My Top 10 Tips for Surviving a Long-Haul Flight with Children

Gammon in his PJs, excited by the flight

Gammon in his PJs, excited about the flight

As an Aussie expat living in the UK with 2 children under 4 years old, the pull to get back home regularly to show off the kids/get some help with babysitting have the kids spend some quality time with their grandparents, cousins, and uncles and aunts is very strong. I’ve done the London to Sydney long-haul flight with children a few times now. Sometimes with my husband. Sometimes on my own. Sometimes with just Gammon. Sometimes with both Gammon and Chips.

In fact, seeing as the flight one way to Australia is at least 24 hours of flying time in the air, I reckon I’ve clocked up at least 144 hours of juvenile aviation adventures. Do I get a medal for that? Or some extra bonus Frequent Flyer points? Or at least a free one of those natty little small-scale models of the Airbus A380 that you can buy in the back of the airline’s Duty Free magazine?

No, unfortunately all I get is guaranteed tired, red eyes like a rabbit with Myxomatosis, a temper shorter than Tom Cruise’s trouser leg, a nappy change bag that looks like it’s been hanging on a fence post during Hurricane Katrina, and quite a few surreptitious, yet entirely obvious eye rolls and tuts from nearby childless passengers.

But what I can do, in the spirit of true Zen-like altruism, is pass on a few survival tips that I’ve learned from my experiences for those new to long-haul flying with children. So, here is my top 10.

1. Take your buggy right up to the aircraft door

Most airlines these days let you do this, so don’t be tempted to check it in early and just rely on a baby carrier or sling. That way, if there is any delay, then your baby or toddler can have a really comfortable sleep, and your back will be buying you a coffee in thanks. Many airlines will also let you have your buggy back as soon as you step off the plane at the other end. This is an absolute godsend and makes all the difference if you’ve gone a little over-the-top with buying too much Duty Free Baileys Biscotti beforehand.

But if your airline doesn’t do this, don’t worry – many airports (such as Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Doha, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Copenhagen, etc.) offer courtesy buggies for families that you can pick up a short walk from the plane door. Some even do twin models!

2. Take a night flight

This way, in theory, your kids will sleep for a large proportion of the flight because they will be tired. Even if you have a baby who is restless, your toddler should sleep more easily, meaning you only have one child to stay up with. If you catch a day flight, then you will almost certainly be up for the entire flight with both children (especially if your toddler no longer has daytime naps). Believe me, this works.

3. Arrange a stopover

If you are flying for more than 12 hours with children, I would strongly recommend stopping over for at least a few days at the refuelling stop. Not only does it make travel boredom more bearable (i.e. one 24 hour flight is much more horrific than two 12 hours flights!), it also helps to break up the jet lag, so that you can cope with it in easier-to-handle segments. And hopefully by the time you get to your second destination, it will nearly have gone.

It also means that you can try to arrange another night flight for your final leg too, which wouldn’t be possible if you were doing it all in one go. That way, after a few days in the stopover country, the kids should be pretty much in their time zone, and (touch wood) should sleep the majority of the second night flight too.

4. Ask for a bulkhead seat

Do this when booking so you can get a bassinet cot for your baby. Otherwise they will need to sit on your lap at all times, which can make eating meals difficult, especially if you’re travelling on your own (you may need to rely on the kindness of strangers – see point number 10 below). Even if you don’t have a baby, bulkhead seats offer more room for bags of kiddy essentials, and you don’t have to worry about your toddler kicking the seats of the people in front of you.

Mummy and Chips on the plane

Mummy and Chips on the plane

Whatever you do, it’s probably best NOT to ask for the bulkhead seats if you don’t have children. On our recent flight from Kuala Lumpur to London Heathrow, one man had done just that and was allocated his seat in a 4-seat row, wedged in between a lady with a 3 month old, her 4 year old son, and me with 1 year old Chips on my lap. I offered for him to swap with my husband who had a seat across the aisle with 3 year old Gammon, because otherwise he was going to have a baby bassinette in front of him the whole trip and he replied “No, thanks. I need the leg room”. Cue much hilarity from all the parents in the surrounding rows over his decision to be sandwiched between 2 toddlers and 2 babies on a plane for 13 hours in order to merely stretch his Chinos out a bit. The air hostess who had witnessed this (and no doubt heard the collective sniggering from afar) didn’t wait long to put him out of his misery and found him a new seat down the other end of the plane where the passengers hadn’t heard his embarrassingly naïve faux pas. We all had another collective snigger when he stood up to move, and we could clearly see that he was even shorter than Doug!

