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Tips for Taking Toddlers on Long Flights

Updated on May 30, 2010

There are some parents who avoid taking their children on airplane flights until they're certain to be old enough to sit still without problems. However, there are many of us that don't want to postpone our family air travel until our kids are in their teens. For those of us who want to get back to the business of exploring new places with our families, it's important to find ways to reduce the hassles associated with travel. This can be hard when we've got toddlers and especially hard when the flight is a long one. But it can be done without too much trouble.

Here are some tips for taking toddlers on long flights:

  • Try to plan for a long layover ... or two, or three ... Layovers are nice for kids because they break up the trip. This reduces the restlessness that they'll experience and makes the trip go more smoothly. You can spend the time snacking, resting or exploring the airport.
  • Include a variety of entertainment options in your carry-on. You'll want to make sure that they're noiseless and aren't going to bother the people near you. Things that you and your child can do together will be the best - such as books to read together.
  • Bring presents. If you can fit an extra bag into the stuff that you're carrying, bring one full of small presents wrapped for your child. They'll enjoy receiving them (one at a time to make the most out of the gift) and using them throughout the flight.
  • Bring several types of snacks with you. The key to a good trip is being able to provide your child with choices and variety despite the fact that you don't have a lot of stuff with you. Since your kid is probably going to get hungry, this is one area where it's nice to have some choices.
  • Make sure a comfort tool is with you. A favorite blanket, a stuffed animal or anything else that makes your child feel more comfortable can go a long way towards making the trip nicer.
  • Have certain carry-on items that are for the plane only. Games, books, magazines, toys ... whatever it is that you're bringing along should have be designated for flight time only. In other words, don't let your kids play with their toys in the waiting area because they'll be bored with them by the time they get on the plane. The reward for waiting is that they'll be engaged on the plane.
  • Let your child carry a kid's backpack for carry-on. Yes, you'll probably end up carrying it yourself at some point. But making a point out of the responsibility that your child is showing with the suitcase will encourage your child to try to act more grown-up. This will reduce tantrums at least for a short time.
  • Make sure you have what you need for emergencies and problems. A sick bag and/or anti-nausea medications. Gum and/or earache medication. Ginger ale. A change of clothes. A jacket. Teething gel and diapers depending on the age of your child. You don't want to be stuck with a problem that you could've solved if only you'd had what you needed to do so.
  • Consider whether naptime is a good time for the trip. For some children, a flight that happens during their normal naptime is great because they can just go to sleep and wake up at their destination. However, kids who won't be able to fall asleep in the crowd of people or who get ill on flights are kids who will end up tired and cranky if you fly during their naptimes. Assess your child and plan the timing of your trip with this in mind.
  • Bring a car seat. Many parents don't take advantage of the fact that airlines are generally equipped for the use of car seats. It's safer for your child and is going to help him or her feel like the place is comfortable and familiar even though it's foreign.

All of these tips can help make a long flight with a toddler go more smoothly. However, the real key is in preparing yourself. You need to get yourself into a calm state of mind to be able to deal with whatever comes up. Expect that there will be problems and try to feel confident that you can face them. Give yourself plenty of time to catch the flight and make connections. Pack in advance so that you're less likely to forget the items you'll need. And try not to worry about what other people are thinking if your child starts acting up on the plane. If you're in a nice calm emotional place, there's a good chance that your child will be as well.


Submit a Comment
  • profile image


    7 years ago

    Reading aloud qualifies as an activity that would annoy other passengers....

  • profile image


    7 years ago

    Mommies I agree with you how stressful it is flying and traveling with toddlers specially when it's during their nap times. That's why I recommend you check out kikko'pilo.

    It's been super helpful for me in napping on plane and train.

  • TKLMommy profile image


    7 years ago from Maui, Hawaii

    Taking little ones on long flights is extremely difficult. It's even difficult for us as adults to sit in a seat for how many hours, imagine a child! I agree with having a lot of things available to occupy their time and to keep their attention to help avoid meltdowns. I always have things when going on a trip or just to a restaurant.

  • profile image

    Hajj Packages 2011 

    7 years ago

    Thanks Catheryn great piece on information you have shared. I like your hubs they are all really informative. Its really a useful information for parents. Thanks again

  • profile image

    hajj Packages 

    8 years ago

    nice site...........

  • profile image

    hajj Packages 

    8 years ago

    thanks for sharing.............

