Being confined to a small space in a plane on a long haul flight with a toddler and a baby is enough to make many parents want to chew their own arm off and possibly inhale a bottle of gin. Flying with tiny dictators who give a total of zero f***s about rules, brimming with boundless energy, minimal attention spans and a capacity for werewolf-like fury when overtired certainly demands some creative parenting skills. But the rewards for your efforts at the other end are huge. We travelled long haul to Mauritius with a 7-month old baby and a three-year old, then a few months later to Thailand with a 10-month old and a pre-schooler, so we picked up a few tips for flying long haul with a toddler and a baby on the way! If you’re currently pondering how to survive a lengthy plane journey with little people, here are a few nifty tips for long haul flights with a toddler and a baby to help make your journey a bit easier.
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1. Invest in travel gear that will make flying long haul with toddlers easier
Check ahead to see if your airline offers baby bassinets (for babies under 6-months) or seats for babies. If they do, a CoziGo Sleep Easy Travel Cover is INVALUABLE. Lightweight, compact and breathable, the cover fits over the aircraft’s travel cot and bassinet perfectly, blocking out bright lights, TV screens and passing people, allowing your baby to switch off and have a snooze. As an added bonus, you can also pop it over your buggy when out and about for some handy shade. I’ve also heard wondrous things about the BedBox by JetKids (I saw the famous Mother of Daughters use them for her twins on a long haul flight to the Caribbean) – but am yet to try!
Image – CoziGo (left) over an airline bassinet
2. Figure out baby’s feeds in advance of the flight
If you’re breastfeeding, this part is easy. However, if your baby is on a bottle make sure you pack a Thermos or a Chilly’s Bottle for hot water and take pre-measured formula powder in a baby powder dispenser with you, that way you can prepare feeds without always having to seek out cabin crew. Pack as many bottles as you can, as there’s not often the opportunity to clean them during the flight. Also if you want to be extra organised it’s worth checking ahead if you can order milk in advance to a Boots at the airport – genius!
Food-wise, Ella’s pouches are like nectar from the Gods – perfect for baby and a nutritional snack for a toddler. Pack plenty in clear plastic bags (to go through Passport Control as well as prevent spillage). And don’t forget snacks, snacks, snacks – meltdown preventers, hunger keeper-at-bayers and boredom-stoppers, don’t be afraid to heap them upon your children as you see fit.
3. Arrive at the airport early if travelling long haul
Avoid manic rushing and give yourself time to kill in the airport. You can pick up emergency food and baby items and feed everyone. Pack toddler pajamas, a baby sleeping bag and toothbrushes in your hand luggage so you can get kids in their PJs and baby sleeping bag for an overnight long haul flight – it’ll make it feel a teensy bit more like bedtime for them. Gatwick gets a HUGE thumbs up from me for helping families get through the faff of airport security. Friendly, accommodating, helpful staff, they had a separate queue for families, a drinking water fountain (great for refilling baby and toddler bottles) and even a soft play in the duty free area.
4. Take a Trunki for long haul flights with a toddler
Simply pulling the Trunki along is fun, riding it equally so and extremely practical when one half of your parenting team is pushing a laden luggage trolley. Just don’t get overexcited, end up flipping them and split their lip open…that can happen.
5. Pack a baby sling for long haul flights
Having two free hands in the airport is a no-brainer, particularly if – like me – your baby is so squirmy in their desperation to get going in life that it’s like trying to contain a ferret on crack.
6. Keep the buggy with you until you board
Most airlines don’t charge for baby equipment like buggies and they’re useful either for shipping toddlers around the airport when little legs get tired, or for loading up with hand luggage when they are running wild. Sometimes, families with buggies are also invited to board first, which is always a good thing and if you get delayed, they can nap in them.
7. Keep a stock of brand new items for your toddler
ack colouring (those mess free Crayola felt tips are magic), magazines, figurines, felt tips, stickers and snacks. Wrap for extra excitement factor and bring them out at strategic points throughout the journey. For younger babies, try and squeeze in a few shaky, textured toys and a couple of open-the-flap books to keep them entertained.
8. iPad iPad iPad
Whatever your pre-parenting thoughts on electronic devices and kids were, an iPad loaded with suitable games, movies and CBeebies programmes is an essential item for long haul flights with toddlers. Make sure you’ve got a child-proof protector for your trip and be sure to invest in some wireless bluetooth earphones so they don’t bother other travellers with their screen time. And hey presto! One happy travelling family.
8. Travel long haul with friends and family
Willing, extra helping hands to hold, entertain, feed and distract the kiddies means it might actually even feel like a holiday. Extra bonus if you have same-aged toddlers with you for instant entertainment. Failing that, hope that the passengers sitting near you are happy to do the odd bit of peekaboo with your kids as they squeeze their heads through the gaps in the seats.
9. Travel long haul overnight
Pay extra for a direct flight and go overnight if you can. This way you are only trying to get your baby or toddler to sleep on the flight, rather than constantly entertain them. It also seems to really help with the jet lag adjustment. Try and feed the baby on take off or landing to help with the pressure in their ears and if they’re dummy lovers, pop one in to avoid little ears popping (dont’ forget to take a few dummy clips to stop them falling on the floor and getting covered in plane fluff!).
10. Travel long haul during the school holidays
11. Go for easy parking at the airport
Pay the extra to park opposite the terminal, organise a ‘meet and greet’ parking service or persuade a kindly family member to drop you off – the ‘faff-saving’ from not having to transfer your brood, plus luggage, plus tiny humans on various airport shuttles is well worth every penny.
You might also like:
- My tips for travelling in Thailand with a baby and a toddler
- Chloe from Life Unexpected has more great tips for flying long haul with a toddler or a baby.
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Have you got any advice to add? Let me know below!