Traveling Internationally with a Toddler, Part 3: On the Plane

Moriah, Momma and Koala making the best out of a long flight to the USA

I’ve already discussed Tips for Planning Ahead and Packing / Day of Travel Tips, today let me share with you my on-the-plane tips for traveling internationally with a toddler:

Make friends with the flight attendants- They can really make all the difference in your flight experience. Remember your please and thank-yous and don’t be afraid to speak up if you need something (milk for your toddler, an extra blanket, etc.).

Be friendly to other passengers. Smile when you board. Make a bit of small talk. Yes, some might give you “looks” just because you have a kid on board. There are also sure to be a few friendly faces on the plane.  Focus on those people.

Offer your toddler a drink during take-off and landing– this will keep with any pressure in the ears.

Bring on the surprises! If you took my earlier advice, you’ll have some surprises for your little one packed in your carryon bag.

Drop the rules– In our household we are pretty strict about our little girl not watching any TV. However, while traveling on international flights most seats have personal tv screen where you can watch movies and tv shows at your leisure. Let’s be honest, with a toddler on your lap you probably aren’t going to be able to really watch shows. But turning on the cartoon channel, or an animated movie (even without the sound) can be a great distraction when needed.  And let me tell you, for parents on a 9.5 hour flight with a toddler any bit of distraction will be very much welcomed. On the plane, rules go out the door.

Look for galley areas– most long-haul aircrafts have large open galley spaces near the bathrooms, (sometimes they leave out snacks in these areas, sometime the flight crew will sell on-board goods here) In less busy times, these are excellent places to seek out for a little change of pace with your toddler. We also found that in the couple of occasions that a screaming fit emerged, these were great areas to take the little one as we could walk around with her and be away from other passengers making things a bit easier for everyone.

Keep Your Cool– I was recently on a plane where I observed a parent yelling at their toddler and forcing a pacifier in their mouth because they were acting up. It really made me feel bad for the kid. And it didn’t make the parent look good at all. In the case of a crying fit- Sing, play peek-a-boo, bounce up and down, offer a drink, offer a snack, offer their favorite stuffed toy, check the diaper, seek out the galley area, make a fool out of yourself. Don’t ignore your kid. Don’t yell at your kid. Please, don’t force a pacifier into their mouth as an easy “shut-up” method. Don’t worry about what other passengers are thinking- if they see you trying your best to calm your kid, they will be fine and may even offer to help.

Sleep when the baby sleeps– Don’t be tempted to watch tv if your child falls asleep. Ok, go ahead, watch a little if you want, but seriously consider sleeping as much as you are able. The flight is only the beginning of your international journey. A jet-lagged toddler and all of excitement over traveling is still to come, and trust me you will need an extra bit of rest you can get.

Take a photo- Good or bad experience as it may be, someday your little one won’t be so little and will enjoy hearing all about how wonderful (or horrendous!) they were on that flight. You’ll appreciate the memory.

-Breathe. It’s an international flight. There will be times where your little one is behaving like an angel, there will be when that same little one is crying or throwing a temper tantrum. It probably will go better than you expect. Take it one moment at a time and when all else fails repeat after me, “this too shall pass”.


Next week I’ll finish off this series with my tips for dealing with toddler jet-lag.

One Response to “Traveling Internationally with a Toddler, Part 3: On the Plane”

  1. Lina Meade writes:

    Enjoying all of the international travel tips! Let’s hope I get to use them!

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