8 Tips for Long Flights with Toddlers

We recently completed a trip from Detroit to London with both boys. And guess what? We survived! I’m here to tell you that you can do a long flight with kids. It’s not easy or relaxing, but don’t let it keep you from booking an epic family trip.

Here are tips on how to prep for your long trip ahead:

1 – Be strategic about your flight times
If you can, plan your flight around bedtime or nap time. Our only option to fly to London was overnight, so that was a no-brainer.

2 – Stay on schedule for the day
Keep your kids on schedule for that day. For my boys specifically, being “over tired” is usually worse than just being tired, so I made sure they stayed on schedule for naps the day we traveled. I let them run in the airport before flight, up and down moving walk ways, etc., so they get their wiggles out and wear themselves out.

3 – Plan an “in-flight” bedtime routine
After our in flight dinner we tried our best to do a “modified bedtime routine” to try and get the boys in the bedtime mindset. Wiped down hands and faced, changed diapers, brushed teeth, read books, got into sleep blanket, and then had a bottle. I didn’t pack a portable sound machine for this flight, but I have used this one in the past for flights.
4 – Snacks are key
My advice, make them a surprise for when you get on the plane. Don’t pack them in the kids’ bags. My boys would start eating them in the car ride to the airport! I tried to find new snacks as well, so they would hold more bribing power. We had the most amazing crew on our latest Delta flight, and they were extremely generous with the kids – mommy had her fair share of Biskoff cookies as well.

5 – New Toys!
Five Below, Dollar Tree, Target & Amazon have great options for new toys, crafts and things to keep your little ones busy. Again, I recommend not showing them these distractions until you need to use them on the plane, and space them out – don’t hand them all out at once. Here are some things that worked for us:

  • Melissa & Doug On the Go Water Wow! books
  • Wikki Stix
  • Headphones! I liked this pair from Amazon, for our 1.5 year old. They are noise limiting so he can’t accidentally turn them up full blast. Not all flights have TV screens, so I usually try to pack an old phone with a few movies downloaded on it.
  • Crayons, coloring books and doodle pads. I purchased Crayola triangle crayons so they wouldn’t roll off of the tray tables.
  • We also loved these doodle books from Stephen Joseph Gifts. They come with stickers and an attached carrying case with crayons.
  • Learned from a very smart, creative momma friend that window clings can keep kids busy if you are sitting near a window!
  • My 1.5 year old LOVED this Melissa & Doug shape sorter. We used this for both our California trip and London. It’s a little bulky, but totally worth it. If your carry on is tight on space you could always a store a few things in side of this toy as well.

6 – Plan for the worst
Bring extra wipes and napkins for spills (keep these out in the seat pocket so they are easily accessible), extra clothes for spills or blowouts, and double check electronics are charged and movies are downloaded in case they don’t have in flight entertainment screens.

7 – Gate check your stroller
We always opt to gate check our stroller (as opposed to checking it with our bags). This way the kids can ride in it to the gate if they get tired of walking, and more importantly, we can use it to stack our carry on bags, diaper bags, purses, etc. Most airlines have gate checked items waiting for you when you de-board the plane so you can load your kids up and hustle to baggage claim.

8 – Be strategic about boarding
I like to limit my time on the plane, so I never board early with kids. They always invite families to board early, but I just think the less time on the plane, the better. If I needed to reconfigure our seats and potentially switch with a stranger, I’d maybe board early, but that may be the only case. If you don’t have seats together, it’s always worth asking the gate agent if he/she can arrange you to sit together.

I’ve told many friends, especially lately, you just have to go into a flight like this with low expectations. You can be as prepared as possible but kids will always find a way to throw you a curve ball. Just know that it won’t be a relaxing flight, but definitely worth it once you reach your destination!

Do you have a tip from traveling with your kids? If so, please share in the comments below!

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12 thoughts on “8 Tips for Long Flights with Toddlers

  1. Great advice! I somehow never had to fly with our kids when they were toddlers, but we did a couple of trips with an infant. They're in charge then! LOL Glad you guys had an uneventful trip 🙂

  2. We've done a couple flights but only about 2.5 hours to Disney. So glad you guys survived! I love that Netflix allows you to download certain movies right to your tablets.

  3. I did have to fly with my toddler for a trip back home. I would definitely say that new toys were a must, as well as snacks! Just anything to keep her busy. Good post!

  4. These are helpful tips! For families who love traveling, they would love to share these new amazing experiences to their toddlers but flying with them can be really challenging! – Mallie Miller

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