Travel Tip Tuesday : How to Survive International Flights with a Toddler
Parents: I’m here to share with you everything I’ve learned from traveling abroad with my toddler, Silas. This is a compilation of what’s worked for me, what I wish I knew before our first big trip, and what I plan to try next. May the travel gods be with you…
Pick your priority
The way I see it, you have 3 options when it comes to traveling: convenience, time, and cost. For me, my #1 priority is convenience because I want my travels to be as easy as possible.
Next, comes time. With a toddler, I’m interested in getting in and out as soon as freaking possible. Because those are my priorities, I understand that it comes at more of a cost. For you, you might want to pay the least amount possible and that’ll come at a sacrifice of convenience and/or time. What matters is what you can handle or do for yourself.
How to book your flight
Red-eye flights are your friend because your kiddo should sleep the majority of the flight. If not, I’d recommend booking your flight for a departure time that’s 1-2 hours before you child goes to sleep. This way, your little one is getting sleepy on the plane instead of at security. Your goal is to get your little one to sleep as long as possible ON the plane so that you can relax or sleep.
Also, layovers are a major key! It breaks the time up spent on the plane and provides a distraction for your kid. There’s also, usually, play areas so that your little one can run around and burn some energy. It’s a great time for you to also refresh and re-up on snacks.
Finally, if you have to book two seats, pick the window and middle aisle. The window seat can be entertaining for your little one. If your seat partner has to get up to use the bathroom, they won’t wake up your napping baby.
Two weeks before departure, I start supplementing with Vitamin C crystals, superfoods powder, magnesium, and trace minerals (consult your doctor and/or health care provider first). Getting sick sucks and it’s even worse when you’re traveling 20+ hours with a sick toddler. Increase your vitamins, stay hydrated, and get lots of rest.
Take a few days off from work
I have a rule: no working or calls while I’m traveling between destinations. I also give myself at least an extra day of doing nothing so that I get settled and get some rest. In-flight wifi isn’t reliable. You might also get a flight that says there’s a cable outlet but you sit down and not a single chairs has one. Or your toddler might be fussy and kick your drink onto your laptop so that it’s destroyed. Your flight will go much more smoothly if you plan to do nothing besides entertain your child.
What to bring on board your flight for parents
(For Parents) Bring anything you’d be inconvenienced to lose on board with you: passports, birth certificates, electronics, etc.
Also, pack extra chargers (trust me).
(For Kids) Download your kid’s favorite shows and movies to your tablet and/or phone: If you allow your kid to have screen time, Netflix has an offline download option (so they can watch without being connected to the internet). Don’t be a rookie, always have a Plan B and download movies & shows straight to your phone.
(For Kids) Pull-ups make bathroom changes a lot easier. Just take my word for it. Also, bring 2 shirts, 1 bottom, and a pair of socks.
(For Kids) Buy over-the-ear headphones. These are currently Silas’ favorite and he’s still using them.
(For Parents) Bring a book or two and your own headphones. Keep it light and simple.
(For Both) Bring your stroller and check it at the gate. It’s way easier to search for airport gates with your little one strapped in and you can carry your backpack across the stroller arms.
(For Both) Pack more snacks than you think you need. I’m also not above chocolate bribing Silas for a few much needed moments of peace and quiet.
(For Kids) Stickers, balloons, and coloring books worked really well to keep Silas occupied. He spends most of his flights watching movies but these are great in-between activities for when he starts to get bored or antsy.
(For Kids) These are a few things I plan on trying out for our next flight: travel play tray, wiki stix, activity travel bag, and a foot rest pillow (so that Silas can lay out more comfortably instead of on top of and across me).
(For Parents) Don’t forget extra diapers, wipes, and diaper rash cream. If you have to use the bathroom while your kiddo is asleep, ping the flight attendant (they’ll often watch your little one while you use the restroom, if you ask nicely).
A few other tips and suggestions
I don’t recommend drinking on your flight. It’s like your little one can sense you trying to relax and then they transition into demonic form to terrorize you.
Pack a small goody bag for your seatmate and the flight attendants aka buy your in-flight friends. Whenever I can do this, I put together a few sandwich bags with chocolates, ear plugs, and Advil. I include a little note that says, “Thanks for being awesome and understanding on this flight, it makes the trip a lot easier for everyone!”
I always bring natural liquid melatonin for kids with me, just in case! On my first first international flight, Silas wasn’t feeling well and cried for the first 8 hours of the trip. We were both miserable. If you want to go this route, check with your primary care physician first.
Your first, or next, long flight can go well with a little strategy, planning, and preparation. If you go into your flight with the mindset that things will go great, they most likely will. Most importantly, make sure to give yourself tons of grace and to go with the flow. I hope these tricks, tips, and suggestions help you out and would LOVE if you shared, in the comments below, what’s worked for you and your little ones on long flights. Happy travels and hope to catch you on this side of the world!