  • cheapflights247 profile image


    8 years ago from United Kingdom

    Very useful. I always find its best to use the flight comparison websites to find the best deals. Also changing the days of week can reduce the prices considerably. Thanks for sharing.

  • profile image


    8 years ago

    Great article, Toddlers are a lot of fun but can be a headache while traveling if you aren't prepared for all eventualities. They need to feel secure by having familiar objects from home.

  • Sunshine Uy profile image

    Sunshine Uy 

    8 years ago

    Your hub is so helpful. I'm going on a trip in a few months with my toddler for the first time and kind of worried about how he'll behave. Thanks so much for posting the great tips!

  • profile image


    8 years ago

    Great tips! Love the idea of a comfort toy. If this is something Baby already uses it may help to induce sleep!

  • profile image


    8 years ago

    Thanks Very nice Article. I just found new flight comparison website. There you can compare other flight bookings and hotels, holidays,

  • profile image


    8 years ago

    Thanks for the great tips. I wish I could have read your pages before I took 14 hours flight with my 2 years old son. I had to be standing and holding him for 3 hours on the edge of the business class coach. It was the most tiring trip I've ever made.

  • kcreery profile image


    9 years ago from Whistler Canada

    Great hub. Flying with kids can be stressful at times.

  • BusyHBMom profile image


    9 years ago from Orange County, CA

    First flight for our 2 year old in a few months... I will keep these great tips in mind - thanks!

  • GojiJuiceGoodness profile image


    9 years ago from Roanoke, Virginia

    Good information. Keeping a child still and quiet for that long is tricky!

  • Lana Helmy profile image

    Lana Helmy 

    9 years ago

    Great staff. My 16 months old will be traveling as a toddler for the first time. I started to gather some info from the net, and found your hub is really useful. Thanks.

  • Leenie Pooh profile image

    Leenie Pooh 

    9 years ago

    I have a suggestion for one more item to add to your child's emergency kit. I have a problem with my ear canal being VERY painful when descending in an airplane. A stewardess told me about EarPlanes and now I won't fly without them. Whenever I hear a child crying as the plane is descending, my heart goes out to them because I know what they're going through. If my EarPlanes would fit them I'd pass them to the parent but you have to have child-sized EarPlanes.

  • profile image

    Long Haul Flights 

    9 years ago

    Great info Kathryn. I'll be sure to borrow some of these tips and pass them along to others. Thanks

  • Truth From Truth profile image

    Truth From Truth 

    9 years ago from Michigan

    very helpful post thanks

  • ljlittle profile image


    9 years ago

    Some really good tips here in regards to flying with toddlers. Thank you for taking the time to write this. You should also feel free to stop by the Toddler Warehouse. They've got a ton of different strollers and other stroller accessories that make flying with a toddler easier.

  • Acai Antioxidants profile image

    Acai Antioxidants 

    9 years ago

    Thank You for the great advice and tips Kathryn!

  • hinckles koma profile image

    hinckles koma 

    9 years ago from nyc

    Great hub. We always fly with our kids. The nap time is a major help especially for infant. Most of the time my son slept through all the flights that were 3-4 hrs. Feeding him at take off and during landing also helped because it took away some stress of the ear clogging.

  • faemom profile image


    10 years ago

    Great tips. We're flying with a 4 yr old and 2 yr old next month across country. I used to fly with my eldest every other month before my second was born. They were hour flights, but I always bought a seat for him because it was safer and it turned out it was easier to keep him entertained when I could grab stuff at a moments notice without shuffling him around. I tell parents NEVER EVER let the flight attendents take your bag of tricks.

  • Dumbledore profile image

    This Old Guy 

    11 years ago from Somewhere in Ohio

    My wife an I took our daughter on a trip to Atlanta to Atlanta when she was less than a month old. We lucked out; she slept through both flights.

  • lov2travel profile image


    11 years ago from UT

    Kathyrn.... There really is nothing as stressful as flying with a child that is screaming. You know how everyone around you is feeling. We've flown all over the world even when our children were very young. People would tell us to drug them but we avoided that if at all possible and most the time had no problem. You're tips are great and ones I've used and they do work!

  • festivalstreet profile image


    11 years ago

    Presents... what a great incentive to behave!  Of course if your kid is acting like a brat, you can always give their present to a good kid in the next aisle.  That'll teach 'em!

  • sunstreeks profile image


    11 years ago from Western Washington

    Thanks Kathryn:) These tips are great! We have a westcoast to eastcoast flight coming up and I'm very nervous that my 3 year old is not going to deal well with a 7+ hour flight.


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