International flights are brutal.  Adding a small child into the mix can make things, well, interesting.  I’ve taken three long-haul international flights with Jellybean in the past year.  For two of the three flights it was just Jellybean and me flying to/from Boston for my sister’s bridal shower.  I learned a lot about traveling with a young child on those two flights!  And, lucky for us we are currently gearing up for two more international flights in August.  Oh, the life of an expat!

It takes 24+ hours (give or take) to fly from the States to Bangkok, including layovers.  I found the idea of such a long international flight with a toddler to be quite daunting.  Being well prepared for long-haul flights makes things easier.  I’ve learned something new on each of our flights and thought I would pass along what we’ve learned.

Survival Tips for International Travel with a baby, toddler, or young child | airplane, flights, international travel | Life's Tidbits

Here are our survival tips for flying internationally with a baby, toddler or young child:

1. Bring a Carrier (Skip the Stroller)

After flying alone with Jellybean in May, I realized it was so much easier to wrangle a toddler and our stuff by strapping her to my chest.  Having the free hand was an added bonus and helped ensure Jellybean didn’t make a break for an empty plane upon boarding.

2.  Overnight Diapers

The seatbelt sign and ability to get up and around can be as unpredictable and the timing of Jellybean’s inflight naps, therefore diaper changes may occur less frequently when traveling.  If your child is still in diapers I highly recommend using overnight diapers when flying internationally.  A dry baby is a happy baby who might sleep longer – a mother can wish!  These are our personal favorites {tip: go up a size for better protection against blowouts!}.

3.  Skip the Car Seat on the Plane

Car seats are heavy and are just one more thing to shlep through the terminal.  And, unless your child is a car seat napper, they are really more trouble then they are worth.  I have found it much easier to buckle her in for take off and landing.  This allows her to stretch out during the flight and sleep on her seat and on me, or in some cases the free seat next to us … winning!

4.  Pack a Quick Access Bag

This would be the bag you place under the seat in front of you.  All essential items should be in the quick access bag.  The last thing anyone needs on a long flight is for the ‘fasten seatbelt sign’ to be on and your child requiring a snack or their lovie.  For us the quick access bag includes things like: lovie, snacks, iPad (and charger), headphone, diapers, wipes, hand sanitizer, and a couple of small toys {like this and this}.  Everything else goes in the roller bag and is placed in the overhead.

5.  Snacks, Snacks and More SNACKS

Plane food is not the best and if you have a picky toddler/child on your hands you don’t want them to be hangry. Our favorite snacks to pack for flights include: pretzels, goldfish, cheese sticks and raisins.  On our flight back to Bangkok Jellybean refused to touch any of the plane food.  She lived off the snacks I brought with me and nothing else.  Clearly it wasn’t the most nutritious day we’ve had, but we made it through the flight.

6.  Bring a lot of Activity Options

A bored child is a loud child.  It’s really as simple as that.

7.  Pack a Change of Clothes

Drinks spill, food splatters and blow outs happen!  Typically I pack 3 changes of clothes for Jellybean and 1 each for the hubby and myself.  Sometimes we go through all the clothes, sometimes none – but it’s best to have them on hand.

8.  Flight Schedules are Important

It’s impossible to perfectly schedule flight times around naps and bedtime, but the chances of having a smooth journey increase if you start off with a well-rested child.  If it’s possible, book your travel for first thing in the morning.  Second best is a late night flight where bed time coincides, as closely as possible, with when you are taking off.  The kiddo will hopefully be tired and drift off to sleep quickly.

9.  Normal Rules Don’t Apply

Juice not allowed?  Screen time is limited?  Snacks are only doled out in moderation?  Forget it ALL.  Keep that toddler hydrated, entertained and with a fully belly by any means necessary.  It will make your flight more enjoyable, trust me.

10.  Comfort Items are a Must

Does your kid have a favorite stuffed animal, lovie or blanket?  In our case Jellybean has all three.  We pack them all in the carry-on.  They make her feel more comfortable and, hopefully, encourage a nap (or two or three!).

What tips do you have for international flights with a child?

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2 Thoughts on “Survival Tips: International Flights with Toddlers

  1. Kristi S. on January 16, 2017 at 5:16 PM said:

    Thank you SO much for this! We’re taking an international flight from Colorado to London this summer with our THREE kids and I am stressing. Your info was very helpful and made me feel much better. Thanks again!

  2. Margaret on May 9, 2017 at 1:19 PM said:

    This is a great list! So helpful with planning what to take on long flights. Wild or crabby kids is so stressful! Any tips are helpful

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