5. Buy some Yu Yee Oil

Yu Yee Oil

Yu Yee Oil

On the first leg of our recent trip to Australia, 1 year old Chips cried so much that the air hostess came up and discretely gave us a small piece of paper with the words ‘Yu Yee Oil’ written on it and directions of where to find the nearest chemist at Kuala Lumpur airport. You should be able to get some from your local Chinese market, or else you can buy some here.

4711 on the 747

4711 on the 747

Dabbing some of this hot Chinese oil on the soles of babies’ feet, the palms of their hands and their tummy can help to calm them down during a flight. It’s made from a blend of Peppermint Oil, Clove Oil, Menthol, Cinnamon, and Nutmeg Oil and it certainly seemed to calm Chips down for the second leg of the flight. She was much better and seemed more calm and relaxed. And if nothing else, she smelt heavenly. I even nicked a smidge for my ears and pits in between trips to the aeroplane bogs for routine dousings of free 4711.

6. Pack lots of food

Don’t just rely on the airline’s food for your child. There will be lots of times during the trip when a healthy snack like a handful of dried apricots or raisins will distract and defuse a wetdown of megalithic proportions. And if you can’t trick your kids anymore with the old ‘raisins are treats’ line, just fill your bag with actual treats – they are on holidays after all!

7. Have milk at your fingertips

Take loads of milk with you for both babies and toddlers, especially to give to them during take-off and landing, when babies’ ears can be affected by the air pressure. Being breastfed, or sucking on a bottle, can really help. And a drink of milk before ‘bed’ can really calm toddlers down too, and when mixed with changing into their pyjamas, cleaning their teeth, and having a bedtime story read to them, can help them to somewhat stick to their normal routine, which will be comforting. Just make sure it is all easily accessible, as when a child wants milk, they want milk NOW!

Don’t worry about taking milk, formula or baby food through airport security – you’ll be allowed to take them through no problems, but you might just be asked to taste some to prove that they are not Cow & Gate branded Nitroglycerin.

8. Travel with an iPad or mobile phone

Don’t give yourself grief about bringing an electronic babysitter with you. If you’ve got one, use it, and load it up to the brim with your kids’ favourite games, Apps, TV episodes, and films. And don’t not do it because you think there will be a seat-back TV on the plane for them to use. There will be long periods of waiting in airports, and travelling in cars and other forms of transport, when your iNanny will come in handy. BBC iPlayer now allows you to download episodes onto your phone or iPad and keep them for 7 days, so visit the CBeebies section the day before you fly and stock up big time.

Gammon and Daddy going for an airport Trunkie ride

Gammon and Daddy going for an airport Trunkie ride

9. Take 100ml Calpol and Nurofen

It’s always good to have these on hand in case of temperatures, headaches, ear aches, teething pains, general meltdowns, or if the cabin staff have run out of Bloody Marys. And if in 100ml bottles, you’ll definitely get them through airport security no questions asked.

10. Rely on the kindness of strangers

I’ve flown many different airlines out to Australia now, but have once yet to have an air hostess offer to hold a baby or toddler. I think the airlines avoid it at all cost for health and safety reasons or something.

So, if you’re in need of help, you are going to have to rely on the kindness of strangers.

Aeroplanes can bring out the worst in people – like the plum-mouthed old lady with too much work done and her ‘yes dear, no dear’ husband who I was sat next to in a row of 3 when I had an infant Gammon on my lap, who very loudly (specifically so I could hear) said “I think it’s so cruel making a baby fly long-haul”. I feel that, despite her rudeness, I got the last laugh though, as she had to sit next to me and ‘ants pants’ Gammon all the way from Sydney to Hong Kong. Touché.

But aeroplanes can also bring out the best in people too – like the lovely lady who told us her seat number as she was walking down the aisle whilst boarding, so we could come and get her during the flight if we needed any help. And the wonderful woman who helped me swing Gammon the whole way from the plane door to the baggage reclaim area at Gatwick after he decided to have one of his monumental skitzes whilst I was on my own and laden with way too much hand luggage filled with packets of Tim Tams, bags of Cherry Ripes, and jars of Promite.

