The Babies HQ

How I Survived 6 Solo Long Haul Flight with a Toddler

Long haul flights with a toddler across continents aren’t for the faint of heart. I’ve done it six times, and for the record, I was flying solo with her and they were 30-hour journeys with 2 connections each time. Each journey taught me new tricks to handle the unexpected.

If you find it daunting to air travel with a toddler, know that you’re not the only one.

This article packs my real-life lessons. I will go through a range of topics such as whether to board early or late, the best seats to book, and other tips for the airport terminal and the plane.

 
 
 
Tips for Long Flights with Toddler

Long Haul Flight with Toddler Tips

  1. Book Your Seats in Advance: The last thing you want on a long flight with your toddler is to be allocated the two middle seats in a row of four.
  2. Order a Kid’s Meal with Your Ticket: When you book, request a kid-friendly meal option. Some airlines like Air Canada won’t automatically provide a kid-friendly meal even though they know your child’s age.
  3. Use Nappies for Recently Potty-Trained Kids: If your toddler has recently been potty trained, it’s wise to have them wear a nappy on a long flight. The toilets may not be available when they need it.
  4. Bring Suitable Toys: I always bring several good toys on a plane. I recommend you take new toys that they have never played with before.
  5. Stay involved, play and entertain: It’s crucial to play with and entertain your child during the flight. It’ll be tiring, but your child’s boredom is your worst enemy.
 
 
 
best seat for air travel with toddlers

Is Aisle or Window Better When Travelling Solo with A Toddler?

Flying with a toddler, whether as a family or solo with your child, always presents its unique challenges and considerations, especially when it comes to seating.

When flying with an infant, the best seats are those where an in-flight bassinet is available.

On a long flight with a toddler, if both my partner and me travel together, we like to have a full row of three seats by the window. This setup offers a cozy corner for our toddler and a view that can be a great distraction.

However, when I’m flying alone with my toddler on a long haul flight, a window seat is not ideal. It makes it trickier to take those necessary aisle walks.

For flights that offer them, I always look for the two-seat window rows near the back of the plane.

Otherwise, a strategy that has worked well for me is booking two adjacent seats in the middle row, with one of those seats being an aisle seat. This arrangement gives us direct aisle access, and flight attendants tend to be fine with me using an airplane seat extender for the seat that doesn’t have aisle access.

 
 
Toddler walking in terminal before Long Haul Flights

Strategies For the Airport Before a Long Flight with Toddler

In the Airport Terminal with a Toddler

Before you board, remember: don’t just sit and wait. Find a space with fewer people and let your toddler roam and play. This is crucial because they’ll have limited movement on the plane, and it’s tougher to burn energy there.

Most airports have a playground. Use it. Let your toddler have fun and walk around. This physical activity is key for a smoother flight.

Feed your toddler before the flight. Airport food might be more appealing than airplane meals, and you don’t want a hungry, cranky child on your hands.

Keep the best toys for the plane. Don’t reveal them in the terminal. Save these surprises for when you really need them onboard.

 

When to Board with a Toddler

I have noticed that some websites state boarding late is preferable. The idea is to limit the time they’re confined to their seat. That makes sense, but in my solo travels with a toddler, early boarding has been more effective.

Boarding early ensures space for my cabin bag right overhead. It also gives my toddler a chance to explore our row before it gets crowded. This early exploration helps them settle.

If you board late, you might have to buckle your toddler in immediately. This can lead to restlessness as they haven’t had time to adjust to their new surroundings.

Take Turns Eating Your Meal

When flying with a younger toddler, plan to take turns eating your meal. Their seat position often sits them too low to comfortably manage their own meal. Focusing on helping them eat first can make mealtime smoother.

Spend about 20 minutes ensuring they’re fed and happy. Then, you can enjoy your meal more peacefully. Without this plan, you might find yourself juggling both meals at once, which can be challenging. Prioritizing their mealtime first often leads to a more relaxed dining experience for both of you.

 
 
 
Managing Meals on a Flight with Toddler

Distracting Your Toddler on a Long Haul Flight

Screen Time 

When it comes to long flights, I relax the rules on screen time. My daughter can watch as much as she wants. However, she only started showing real interest in plane screens at around 2.5 years old.

Before this age, relying solely on screen time wasn’t an option on long flight. That’s why having a variety of toys for distraction was crucial. Even now, as she’s older, I still pack toys for the trip.

Travel Toys 

Choosing the right travel toys is essential, and it’s important to tailor your selection to your toddler’s age. For instance, at 2 years old, finger puppets were a lot of fun for my daughter.  At 1 year old, stickers were more fun.

 
 
 

Snacks 

Snacks are not just for hunger but also serve as a distraction. Be mindful of restrictions: yogurts can be confiscated due to liquid rules, and some countries don’t allow fruit entry. Ensure any fruit snacks are consumed before disembarking.

Aisle Walks

Walking the aisle with my toddler has been a lifesaver on long flights. It breaks the monotony for them and gives their little legs (and mine) a much-needed stretch.

 
 
 
 
 
Other essential things to bring on long flight with toddler

Things you MUST NOT forget to bring on a Long Haul Flight with a Toddler

I have already covered travel toys and snacks in the prior section. Those are essential on long haul flights. In my opinion, there are four more three essential items for flying with a toddler:

Pacifiers 

Pacifiers are a must if your child uses them. They’ll inevitably fall on the floor, so pack plenty for hygiene and convenience. I’ve never limited pacifier use on a plane; they’re invaluable for comfort.

Nappies 

Even for the recently potty-trained, nappies are crucial on a flight. They prevent the stress of wet clothes or seats. Delays on the tarmac, turbulence, long toilet queues, meal trolley in the aisle are unpredictable, and toddlers’ bladders aren’t as resilient.

Wet Wipes 

Wet wipes are indispensable on long flights with a toddler. You will need them for nappy changes, cleaning hands and faces, and dealing with spills. But there’s an added bonus I’ve discovered. At a certain age, my toddler enjoyed wiping the tray table and armrests with a wet wipe. She could do that for a while… So, pack more than you think you’ll need – they’re useful in more ways than one!

Change of Clothes for Them and Me 

Always pack a change of clothes for both you and your toddler (two is even better). Spills, accidents, will happen and make fresh clothes a necessity. A clean set for your child is obvious, but don’t forget about yourself. It’s fair to expect you will have something spilled on you at some point…

 
 

Flying on a Long Haul Flight with a Toddler

In conclusion, surviving long-haul flights with a toddler is all about preparation, flexibility, and a little creativity. Each tip shared here comes from firsthand experience, but of course every child is different, and what works for one may not work for another. I hope you’ve found a few of my tips for long flights with a toddler helpful and hope you enjoy your adventure!

Good to know: This article was written by Anne, a mother, a keen traveler and a writer. Her travel website documents some of her travel stories but she is first and foremost passionate about telling the world about the best attractions to visit in Quebec Canada.
 
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