Tips & tricks on how to survive a long flight with a toddler

I want to share with you all of our tips on how to survive a long flight with a toddler and I really do hope they’re helpful to you too! For us, they worked wonders! Our first experience with a long flight was when we had to fly from Madrid, Spain to Vancouver, Canada, about 3 months ago.

Up until then, a 4 hours flight was our longest and let me tell you… oh boy, how wrong I was when I thought those kind of flights were looong.

So, I had to prepare for it. OK, I panicked first and then I started preparing myself for it. We were looking at a 10 hours flight  (14 hours of traveling in total, we had to switch planes in Frankfurt), during which I needed to keep a toddler happy and calm (as in not running all over the place and jumping on people’s heads).

Traveling with a baby it’s actually easier than with a 2 or a 3 year old. They squirm, they don’t really sit still for long periods of time, they get bored easily and the fact that they feel trapped in a small place – doesn’t help for sure.

A toddler has a lot of energy, is more independent and basically anything that doesn’t go his way, might cause a full blown tantrum. And you really, really don’t want a tantrum on a plane.

We’ve been flying with our little one quite a lot, all over Europe, he was just 3 months old when he got his first passport!:D

Back to our long flight story though –  so, I needed to prepare and make this trip as peaceful as it could be. I was terrified, honestly, but my worst nightmares didn’t come true.

In fact, it was quite the opposite. Our trip was more than OK, we had a happy, calm kid and here is how we did it, these are our tips & tricks for having a peaceful long flight with your toddler:

1) When booking your tickets, look for the night flights

Everything is so much easier if your trip hours naturally fall into your lil’ one sleep schedule. If he’s sleeping, then everyone can sleep, even you! Or enjoy a glass of wine or even a movie. No stress, no fuss!

Unfortunately, we couldn’t do that, as there were no nightime flights to Vancouver, so we had to come up with a whole lot of things to keep a very energetic little boy busy and us – sane.

A 14 hours trip is hard even on adults, let a lone a kid. But, oh well, just our luck, no nightime flights for us, we left early in the morning from Madrid and it was still morning when we got to Vancouver.

Time stood still for us, it seems! Haha. This is what you get for traveling half the globe: you’re, basically, getting your day back. 🙂

2) Look for the airport playground areas

In most airport terminals you can find playgrounds areas, so that the kids can burn out some of their energy. Take advantage of that! Especially if you need to switch planes.

We found one when we arrived in Frankfurt, Germany, where we had to switch planes in order to get to Vancouver.

It’s a good way for kids to get some exercise before having to seat on a plane all over again and have some fun, tire a bit.. so chances are he’ll be more willing to at least take a nap, when you get into your next plane.

This is the playground where Alex had some fun and stretched his legs before we had to get back into a plane and mostly sit down… for another 10 hours!

3) Let him have his own suitcase to carry

Well, in our case, we carried him and his suitcase.. but oh well.. :D) This is something you can use to get your little one get excited by your trip, ahead of time. It is important to prepare him for this, toddlers don’t like change, they like to know what’s going to happen, it gives them some control over the situations they are going to face.  Having his own suitcase to carry could be a lot of fun!

We chose the Trunki suitcase, many parents use them and I also think they’re the best invention out there since sliced bread, when it comes to travelling with small kids. For us, Trunki was a life saver, this is how we walked around Frankfurt airport between terminals, in order to switch flights and we were so thankful we bought that for him!

Even though we also had the stroller with us, they didn’t give it to us in Frankfurt, it went straight on the other plane so… if not for Trunki we would have been doomed to carry Alex, because by the time we got there he was already tired and a bit cranky and wanted to be carried.

His mood suddenly changed though when he got to ride his suitcase and we were 2 very happy parents + a very happy kid! A day without a tantrum is a day the sun shines bright! 😀

It’s pretty big too, well not that big, but just enough for me to put all this stuff inside.

In his suitcase, Alex had his fun bag, his snack box, plus his little pillow and his favorite blanket.

I also threw in a little towel, just in case spilling accidents happen or anything else that might need wiping.

4) Onboard sleeping tip

Here’s our 4th tip on how to survive a long flight with your toddler: make sure he has a really good nap during the flight, if he’s tired. A tired kid, not being able to calm down and actually sleep…oh, brother, you know how that will end… don’t you?! Not well, that’s for sure.

Investing in an inflatable pillow was the best money we ever spent for preparing this trip. Let me tell you, this is a game changer! What does it do? It allows your kid to actually lie down, in a comfy position, in order to sleep.

You inflate it after take-off, you place it on the floor, in the space between your seat and the seat in front and that’s it, you’re done.

Alex slept for 3 hours in this improvised bed! It was absolutely wonderful! It’s also easy to carry in your hand luggage, it doesn’t take a lot of space. You can find it here.