So, I hope these survival tips help to make your flight just that little bit easier. I think that half the key is in mentally preparing yourself before you go. It will be horrendous, it will be long, it will be tiring, your kids won’t sleep as well as they do back home, they won’t want to eat when the meals are being served, and you definitely won’t get to watch an entire movie all the way through (although if you’re lucky, you might get to catch the end on the flight home).

Lower your expectations and then you might just be pleasantly surprised. And keep telling yourself that, flights, like labour, will be over eventually too.

152 thoughts on “My Top 10 Tips for Surviving a Long-Haul Flight with Children

      • hi any tips for what type of carry on cabin baggage to use? without costing a lot! going to nz soon with an almost 2yr old but want easy access for all recommendations but a nappy change bag is liable to open up I reckon?

      • Hi Cassie, I would definitely recommend a backpack over any other cabin baggage – one thing you really need more of when flying with kids is hands… so not having to use them to carry bags is definitely the way to go. We usually keep our backpacks by our feet during the flight and can access anything we need easily. I used to put nappies/nappy bags into clear zip lock bags, one at a time, so I could just grab one from the backpack and take it into the toilet for a nappy change… and then if the clothes were wet or dirty, you can just put them in the zip lock bag to keep them separate from the rest of your things. I hope that helps. Maddie xoxo

    • sorry couldn’t comeent any otherway :-). I would recomeend a colouring bk for a survival tip. xx enjoy

    • Hi Nicola, thank you so much for this blog. My husband is aussie we have done the trip from uk to sydney many times. We are travelling in 2 weeks with our 21 month daughter. I have taken all your tips on bored !( How i will secretly envy those with their wine and movie) but we will have great fun on our first big adventure

    • Good tips, thanks. Not much mention of what to do in the first few days after the flight, to minimize jet lag. My suggestion would be to avoid using videos/iPads/TV during the hours when you want the kids to be asleep in their new time zone. Too stimulating for the child; and the sound and light may wake up other sleeping kids or adults. Use reading, coloring, building blocks, diary-writing, etc instead.

  1. This is great, we are flying to london in november with a three year old and a one year old and i was debating about whether or not to do the stopover or just get the flight over and done with in one hit. Your reasoning makes a lot of sense….now a blog on the best stopovers when travelling with kids please! Thanks for this blog, there are not many people brave enough to travel with kids and even fewer writing about their experiences.

    • Wow! Thanks so much for your kind words Emily! I have travelled my whole life, and did a lot of travelling as a child myself too, so I don’t see any reason to stop once you have kids yourself – they are pretty adaptable, and in my mind, the positives they gain from getting an international experience definitely outweighs the negatives. And anyway, putting up with a bit of hardship is good for kids too – it’s character building! Good luck with your trip. If you can do a short stopover both ways, I think that’s the best option for all. We only did a stopover one way this time because we were short on time, and it made the return flight in one go pretty tough for all parties!

  2. Love these tips. Very down to earth and sensible! Travelling with my 2 year old in 6 weeks time to the UK. I know it’s going to be hell but homesickness caught up with me! Wish me luck!

    • Thanks Jo! You might be pleasantly surprised if your 2 year old has a seat of their own. We let our 3 year old watch his favourite movies on repeat on the seat screen until he falls asleep (it’s not something that we’d let him do back home, but he loves it because it’s a treat, and we have the flying philosophy of ‘whatever gets you through’!) Good luck!

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  4. I’ve gotta say I can kinda feel your pain, except my flight wasn’t long, but I had 3 kids under 3.5 – so sort of know what you mean Maddie. Thankfully we no longer have long haul flights but I love this post, such great and honest advice! Emily

    • Thanks so much Emily. I feel your pain too, wow – 3 kids under 3.5! You deserve a medal too! Do you know what? Sometimes I find the shorter European flights more difficult than the long-haul ones with kids, because they don’t have the seat-back TV screens, so 4 hours REALLY feels like 4 hours, but on long-haul flights when sleep and TV watching are occurring, the time seems to fly by a little more quickly.

  5. Good tip about a stopover. It wouldn’t normally occur to me — I’m a “push straight through” girl — but it can be a good break. Also, would love to get my hands on this oil.

    • Thanks Jennifer! I was definitely a “push straight through” girl before I had children, but having done both options now with kids, I can definitely report back that the stopover option is the easier one (and less stressful and tiring too). And yes, the oil smells devine and comes in a lovely bottle rolled up in the colourful Chinese instructions, all enclosed in a cute little tin that rattles very satisfyingly when you shake it. Thanks for reading my blog!

