Tips for Long Flights with Toddler

Below is an email full of travel tips my sister sent to her husband prior to his first cross-Atlantic trip flying solo with their just-turned-3 year old daughter.  Thanks for sharing, sis!

Toddler having fun on airplane

To:  Husband, experienced business traveler, rookie toddler travel companion
From: Wife, experienced cross-Atlantic traveler with toddler
Subject: Plane Tips

Hi, I’ve done this a lot, so here are my flying with toddler tips for a very long flight:

You —  Be ready to be “on” all the time.  She’ll get bored and antsy if you’re trying to read or get work done.  Sorry!  She’s going to need a lot of attention.  If she falls asleep, then you can bring out your reading.  Otherwise, forget about it.   Don’t worry, you’ll do great!   It’s only a 10 hour flight  🙂

Stay organized!  One toy out, one toy in — Make sure you put away what you’re playing with before bringing out something new.  Can’t emphasize this enough.  For such a long flight, you’ve got to keep your area orderly otherwise you’ll go crazy, lose toys/markers, not be able to find what you need.  Everything in the carry-on is packed in large plastic bags so that you can stay organized — toys, coloring, electronics, snacks, extra clothes are all in separate zip locks.

Gifts — I’ve packed many little wrapped gifts (coloring books, new book, new necklace, candy) — space them out and bring out one when you really need it.

Have a garbage bag handy — Use the plastic bag I’ve put her gifts in and/or the air sickness bag.  She’ll have lots of gifts to unwrap, but also snacks, tissues, etc.

Extend eating times — Make eating time a lengthy time-consuming activity.  I’ve packed snacks.  If all fails and she hates the plane food, be nice to the flight attendants and they should be able to find you something from first class — crackers, bread, fresh fruit.

Bathroom trips — Also make bathroom trips a time-consuming activity.  Get up and walk from time to time.  I’ve packed a couple of pull-ups — good for when she starts getting tired.  Don’t want her to pee in the seat.

Sleep —  My suggestion is to let her play and play until she’s wiped out.  She may fall asleep watching a movie if she’s tired enough.  She’ll balk if you try to force it on her.  I’ve packed pajamas in her carry-on along with her blankie.  Sometimes this helps signal it’s time to sleep.

Wipes — Hand sanitizer wipes in bag (please wash hands and tray tables before eating) as well as diaper wipes for spills, etc.

Shoes — Take off her shoes for comfort but make sure to put them on for bathroom trips.

Movies — You’ll have the airplane TV, my iPod (with a few new things on it), and pack of DVDs that you can play on your computer.  She also has new kids earphones (good ones that fit all the way over her ears so they don’t fall off).

iPod — Please do not leave my iPod on the plane!  Also, I packed that rectangle little iPod charger for when battery drains (also makes a nice stand).

Extra clothes — Two sets of extra clothes are in the carry-on in case of major spills or pee in pants.

Milk — I’ve packed a couple of boxes of shelf milk and her favorite cup – ask flight attendant to warm it up when she gets sleepy.

Do you have any tried and true tips for long flights with toddlers?  Please share in the comments below.