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Surviving a long-haul flight with a baby or toddler

Flying with kids

Smooth Sailing -Tips For Travelling Long-Haul Flights With Babies and Toddlers 

Honestly, I don’t know many parents who look forward to the prospect of a long-haul flight with a baby or young kids, especially in economy class. However, for most families, it’s a reality, and with a little bit of planning and preparation, you can make the trip significantly less stressful.

As a Sleep Coach, Early Childhood and Parenting Educator who has survived many long-haul flights with littlies in toe, here are my essential tips for making a long-haul transition easier for everyone.

  • Consider your family’s schedule and plan accordingly, factoring in potential road travel and the early check-in requirements of international flights.
  • Aim for small naps before the flight and plan the main sleep approximately 3 hours after take-off, aligning with the typical dimming of lights on the aircraft.

Oh my lordie, why does the family’s littlest member require the most luggage? Try to anticipate the needs of your little ones overseas. Decide whether to bring your own travel cot, pram, carrier, or sling, or if you can access them at your destination.

Create a mini flight survival kit for both you and your child – (not bandages and Band-Aids), but the more prepared you are on the flight the smoother the flight will be Here is my Survival Kit recommendations – I’ll start with your kit as it will be significantly less than your child’s –

  • A warm, comfortable change of clothes and a spare set- nothing worse than a long-haul flight stinking of kid vomit because you packed a change of clothes for them but not you. (This actually happened to me on a 16-hour flight) 
  • Some warm socks, lavender essential oil if that’s your thing to calm the mind,
  • Your favourite herbal tea bags
  • Some of your favourite snacks that you can eat singlehanded
  • Rescue Remedy 
  • Melatonin gummies,
  • Your favourite moisturiser,
  • Clean underwear
  • A toothbrush and a toothpaste
  • Hairbrush. (a bit of a freshen-up halfway through will make you feel better.)
  • A warm blanket that travels well
  • A pillow to lay your baby across your and your partner’s lap if/ when they are sleeping and a neck pillow for yourself 
  • Earphone, a batter pack for your phone and an audible book music or other entertainment 

Baby Toddler Kit 

  • The First aid stuff- Pain relief, teething gels, nappy barrier cream, hydrolyte, etc 
  • The essentials- Spare dummies, antibacterial wipes, two spare changes of clothes, nappies, wipes, water bottles, individual formula sachets and bottles if needed and copious amounts of snacks if your little one is over eight mths.
  • The Activity Pack-  The older your baby, the more activities you are likely to need. Lets face it a little baby under 10 months will be happy with anything they can grasp such a rattle and a teething ring should suffice. For older bubs and toddlers, I suggest an activity pack with

Five sandwich-size Ziploc bags, each with a mini activity. Aim to introduce these one at a time, spacing them out over the course of the flight so your toddler has something new to entertain.

Suggestions that you can fill these bags with

  • A bag with 3-4 mini-books
  • One with a few pieces of lego, duplo or stacking cups
  • One with a few animal or people figures
  • One with some cars
  • One with a few balls of playdogh and 2-3 playdough cutters
  • A bag with some fidget toys or simple 3-4 piece puzzle
  • Another great toy for travel is a Busy Board Activity Cube. Check out this website for some awesome ideas


  • Acknowledge that your baby will inevitably be out of routine while travelling and that’s ok.
  • Prioritise getting some sleep for everybody. – The reason I recommend having the extra pillow on a flight is if your baby falls asleep on you, you can rest them on the pillow. This will make it easier for you to slide the baby or toddler over to your partner, and they can care for them while so you get some shut-eye and vice versa or at least your baby can stretch out across both of you and get some good sleep. Having the extra pillow will make you more comfortable at other times too.


  • If travelling with your partner, share the load. The families I have seen do better on long-haul flights are the ones that share the load.


  • Upon reaching your destination, adapt to the local time rather than attempting to force your routine onto a new schedule. 
  • Manage baby’s sleep by avoiding extended naps during the day, especially if you arrive in the morning.

Typically, once you arrive at your destination, there is more commuting, a nap in the car, and maybe greeting and meeting family, and you are all very tired and ready for bed. If you have arrived in the morning, aim not to let your baby sleep for more than a 2-hour block during the day and try to settle them with a good bedtime routine at the beginning of the night (in the current time zone) as normal. For late arrivals, establish a bedtime routine aligned with the current time zone.If you have arrived late in the evening, aim to greet the family, settle in for an hour or two, and then commence your little ones’ usual bedtime routine. I find that if you arrive late and have a later bedtime, they adjust the new time zone quicker as you will all tend to have a big sleep after a very long day.

Remember, it may take a few days to readjust, but early morning sun, walks, and outdoor time can aid the process. Using the recommendations from My E-book, The Sleep Reset Program uses the Bodyclock Reset Method to help babies learn how to sleep well, and I recommend to my client to use the same approach to help their little one reset when they are travelling. For further assistance in establishing positive routine foundations, whether before or after travel, feel free to reach out and book a free call today

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