  6. Great tips! We did our first overseas flight last year – to Bali. We had a huge carry on bag packed with food and I’m so glad we took it! We took the red eye on the way back home and while one twin didn’t sleep so well the other slept through the entire flight!
    Thanks for linking up with FYBF!

    • Thanks Grace! I’d forgotten that the overnight flight is colloquially called the ‘red eye’! Good remembering! Yes, even only one out of two sleeping is definitely worth it I think. If it was a day flight you would definitely have two NOT sleeping! No problems re linking up to FYBF – it’s a great idea – I love it!

  7. I love that your tips come with a big dose of humour – just my kind of blog post!

    • Thanks Trish! Am glad you like the post. Sometimes with children (especially when travelling) you have to see the funny side of situations, otherwise you’d be tearing your hair out! I do try to parent with a good dollop of humour. It keeps me sane!

  8. This is a brilliant post. I have pinned it.
    Doubt I will be able to afford a holiday to Australia whilst my kids are young but great tips and easily can be applied to long Ferry journeys etc.

    Found you via the Britmums Live Linky. See you there hopefully :O)

    • Thanks so much Pinkoddy! Yes, you’re right – many of the tips can be applied to all sorts of long-distance travelling. I’m so glad you liked it and pinned it. Yes, definitely see you at BritMums Live – this will be my first one. I’m really looking forward to it!

      • Hi, I’m a flight attendant and I wish all passengers with kids are as well prepared as you! Yes, we avoid carrying the children of passengers in case we are reliable for any injuries on them.

        Passengers often book night flights so that they can sleep all the way until they reach their destination so it causes the neighbouring (childless) passengers alot of grief whenever we have kids onboard who scream and cry like an alarm clock wired to ring at the wrong time. As the crew at everyone’s service, we are often at the receiving end of their unhappiness. I have encounter inexperienced parents who can’t stop their baby from crying because the kid wasn’t even well in the first place and the parents didn’t even bring medication with them, older toddlers (above 2) who cry and wail their lungs out like someone just died just because they are too old to sit on mommy’s lap for that 5-10 minutes of takeoff and landing, loud squabbling kids whose tired parents just let them have it their way, or distressed mums who have to juggle three restless kids while the (even when present) dads don’t even take their eyes off the in-flight movies to help out one bit. One mother got so exasperated and embarrassed that she put her baby in the overhead compartment with her bags.

        Hence I strongly believe that anyone who wishes to travel with very young children should learn to anticipate and prepare for their flights so that everyone, including themselves, can have a peaceful flight and prevent their holidays from being ruined even before touchdown. Afterall, they chose to bring their kids to this world so it is only fair to take it upon themselves to plan ahead.

        Even for those with older kids (Thank god… Really?), they should educate their kids on airline etiquette as early as possible and set a good example for them as well. They should also discipline them to finish their food during the meal service and not let iNanny make them eat like a snail – food that has turned cold cannot be reheated by the crew due to food hygiene and children are more vulnerable to stomach upsets when they eat their meals cold and this in turn can make the flight less enjoyable for the shoe family and (if the child cries) other passengers.

        Thank you for sharing so much through your humorous and witty article. I’ll share this with my friends especially those who just had kids. 🙂

      • Thanks so much for your comment Diana – it’s so great to get the view of a flight attendant here! I totally agree with you that parents should anticipate and prepare for their flights for everyone’s benefit – their children, their own, the other passengers and the flight attendants. I always tell myself “plan for the worst and hope for the best” and it usually means that if anything untoward happens, I can deal with it and nip that potential meltdown in the bud. Teaching airline etiquette is a very good point too. I’ve just flown 4 hrs each way with Gammon & Chips to Turkey and I was so proud of how both of them behaved. 2 year old Chips had blocked ears which were puzzling her, but upon landing she said with a big smile on her face “Mummy, I LOVE aeroplanes!” They are an amazing invention and I’m so glad she can already see that at 2. Thanks so much for reading and I’m so glad that as a ‘soldier on the frontline’ of the flight action, you agree with them! Kind regards, Maddie xxx

    • Thank Julia. Yes, the stopover is definitely ‘optimum’, but not always possible. We could only afford to do it (timewise) one way on our recent Xmas trip to Australia. Thanks for visiting my blog.

