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Best tips for long flights with toddlers

Best tips for long flights with toddlers

June 08, 2018

I travel a lot, and my son flew between Australia and Europe four times before he celebrated his second birthdays. It hasn’t changed since. The following tips are my travel checklist with added notes why you should consider them too. Over the time challenges progressed from “oh, seat belt sign is still on, but his nappy is leaking” to potty requests, but the basics are still the same.

Travel checklist

Extra clothes for you

You'll be ready for accidents, incidents and unexpected overnight stays in case you miss your connection. Slippers can become handy when you walk in an aisle.

Comfortable and warm clothes for children

Dress your children in warm clothes before boarding a long-haul flight. It is often quite cold aboard so having a few layers is definitely helpful. Pj’s are usually more comfortable than regular clothes.

Snacks and food

There is no food available when your little one decides to eat. Think about energy which needs to be released, so try to avoid sugary treats and generally energetic food. I usually fill a bento box with the variety of low salt crackers. It also stabilises their tummies.

Always pack more snacks than you would usually even think of taking. Be prepared, that there might not be food for your precious. Like a flight where the only food left was hot-spicy curry.

Leave sultanas as the last instance when nothing else works. Think about the 63 grams of sugars in 100 grams, which will be released in a few minutes. Usually at the time when the seat belt sign is on.

Toys, stickers and other entertainment

Take cheap toys, so you don’t have to worry if something breaks or is lost. Also pack each toy individually and hide it in different spots so your little explorer won’t find all at once. Stickers and an engaging sticker book usually provide entertainment for a long time.

Panadol or other pain relief

There is nothing more daunting than a child with (ear) pain, whom you can't help. A tooth can decide to start cutting through, so definitely take a pain relief on board.

Baby food and milk exemption

Air safety regulations (still) don’t limit baby food and milk, so it is exempted from a general 100ml limit on bottles. Your little one can have the favourite bottle, and it matters.

Empty (plastic) bags

Take a few disposable bags which you can use for waste, wet clothes or parts of a damaged toy. Consider, that even your cloth might end up soaked, so bigger bags are an advantage.

Air travel mattress

Mainly for children older than 2 years (paying their own seat), might be handy having a futon which converts their place into a small bed. There two problems. Many airlines forbid using anything which attaches or lays on an aircraft seat. So, the only choice, which is still allowed, is PlanePal (or similar product). And the second problem is, that it is another thing for your carry-on luggage. I would recommend it only for very long flights and if you have another adult to help.

Small disinfectant wipes

Children will lick and touch pretty much everything around their seat. I usually use the disinfectant wipes to clean a tray table and armrests.

Potty trained toddlers

Long-haul flights and a potty don’t go very well together. Try to go to a bathroom before boarding, but plan the time to the typical length of your toddler’s needs. I also recommend putting nappy pants even on potty trained toddlers. A seat-belt time can take forever, and you don’t have resources to deal with accidents.
Toilets at planes are scary. It is usually a tiny place with strange noises and often air blowing from underneath. Be ready, that your child will not be happy there and might reject doing expected business. Practice on a short flight first. If the long-haul flight is your first, then consider taking a potty (no matter how crazy it sounds).

Something extra for infants

Bassinets

Infants (usually up to 7 kg) can travel in the comfort of a bassinet. The problem is, whenever a seat belt sign is on, a child must go on your lap. It usually happens when the little one finally starts sleeping soundly. The only real advantage of bassinet seats is more leg space. Note: children are not usually allowed to play on the ground for safety reasons. Hence the leg space is just for legs.

Empty bottles

Ask crew to fill it in on the board. It will be safer than a plastic cup. Besides, you'll always have access to a drink. If your baby is bottle fed, take more bottles and make small sachets/jars of ready to use formula doses, so you don't need to measure it on the board. Take more bottles as well. A crew can rinse it with hot water, but can't wash it properly.

Bonus survival tips

Make them tired

Let your children run, jump and release as much energy as possible before any flight. Keep any quiet activities for being aboard. A terminal hall is a way better place for erratic runs and chases than a plane. 

Rest whenever you can

Try to sleep when the baby sleeps or at least close your eyes and relax. It will give you more energy than watching a movie.

Reduce jet lag

Being outside, especially in the sunlight, reduces the time needed to switch to the new time zone. You can even start living in a destination time when still onboard an aircraft. Children often switch over very quickly, within a couple of days they live in a new time.

What travels for free?

Read the following blog to know how much carry-on weight you get with a child. What travels for free with children on Australian airlines? Read here.




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