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Tips for Travelling with Toddlers on Long Haul Flights

If this is the first time you have arrived at this family travel site, then here you will find plenty of posts and specific tips for travelling with toddlers on long haul flights. A full guide on flying with a toddler is also here.

flying with a toddler tips #familytravel child reading airline safety card
Flying short or long haul with a toddler can involve more preparation than when flying with a baby.

Tips for Travelling with Toddlers on Long Haul Flights

Flying long haul with a toddler is definitely the most challenging than flying with a baby, for many reasons: they are mobile, vocal and have an abundance of energy!

Despite this, ours have flown countless times at all ages and stages; including ultra long haul from the UK to Australia as toddlers.

Of course there have been some painful moments but on the whole we have come through unscathed! I definitely think being prepared helped with many scenarios. Hopefully, our tips for long flights with toddlers will help you too?

How do you fly with a toddler?

The simplest answer is by planning ahead and being prepared. A great place to start for both short haul and long haul tips is my post on Flying With A Toddler Tips. Not only does it cover  ‘How to Fly with a Toddler’, it provides plenty of information: from checking-in to arrival and everything in-between.

Check in early when flying with a toddler

  • and leave plenty of time for security, toilet stops and tantrums! Prepare your child and explain that teddy will have to through the x-ray machine but they will have him back.
  • Check the airport website and see if there is a family line or whether it may be worth buying a priority pass (if available.) Have liquids already in clear ziplock bags to avoid leaks and to whip out quickly for security. 

Wear your toddler out pre-boarding.

  • Make use of the airport soft-play, if they have one. They certainly help with toddler travel! Here is a list of airport soft play I’ve compiled for all over the world. Please let me know if I need to edit!

But board last when flying with a toddler.

  • If flying long haul with a toddler or with young children, and it’s a day flight, consider boarding last with your tot and have your partner board a bit earlier with all the travel gear you have. 
  • There is really no point in keeping a toddler restrained on a plane longer than necessary! However, it is often a bit easier just to get them on and settled if you have a very late boarding long haul flight.

How can I make my toddler more comfortable on a plane?

A huge concern for parents when they are flying long haul with kids, is the sleep issue. I try and start with a night flight it possible: ideally one that takes off close to their normal bedtime as possible.

On an overnight flight with toddler, I also recommend, sticking to your normal routine too. eg Pyjamas, bottle of milk, story time etc, all help to soothe and calm.

Whilst babies often have the option of an airplane bassinet, toddlers are either on laps or have their own seat.

Do I need a carseat for a toddler on a plane?

If toddlers have their own seat, then a car seat is an option (subject to it meeting the airline requirements). It is not a necessity to have one, although they are recommended by the FAA safety wise. (A lot really does depend on the airline and if allows your car seat as some will only allow one for children under 2 in their own seat.)

  • Do check that your toddler car seat will fit into the airline seat. Some cannot be used on certain seats if the seat belt has an airbag built in. I go into more detail in the previous highlighted link. I always recommend having a look at seat guru and checking out the airline seat map on the website.
  • Whenever possible I opt for the window seat when flying with kids. It gives them something to look out of and a place to put travel toys such as window gel clings. The window seat also contains them a little bit more and helps prevent them from running into the aisle.
kids asleep on flyaway mattress and plane pal
Kids asleep on Flyaway mattress and Plane Pal on Singapore Airlines

How do I get my toddler to sleep on a long flight?

There are also some great travel accessories available to help your toddler sleep on the plane. We’ve used the Seat to Sleep, Plane Pal, and Flyaway. DO check which airlines allow first, as when it comes to inflatable sleep devices which fit in-between seats, not all airlines allow. There is more informaton on airplane beds for toddlers here and what airlines allow them,

For tried and tested tips to help your toddler sleep on the plane, and an insight into airline regulations, see here. 

Tips for Flying Long Haul Alone With a Toddler

Flying alone with a baby or toddler can be quite daunting, but thankfully on the odd occasion I have, I’ve found other passengers to be really helpful.

It does mean a bit more thought on what to bag to use for carry-on (a backpack is good bet to keep your hands free) and deciding on whether to bring a really compact travel stroller or cabin sized stroller.

If you are flying long haul alone with a toddler then I would recommend the latter as it makes it so much easier for you at transit stops and for all the arrival procedures, waiting at immigration etc. Here are some solo flying tips that may help too.

best toddler toys Tomy mini water aqua doodle mats, We have covered below how to entertain a baby from a few months old, to how to entertain a 1 year old on a plane, older toddlers who are more energetic and every age in between.
Tomy Water mats are a great activity for toddlers on flights.

Things to do with a toddler on a long flight

  • Flying with a toddler means a little more planning when it comes to entertainment and things to do. Pack some new travel toys just for the flight. Packing them into a small backpack that they can manage helps too. We choose a couple of favourite toys and some new ones. The newer toys we wrap up and hand out every so often throughout the flight. Magnetic games mean they are less likely to drop bits too.
  •  £ or $ stores are great to rummage through for ideas for toddler activities on a plane. Stickers, post- it notes and even plasters/bandaids work a treat.
  • Bring your own toddler headphones for the plane, unless you are travelling with an airline that has some good family friendly amenities onboard.
  • Here are some good apps for toddlers. Now is the time to forget about a limited screen time – they do really help on a long flight with toddlers. Toddlers have a limited attention span anyway but a screen time treat may buy you 15-30 minutes or stop a meltdown.

How do I calm my toddler on a plane?

Your toddler may have a meltdown on the plane. My youngest cries when she has her sleep disturbed and can’t get back to sleep. I’ve felt embarrassed and made a lot of shhhhhhhh noises, but here is what has worked best for us.

  • Stay calm – however worried you are about disturbing others, getting cross or worried about what others think doesn’t help at all.
  • If offering a bottle or a cuddle doesn’t work, scoop them up and take them to the galley or the toilets at the back of the plane. Lights are dim, and it gives you a bit of space to cuddle and distract. This is what we have often resorted too several times. They will go back to sleep or calm down.

Potty training whilst flying

We have been in the middle of potty training and flown long and short haul. For this, we opted to bring toddler training pants just in case of any accidents or needing to go when the seat belt sign was on. We didn’t bring a travel potty, but she actually used the aircraft toilet with no problems!

Hopefully you feel a little more prepared for travelling with babies and toddlers on long flights. Do pop back and let me know how it went!

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Monday 18th of April 2022

Prepping to fly 30+ hour alone with my very active 2.5 year old. You tips are great, thanks so much!

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