      • Any tips for flying back from oz on my own with a 22 month old on my lap no stop over?

  9. Thanks for some amazing tips Maddie. You are very brave to fly so far wtih Gammon and Chips! I flew USA to Vienna with my kids when they were toddlers and lost the will to live. It is fine now of course as they are old enough to stay in their seats and watch videos the whole time. The only downside is one girl vomits as soon as the plane takes off. Come and have a cocktail any time!! I published a book down under that might make you laugh

    • You are very welcome Cocktails at Naptime (great name BTW!) Yes, you’re right. It does get much easier the older they get (although plane sickness mustn’t be much fun for anyone involved!) I’ll come and have a cocktail now. Am very intrigued about your book! Thanks so much for visiting my blog! 🙂

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  11. Great article. We were very surprised the way our 2& 3 yr old handled the long flight, much better then I did! We just completed an overnight bus ride for the first time with the toddlers… They slept the entire time, again leaving me with being the worst traveler 😀

  12. oh wow thanks for the tips! I will be travelling from Singapore to Amsterdam with a high need fussy 1 year old daughter. (god bless me) so these tips help much! weee. wish us luck!

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  14. Great tips, thank you! We did a four hour flight with our son when he was just 1, and I thought that was bad! Can’t imagine taking two small children ON YOUR OWN to Australia. You’re my new hero.

  15. Hello – I’ve just discovered this post, all great tips and ones that came in handy for me in the past, I have taken my toddler to Canada twice now and various other destinations, her first trip over to Toronto though was when she was 13 months, boy that was an eye opener! Anyway like you we had a few evil stares and one lady making a jokey but unkind comment about LO as she sat down next to us, but we ignored her, it was a night flight and LO was good as gold! We have always flown BA to Canada and I have to say their cabin crew have been amazing – kind, sympathetic and helpful every time, makes such a massive difference, after all my LO deserves to fly and see her family just as much as anyone else! I think you are brave doing the long haul to Australia on your own though, I would have a slight panic about that, lol! Lovely blog and congrats on nominations! X x

  16. Great ideas! We are flying uk-nz in a few weeks & I’ve been dreading it but will use all these ideas -thank you 🙂 Emma

    • Good luck with the flight! Just plan for the worst, hope for the best and be realistic about your expectations and you’ll be fine! Glad the tips are helpful! 🙂

  17. Thank you for the tips. I will use as many as I can when flying ‘alone’, well as alone as I can be with my boisterous two year old twins UK to Caribbean in 10 days time.

    • Wow – best of luck to you Leighan! I hope you have a wonderful time and your twins pleasantly surprise you. If not, just try to keep positive and separate the idea of the flight totally from your holiday – you’ll have plenty of time to relax once you arrive. I’m very jealous! Thanks so much for visiting and commenting. Maddie 🙂

  18. Hi Maddie
    Enjoyed your post re jet lag. Unfortunately have read it after completing, this morning, long haul from Italy to Melbourne with my five and ten year old boys (and grown up man person). Both boys are exhausted and asleep and it is the middle of the day. I just want to let them sleep! Do you have any views on coping with jet lag when you get home? Thanks for lovely wise words.

    • Hi Sarah, thanks for your comment! With jet lag, it is always much worse when you fly from left to right on the globe, than right to left. So the jet lag you’re all feeling now will be, I think, more than twice as bad from Italy to Melbourne than the reverse. All the experts say that if you want to beat jet lag you should adopt the eating and sleeping patterns of your destination the minute you start your journey. I don’t think that’s very practical with kids, so my only advice really is to try to get into the habits of your destination as soon as you possibly can. If that means staying up a bit longer than your body tells you, then that’s the way to do it for adults, but kids don’t really work like this! If they’re tired, they’ll generally just fall asleep. But not to worry, as, in my experience, kids are better at dealing with jet lag than adults. They seem to bounce back more quickly. Yes, you’ll have some nights where they are wide awake and you need to be up with then until they all back asleep (the younger ones anyway), but shoving a movie on in the dark while they are all snuggled up can help them get back to sleep, and help you get a few cat naps in the process that you wouldn’t be able to get if the lights were on. So yeah, committing to Melbourne time as quickly as you can will help, but there really is no ‘cure’ for jet lag – you just have to live through it. Good luck! I hope you have a brilliant time away! Thanks again for reading. 🙂

      • Oh right, I’ve just realised that you’re probably ‘home’ in Melbs now rather than away. If so, I hope you had a lovely trip away and settle back in ok. That left to right flight is much worse though, so the jet lag will stay around for longer than your trip to Italy unfortunately. Good luck!

