Tips for Surviving International Flights with Children

Tips for Surviving International Flights with Children

Recently, I had the opportunity to spend time overseas. My husband wasn’t able to go, but I still wanted to take our 3-year-old daughter along. The thought of traveling that far with a toddler was daunting. However, I felt as though we had enough experience on a plane to try to make it work. After all, many people travel with toddlers successfully—right?

Build Excitement

In the weeks leading up to the trip, she was excited. We talked a lot about the plane ride!  We built excitement for a new adventure. She’d have her own seat and carry-on bag and she’d even get her own plane ticket! We talked about how she’d get to pack her special backpack with whatever she wanted to make the time go quickly and comfortably, and that Mommy would maybe pack a few surprises.

Booking Flights

My first tip is to get direct flights, preferably red-eyes, whenever possible. By minimizing wait times, running between gates, transfers, and juggling luggage, stress is automatically reduced for both of you. Red-eye flights help pass the time by (hopefully!) sleeping.

Your Child’s Carry-On

You’ve got your flight booked. Now what? Remember that backpack I mentioned—packing methodically before your trip will help make everything go much smoother. We used, and I would recommend, a small rolling backpack for your toddler. Not only is this a lot of fun for them at their age, but it also helps cut down on the chances of you ending up carrying all of it. Somehow, no matter how light you pack, you’ll feel like you’re juggling a lot!

Packing List

As for what to pack—essentials first. We purchased an inflatable footrest that was perfect for the long trip. Not only was it able to make a comfortable place to sleep, she actually preferred playing there while awake too.

Other items to pack for comfort: a light blanket, an eye-mask if you think they’ll use one, and a travel pillow. Next up was the fun items! We made a quick trip to the Dollar Spot to pick out a few fun, new items. Magic Marker coloring pads, Wikki Stix, WaterWOW Books, Sticker Books, and educational workbooks. We love the dry erase versions! Lightweight, travel-friendly, and quiet! I also packed a new book about airplanes. We also made sure to throw in a few favorite toys for comfort. Our daughter loves her stuffed animals!

We also packed a couple of electronics. Nine or more hours on a plane is a lot of time to sit still, and I knew a movie or two would work wonders if she couldn’t fall asleep. Our plane had individual screens on the back of each seat, so make sure to check with your airline, but the novelty of this was more exciting to our daughter than her tablet, and their variety of children’s materials was good. We especially loved the globe and travel tracker for kids to follow the plane and learn about different countries that were on our Norwegian flight! Important to know: pack headphones. Most of them will not have sound without headphones.

All The Snacks

Lastly, check your airline’s policies for snacks and drinks—either bring some with you or pack a little extra cash to buy them at the airport. Many long, international flights may also have meals included with your ticket or to opt-in when purchasing your ticket, so consider doing this. We were able to get a warm, kid-friendly meal in her tummy shortly after takeoff which leads to a much more restful sleep! Plus, at the end of the long flight, they offered a light second meal which kept her much happier when we got to our destination and began the fun of finding luggage and transportation.

Don’t be hesitant to travel with your littles! While it can seem intimidating, if you plan around their schedule, prepare for some mishaps, and look at it as a new adventure for you both—you’ll be surprised how much fun you both will have. I’m already looking forward to our next adventure!


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Taylor Schminke
Taylor is an Iowa native, currently residing in rural Benton County. A graduate of Iowa State University in Animal Science, she works full time in the agriculture industry as a key account manager. She is wife to Cody, and mama to their sweet daughter Everly. She and her husband’s hobbies (second jobs?) tend to revolve around their farmstead: sheep, pigs, fields, a seed dealership, and following the livestock show industry. They also have a dog, Ace, and a cat, Aspen. When trying to maintain a sense of sanity Taylor loves being active, gardening, DIY projects, traveling, friends, coffee, and anything dark chocolate or salted caramel.

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