So, 3 hours out of 10, he slept comfortably, the rest – we kept him busy.

5) The fun bag

Put together a bag with some of your little one’s favorite (small) toys, to keep him happy and busy onboard.

This was Alex’s fun bag or busy bag. I put in there a lot of small toys and games, that could easily fit on that litttle airplane table. Alex is in his dinosaur stage, so anything that has dinosaurs in it, it’s great!

Also, make sure you also have with you a surprise toy, something new, doesn’t matter how small, it doesn’t have to be expensive, it just has to be new.

What we had in our fun bag:

-6 little dinosaur figures, you can find the set here

-a set of dinosaur cards game, not that we actually play that game, it is still too complicated for his age, but what I loved about those cards is that they have a lot of different dinosaur types on them, with their actual names and some facts about how fast or big they were or what they ate. Alex likes to look at them and study them and then I read to him about each one of those dinosaurs and we talk about them. He loves it.

– two Peppa Pig mini-puzzles, we got this box here

-one mini-lego set, we got this one here  (this was our surprise-toy)


-coloring book

-Dinosaur wipe clean activity book from Usborne, you can find it here

-animal finger puppet set (from Ikea) + his favorite, a crocodile puppet that he can slip his whole hand into, you can find it here.

-aaand last but not least.. Slime! Oh yes, we had slime with us, as Alex loves to play with that and it isn’t messy like Play-Doh. Don’t get me wrong, we love Play-Doh, at home… but you don’t want it on an airplane, unless you want to spend your time cleaning the floor and seats.

We weren’t sure they were going to allow us with slime onboard so we were prepared to give it up if needed, but it wasn’t the case. We had a very happy kid onboard, playing with his dinosaurs in a slime puddle. He can play for hours with it! We had this one, sold in an egg.

How did I get all that in there? Well, by taking them out of their original boxes and putting each in little plastic storage bags.

The bag we used for Alex’s fun bag is this one here, it’s actually sold as a make-up storage bag (in a set of 3), I loved the fact that it’s transparent and it’s easy to look for things in it and put them back in.

Inside, I placed a bag organizer, that has a lot of pockets and compartments, so each item had it’s own place. It’s easier to find what you need this way, without having to take everything out, especially in a small place, like your airplane seat. The organizer we used is this one.

6) The snack box

We used our favorite bento box for this, the Yumbox, you can find it here. I put crackers and some sweets in there – this is stuff I usually don’t give to Alex, as they’re not the healthiest choices, but I was too stressed about the trip, so I broke that rule. I do suggest not doing the same as I did and maybe go for healthier snack choices.

It’s important to have a snack box though and not rely entirely on the food served on the plane. Kids may get hungry in between flight meals and there’s no better recipe for “disaster” than a hungry toddler. Snacking also gives them something to do, in case they get bored. (Though I don’t encourage eating out of boredom, it’s not a healthy habit to teach kids… but then again, I broke all my rules that day, didn’t I?!).

The most important item in this snack box is the lollypop, which is there for very a specific reason: during take-off and landing, the pressure changes and can cause our ears to hurt, so giving your little one a lollypop (as long as they’re old enough to have one) ensures that he’ll keep his mouth open and won’t have trouble with the pressure change.

7) Screen time

Most airlines offer onboard entertainment and will have movies and cartoons available for their passengers to watch during the flight, so if all else fails (after all… you’ve been on a plane for a very long time), there’s always the screen-time back-up. Watching cartoons will keep the little ones entertained, no doubt.

Even though screen time is usually something limited in our house, you can always make an exception. After all, we don’t do long flights every day, so don’t feel guilty if you have the same rule and break it. At least, I don’t feel guilty for breaking it at all. A mom’s gotta do, what a mom’s gotta do! It’s ok! You’re not going to damage your kid just because he had more screen time than usual, on that particular day. The most important thing about such a long trip is that we all get through it the best we can, ideally without our kid (or our nerves) bouncing off the walls.

Also, make sure:

-You all drink plenty of water, you can easily get dehydrated when on a plane.

-Pack a full change of clothes (and have it with you, in your hand luggage) for your little one.

Have an extra t-shirt for yourself too, in case of messy accidents, that might come your way.

Dress “in layers” for the trip. What does this mean: t-shirt and a sweater, hoodie or a shirt over it, basically something to take off, if it’s too hot on the plane or put on, if it’s too cold. Temperatures in airplanes might vary and you can’t set it up to what it’s optimal for you. Usually, though, I noticed that, on most of our flights, it was rather cold.

These were our tips & tricks on how to survive a long flight with a toddler. If you have other tips, that worked for you, please do share, I’d love to hear from you and surely it will help other moms too. The more ideas, the better!

Have a safe and peaceful flight!

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