  19. Hi there, great advice! I’m flying London to Singapore next week with an almost 3 year old, leaving at 10pm. Would it be a good idea to put her pjs on before we get on the plane?! Thanks x

    • Yes, I think that is a great idea. We usually put our 2 in PJs at home before we get to the airport, regardless of whether it is a long haul night flight or an early morning short haul European flight. They are just so much more comfortable flying in loose, cosy pyjamas than fancy jeans where the elastic digs in. Comfort is king, in my opinion. Good luck with the flight. I hope it all goes well. Thanks for reading and commenting. 🙂

  20. Thanks for this! Just booked a flight to uk solo with my 10 m.o next month. Will use your advice… Wish me luck!

    • Absolutely! Good luck. You will be fine. It will be tough, but just lower your expectations, be prepared for the worst, hope for the best and you may just be pleasantly surprised! And don’t forget, it will eventually be over too. I hope you enjoy your trip to the UK. 🙂

  21. Really enjoyed your tips and will definitely be getting a bottle of Chinese oil, night flight and stopover! We’re off to NZ from London to visit family in February and dreading the flight with my son who will be 17 months. I’ve flown there with him before on my own but was lucky to fly business class that time and he was a lovely, unwriggly 4 month old so it was no worries. Was also reassured by your saying European short hauls are worse than long hauls. Summer holiday flights with Ryanair were deeply unpleasant (hence the dread about NZ trip). Anyway, thanks again for your tips! Hilarious and useful 🙂

  22. Very useful, thank you! I am flying to Melbourne with my 6 month old on Tuesday and would like to buy the Yu Yee Oil you recommended but think it’s too late to order online, do you know any shops in the UK that would have it? Thank you again 🙂

  23. I’m young and live in the UK currently (from Aus/NZ originally) and am trying to convince everybody that having a baby (just found out I’m pregnant, yay!) won’t stop me from travelling!!! I’m really glad I found this post! 🙂

  24. Travelling with 9 month old to Paris from Singapore soon.
    Thanks for the Yu Yee oil tip – we have it but would never have thought to bring it for soothing the little one on the 13 hour flight.
    Will be bringing lots of good humour along too!
    Thanks for sharing!

  25. Hello! Thanks alot for this post. I am going to have a long haul flight with 2.5 yo and 1yo next spring as we are moving from Austria back to Indonesia. Was thinking whether a stopover is a good idea. Now convinced it is something i should try. I will have my husband and mom with me. I was used to travelling long haul but as a solo traveller. the thought if long haul flight wit toddler and baby is dreadful. I guess i just need alot of tips, positive attitude and a low expectations. Thanks again!

  26. thank you so much for the article, it has been so helpful and made me a little less anxious about our first plane trip with a one year old in January. I am off to the chinese store to pick up some yu yee oil before we make the trip from Sydney to the USA – thank you so much

  27. okay so those tips are really helpful.
    but what do we do when she wants to walk around the entire flight?
    we can neither strap our toddler (19 months by then) to our seat/lab nor have her walk all over the plane! (There are no night flights to where we’re going) How do we keep her …close?
    (the flight will be 9.5 hours, 8 hour overlay, 1.5 more hours.)

    • Unfortunately, you’ll have to walk around with her. I have spent many a flight trudging up and down planes! The hostesses and stewards are pretty good – they probably won’t take her for you, but they will be friendly to you as you trudge up and down the aisles, and will try to interact with her a bit. There is no point making a toddler do what they don’t want to do, so strapping them in if they don’t want to be won’t work (unless the fasten seatbelt signs are on, then you have to!) as they will just cry and upset all those around them, so best to walk around with them to minimise any crying/tantrums. It will be difficult, but try to tag team sleep if you are travelling with another adult and lower your expectations (I.e. Don’t expect to get much sleep, and then any you do get will be a pleasant surprise!) Good luck! I really hope it goes well for you (or as well as can be expected). Thanks so much for commenting.

