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Ultimate Guide: International Travel with a Toddler - Expert Tips & Tricks for a Smooth Long Haul Flight

Mastering the art of traveling with babies was no easy feat, but now I confidently navigate flights of all kinds. However, when it comes to traveling with toddlers, it's an entirely different ball game. Their needs are more intricate, demanding a delicate touch and planning.

As with any travel endeavor, trial and error often reigns supreme, regardless of how much pre-trip research you undertake. Each child responds uniquely to various challenges, boasting their own quirks and requirements.

That said, drawing from our personal encounters, we've made some choices that greatly enhanced our journeys, as well as learned from a few mistakes along the way.

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  1. When choosing seats, look into spaces on the plane that have more room to roam When traveling with a restless toddler, it's worth exploring seating options that provide extra space. Consider reserving bulkhead seats or seats near the emergency exit or galleys, as they often offer more legroom and wiggle space for your little one to stretch their legs.

  2. Request a kids meal Many airlines offer special kids' meals that cater to their tastes and dietary needs. When booking your flight, don't forget to request a kids' meal in advance. This way, you can ensure your toddler has a meal they enjoy, which can make the journey more pleasant for everyone.

  3. Practice using new products before your trip Introduce any new travel-related products, such as child-friendly headphones or travel pillows, to your toddler before the trip. Familiarize them with these items so they feel comfortable and less overwhelmed during the journey.

  4. Bring along anything that can help them sleep and recreate bedtime Maintaining a sense of routine and familiarity can be comforting for toddlers during travel. Pack items such as a favorite pajamas, blanket, stuffed animal/lovey, or a small nightlight to recreate their bedtime environment. These familiar items can help soothe them and make it easier for them to sleep on the plane.

  5. Seriously consider putting them in a car seat While it may be tempting to have your toddler sit on your lap during the flight, using a car seat can provide added safety and comfort for them as well as yourself. They are often times used to falling asleep in the car seat already, so this may help them feel more at ease and comfortable on the flight too. Check with your airline about their policies regarding car seats, and if allowed, consider bringing one on board to ensure your toddler is secure during the flight.

  6. Pack more snacks than you believe you will need Snacks are a lifesaver during travel, especially with toddlers. Pack a generous supply of their favorite snacks to keep hunger at bay and provide them with familiar and comforting treats throughout the journey. It's better to have more than you think you'll need to avoid any meltdowns due to hunger as well as providing them with something to do.

  7. Lollipops Lollipops can be a handy tool during takeoff and landing to help ease ear pressure for your toddler. The sucking motion can help regulate ear pressure changes and provide a distraction during these moments. Middle of a mid flight meltdown? Nothing a lollipop cant fix (hopefully 😆)

  8. Bring a gift for your flight attendants A small gesture like bringing a small gift, such as chocolates or a thank-you note, for the flight attendants can go a long way. Not only does it show appreciation for their hard work, but it can also create a positive and friendly atmosphere on the flight, which can benefit you and your toddler. We always opted for a few bags of target trail mix or chocolates from the duty free section - both were very much appreciated.

  9. Keep Organized Staying organized is crucial when traveling with a toddler. Use labeled zip-lock bags or small pouches to organize essentials such as diapers, wipes, snacks, and toys. This way, you can quickly find what you need without rummaging through a messy bag, saving you time and reducing stress.

  10. Bring antibacterial wipes with you to the bathroom and wipe down anything within "grabbin' distance". Keeping hygiene a priority while traveling is essential, especially in confined spaces like airplane bathrooms. Carry antibacterial wipes and use them to sanitize surfaces such as the door, lock, handle, and changing table to minimize the risk of germs and keep your toddler clean and healthy.

  11. Toilet Covers For potty trained toddlers, consider bringing disposable toilet seat covers. These covers provide a protective barrier between your child and the public toilet seat, reducing the risk of contact with germs. Here are some great ones from amazon.

  12. Wait as long as possible to "set them free" Once you open that pandora's box, there is no going back. I find it is best to wait to let your toddler move around the cabin. Keeping them seated for the majority of the flight can help prevent restlessness and minimize disruptions to fellow passengers. Plan activities, games, or toys to keep them engaged and occupied during the duration of the flight.

  13. Activities vs. Toys Opt for activities that require more engagement and creativity rather than just toys. Coloring books, sticker books, and interactive games can keep your toddler entertained for longer periods and stimulate their imagination during the flight. Need some ideas? Plenty of options here on my Amazon Storefront.

  14. Avoid screens until absolutely necessary While screens can be a useful tool for keeping toddlers entertained, try to limit their screen time during the flight. Again, in my experience this is another thing you cant take back once you have started. Save screen time as a last resort when other activities or distractions are no longer effective. This way, screens can be a novelty and hold their attention for longer when you really need it.

  15. When the lights go off, it is "bedtime" There is a period of time between meal time and when the cabins lights go off that I love to utilize for the bed time routine. That way you can take advantage of dimmed cabin lights during long-haul flights to create a sleep-friendly environment for your toddler. Lower the window shades and utilize their familiar sleep aids to encourage your little one to settle down and try to get them as comfortable as possible for a restful sleep on the plane. Just remember, travel days are about survival and not thrival. Happy flying! ✈️


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