The prospect of a long-haul flight with an active toddler may instill fear into even the most seasoned traveler. Before I embarked on my first long haul flight with our 11-month-old earlier this year from London to Australia, I was filled with trepidation, images of my crying toddler unable to be settled with 25 hours of flight time ahead of me, whilst other passengers looked on with pursed lipped annoyance flashed through my mind.
In an attempt to quell our fears, my husband and I both did our research and were on a mission to arm ourselves with all the in-flight arsenal we needed to make it through the flight. And guess what, we did and it wasn’t as bad as we expected.
This confidence led to another long-haul flight to the Maldives solo, with my one year old, and then a second trip to Australia all in the very same year. After accumulating an extensive amount of toddler air miles, and wanting to share my experience, I’ve noted a few tips which helped us conquer our long haul flight fears as a family and arrive safely and sanely, in one piece.
Book an evening flight
Evening flights help minimise disruption to sleeping patterns and also promote consistency with routine, and most importantly, a sleeping toddler for the majority of the flight is also ideal for all involved.
Bring a travel stroller that fits into the overhead compartment of the plane
We have the Babyzen Yoyo and take it right on the plane, which means no need to check in. As soon as we disembark the plane, the stroller is ready and our little one is strapped in for the unavoidable queues at security and immigration. The benefit of this means you do not have to wait for your stroller in the checked baggage area nor do you need to source an airport stroller, which are always in high demand.
Pack a small bag of toys, books and fully charged iPad (optional)
This is essential when attempting to keep a toddler entertained. Many airlines will have kids’ welcome packs with stuffed toys, stickers, colouring books, crayons, pencils and other fun items. However bringing a few from home which you know they will love is a great way to help engage them during the flight. There is debate whether to bring an iPad, however we use it and pre-load favourite cartoons, songs and games which we know will engage her attention. This is a great way to entertain your toddler particularly when they need to sit still in their seat or your lap during take off and landing.
Bring plenty of snacks and ready made milk
We usually bring boxes of mini sultanas, pre-made food pouches, fruit and biscuits. Toddlers will inevitably become hungry in between flight meal times, some airlines are great and supply snacks consistently, while others don’t and you will need to bring your own. Ensure they are snacks that your toddler is familiar with as they may not always like what the airline has to offer and it’s the last place you want them to have a bad reaction to the food. Also, ready made milk is fantastic and means you just pour it straight into the bottle.
Pack the essentials in your baby bag
We take a baby backpack and pack only the essentials as it will become very full during a long haul flight from the numerous miscellaneous items you accumulate. I recommend a change of clothes, bibs, nappies, changing mat, wet wipes, anti bacterial wipes, bottles, toys and snacks. I also bring a baby blanket, from a lightweight breathable fabric from home to help familiarize sleep time. We also bring our own children’s headphones, however bear in mind most airlines supply these for children already.
Dress your toddler in comfy stretch clothes
They will run around and crawl underneath even the most compact spaces, so make sure you dress them in stretchy comfy gear. We usually dress our little one in a tracksuit with a long sleeve bodysuit. A bodysuit means it doesn’t get un-tucked when she is exploring and walking everywhere. The zip front jacket can be easily taken off when too warm or for mealtimes, whilst at the same time has the ability to keep her warm as long haul flights always seem to be a little colder in the cabin than shorter trips.
Make use of the family areas at airports
These range from dedicated family spaces to kids play areas available at most airports. The baby change facilities are also usually located next to these areas for convenience. I particularly love these areas as little ones can run around in a controlled and safe space while you have a breather. Some airports may have play stations and arcade games for the older kids as well, so the whole family can remain close together.
Board early and place all bags in the same area
Many airlines have priority family boarding, so make sure you are at the gate early to take advantage of this. The benefit of boarding early means you don’t need to navigate your way through passengers with your little one to their seat. Also you can also make sure you place your cabin bag, baby bag, travel stroller and other items in the same compartment rather than scattered throughout the plane, such as on a full flight for example, when overhead compartments fill quickly. This is also beneficial when you need to access your bags mid-flight and saves you time when disembarking the flight.
Book an airport hotel room during longer stopovers
Many airports like Dubai and Singapore have airport hotels located in the terminals that you can book by the hour in between stop overs. In Dubai I booked the International Hotel for our 2 hour stop over and it was lovely to rest in the convenience of a hotel room rather than waiting in the airport terminal for our connecting flight.
And lastly, my tip would be to not stress and enjoy the flight. Travelling with toddlers can be testing but if you prepare and make sure you have snacks and entertainment at the ready, you will be fine. If you have experience travelling long haul with toddlers and wish to add any other tips, do pop them down below.
Kerstin // Lux Mumma