  28. Thanks for this article it’s very reassuring. Flying from UK to NZ in 3 weeks with our 15 month old and not even looking forward to the holiday as dreading the flight so much! His weight and height make him too big for the bassinet but I have heard some airlines provide seats which clip to the wall in the same way as the bassinet does? have you any experience of these?.. if they even exist. thanks again. And I’ve just ordered some Yu Yee oil.. hope it gets here on time. Sam

    • Hi Sam, I’ve never heard of those. I know that some airlines have bigger bassinet sizes than others (I.e. Singapore Airlines’ are apparently pretty large, but I know Emirates’ aren’t exceptionally big). Which airline are you flying with? Maddie

    • Hi Sam and Maddie – we took our three yo from UK to NZ recently and used lots of the tips from Maddie’s article which was really helpful! I felt the same as you Sam – dreading the flight so much that i didnt even think about the actual holiday! but in the end the flight was nowhere near as bad as I’d expected and I think our little boy quite enjoyed it actually! I was thinking afterwards that as adults we (well, I) expect kids to react as we do eg oh no, here I am stuck on this awful plane for 24 hrs, but actually, they just take things at face value and sort of get on with it! I hope that’s the case for yr flight too, good luck and thanks again for the tips Maddie.

      • That’s great news!!! I’m so pleased that your flight went well!!! You are absolutely right with what you say about kids – they are pretty adaptable and often will just roll with the punches. It sounds like you lowered your expectations and were pleasantly surprised – or put another way – planned for the worst and hoped for the best. I’m so glad it wasn’t as bad as you thought. No probs about the tips. I’m glad you found them useful! Maddie xxx

  29. Hi – have you always travelled with your babies on your lap and not bought a seat? I am travelling with my twins who will be 12 months from Sydney to London in June and have found out that a basinette isn’t always guaranteed. But I can’t really afford to purchase another seat. I will have another adult with me. I am worried that 24 hours with a baby on my lap might be too long – what do you think?

    • Hi Maeve,

      It is definitely preferable to get a bassinet – that way you have more freedom, as eating dinner in particular is very difficult if you don’t have a bassinet. I’ve never purchased an extra seat (while they were under 2 ) but over. 2 it is mandatory and, to be honest, it does make things much easier for everyone! That said, I would never bother paying the extra money for under 2s. I would just reserve bulk head seats (and bassinets if you can) as soon as you buy your tickets (you can often do this online when you book, or by calling the airline as soon as you book). Get in there ASAP and reserve, as they do get taken. And remind them again about the bassinets at check in. The main problem you’ll have is that having twins they might put you and your travelling companion in the 2 middle seats of the 4 in the row, because each bassinet takes up 2 seats (so you’ll both probably have single people on the aisles) in order for you both to sit together. Anyway, let me know how it goes. If you can’t get bassinets then it will most likely be only for one leg I.e. Sydney to Asia for example (I’m sure they’ll find you some for the other leg). It’s always best to get a bassinet if you can as it will give you more freedom. The key is to booking them as early as possible with the airline. Good luck! Maddie x

      • Thanks so much Maddie – yes I am looking into booking in the next couple of weeks and I am travelling in June – so hopefully that is early enough. Have you found any airline in particular is great for flying with babies which has overnight flights and a stopover? Not sure I have time for a few days of stopover though but could do 1 night..or if that is the case is it best to just do the hard yards and go straight through?

      • Yes, I’m sure June will be far enough ahead. I’ve heard that Singapore Airlines is good for babies, particularly because their bassinets are larger, but I’ve never flown with them ( they’ve always been more expensive, and we tend to fly Emirates when we can because they fly to London Gatwick, which is closer to where we live). We’ve flown Malaysian too – they are fine.

        Personally, if I didn’t have much time for a stopover, then I would probably just go the hard yards and get it over in one go, as they extra expense of stopping over (entry & departure charges) won’t really be worth it. It means the jet lag will hit you harder, and the trip itself will feel much longer, but at least you’ll be at your destination more quickly. And the jetlag from Syd to London isn’t nearly as bad as the other way round (Lond to Syd), so if you just plan for the worst and hope for the best, you’ll be fine. X

      • Great thanks so much for the advice..really helpful – this is my 1st overseas trip with my twins which is taking more planning than usual!

      • Sorry I meant to say Sydney/London or vice versa flights..I am starting in Sydney!

