When you board a plane with a toddler, especially on a long-haul flight, you may already be casting apologetic smiles at your fellow passengers. A few may smile back, others look sympathetic, and others look terrified. And almost everyone is secretly trying to check your boarding pass to know where you are going to sit. Admit it; you felt like that once or twice.
And yes, a long-haul flight with a toddler can be challenging. It can feel overwhelming and stressful. However, long-haul flights with kids do not have to be miserable. In fact, they can be pretty manageable and even enjoyable. So, how can you make long-haul flights more enjoyable with toddlers and young kids?
As parents, your first task is to keep your little ones as content, calm, and cooperative as possible while in flight. This can be easier said than done. But keep in mind that standard parenting rules that you follow at home may be disregarded for this unique (and stressful) situation.
Here are a few flight survival tips from parents we’ve gathered for you:
- Board as late as you can, so there’s not as much waiting.
- Try to get a night flight with no layovers.
- If you have a layover, let the kids walk around as much as possible.
- Throw out all of your beliefs about screen time. If your kid can watch on the iPad for 8 hours, let them. Believe it or not but no one will judge you for it!
- Prepare surprise bags. Go to your local dollar store and get different new toys that your kids haven’t seen yet. It could be an easy Lego set, sensory toys, new books, different crayons, or stickers. Wrap them up like a present and pull it out every time their spirits are flagging.
- Bathroom anxiety may be a problem, so don’t be afraid to put them in a pull-up diaper even if they are potty trained.
- Prepare a change of clothes (for you and your toddler) within your reach.
- Prepare snacks that your kids love. Make sure that your kids have food that they would eat.
- Check if your airline allows “plane pal.” It is an inflatable footrest or similar that fits tightly between your seat and the one in front, so it turns into a child-sized bed.
- Check with your airline if you can use your own car seats, so it can be a familiar place for them, and they feel more comfortable sleeping.
- Take turns entertaining your kid, and make sure you get some downtime.
- Allot time for aisle walking. This must be timed carefully around trolley service.
- Make friends with the cabin crew. You’ll have some demands, and you’ll need them on your side.
- Try to nap when the kids’ nap.
- Ask your pediatrician if there is something you can give him as a last resort.
You may find one, some, or none or all of these long-haul flight tips helpful, depending on your little one’s age. But if all else fails, keep in mind that long-haul flights are temporary, but the great memories you’ll create when you reach your destination will last a lifetime.
Don’t put off your long-haul trip because you’re afraid of what other passengers might say or how they would react if your toddler makes tantrums all flight long. Accept that flying with a toddler has its challenges, but this is just a stage that will get easier gradually.