young kids because they prevent the food spills and the mess.
– 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.)
– activity books (They are great for keeping kids busy during the flight.)
Here are some activity books that we like:
- First Sticker Books from Usborne
- National Geographic sticker activity book (they have a lot of themes to choose from and they combine playing with stickers with learning new things)
- The World of Eric Carle – My First Sticker Treasury (and other sticker books from the Eric Carle’s collection).
- For young toddlers, you can replace the sticker books with gel window clings. They can use the gel clings on the airplane window and stick them over and over again. It’s really surprising how such a simple thing can keep kids busy for a long time!
- Water Wow Activity Books (These activity books are easy to pack and fun! The pen needs to be filled in with water)
- Color Blast Activity Book (mess-free coloring)
- Magicolor Coloring Pad (more mess-free coloring).
– 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 well.
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.
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 on 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 on 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!
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photo credit: Sunny Studio / Canva.com