  30. I also recommend taking antihistamine/travel sickness medicine…no, NOT TO MAKE THE CHILD SLEEP! I’ve taken my daughter home to Australia from the UK twice, first time she was 8 months and it was the easiest I had it. The second time was a nightmare ( she was 19 months). Because she had grown out of the whole inner ear thing that babies have, as we started the steep decscent into Singapore, she proceded to be sick EVERYWHERE!!!! And we still had another 8 hour flight to go! Being in sinagpore, it was very difficult to find travel sickness medicine which I knew, or at least knew the ingredients ( I’m a nurse, and very careful about what medicines do/ do not contain). So if you can get some anti sickness medicine incase, its much easier than trying to find something suitable mid travel, with a child who has already suffered the effects of travel sickness! Flight back to uk was non remarkable as she did not get travel sick at all with the medication. Going again in 3 weeks time…. here’s hoping its a good flight!

  31. Thankyou very much for your tips i’m due to take my 2,3 and 5 year olds in April and will definately use your brilliant ideas.

  32. Hello, thank you for the tips! Would you mind if I linked to this from my blog in few weeks time when I start to write about our impending visit to the states and Canada? I run and will need to call on all these tips when we travel there for 5 weeks! (I’m nervous already that we won’t get a bassinet!)
    Thank you,
    Lara x

    • Hi Lara, that is absolutely fine! No problems. Good luck with your trip. Let me know how it goes. Thanks for commenting. Maddie x

  33. Hi….thanks for the tips. About to make the long haul from Copenhagen to Sydney on my own with a 12 month old. Any tips for a little one that is still crawling and not yet walking with assistance? Do i just let her crawl up and down the aisles…surely that will not make the other passengers happy. I am super nervous of how to let her move about without making a nuisance of herself.
    Any tips with regards to pillow/blanket to take with me? is a nursing pillow the best or too bulky?

    • Hi Liz,

      Yep, that’s exactly what you do – you let her crawl up and down the aisles. The flip side of that is trying to contain a wriggly baby in a lap seat, which is going to upset your fellow passengers even more, because your daughter will just start crying.

      I have generally let my two crawl around at the back of the plane or in with the cabin crew – they understand and won’t frown on what you are doing. Big aircraft like the Airbus A380 have steps leading up to the next floor at the back of the plane, and I’ve spent many hours with them going up and down these stairs. You just need to make sure you get out of the way of any cabin crew coming up and down, but I’ve never been told by cabin crew to leave these areas. I think they too realise that a happy baby is better than a crying baby. After all, babies need freedom to move around and will expect this in whatever situation you are in.

      I wouldn’t bother taking nursing pillow. If you really need one, the pillows and blankets provided should suffice. To be honest, the seats are so compact that a nursing pillow would probably overlap to the next seat! I’ve always just breastfed my two in the seat, using the armrests for support. The last thing you’ll want to worry about is lugging a bulky nursing pillow through airports with you when you’ve already got your hands full.

      I hope these tips help! Good luck! Let me know how it goes!

      Maddie xoxo

      • Hi Maddie, thanks for your advice.
        I ended up having 2 great flights. First one i was lucky and had a 3 row to myself – so i could block the end and let my daughter on the ground as much as she liked.
        The 2nd could have been a nightmare as i was squashed in-between a single man and an older couple. I started of very friendly to them all – and they were in return lovely back. Luckily i had a bassinet for both flights and they proved to be fantastic. Even when my daughter wasn’t sleeping – i could use it for all her toys etc. (which by the way Emirates give to your children.)
        The crew gave me plenty of pillows and blankets that i could use while breastfeeding too.
        The crew were fantastic as i walked up and down carrying my daughter and on the ground at the back and front of the plane. I let her on the ground in the galley in the last couple of hours, to give my neighbours a break and the stewardess’ were all talking to her and giving her toys etc. They were most helpful and friendly 🙂
        The lesson i learned on these flights was – check before buying tickets which airlines provide bassinets – as this proved invaluable as i was on my own. When she was asleep i could go to the toilet etc.
        And also not to pack so much hand luggage. Even though my baby was in a carrier when i was walking to and from flights – the hand luggage was a killer.
        Thank You for help and advice – it was much better to go in a little prepared (and prepared for the worst – then it was much better than expected)

      • Hi Liz, thanks SO much for letting me know how it went. I’m so pleased it all went well for you. I don’t think you can beat planning for the worst and hoping for the best. It looks like you got what you hoped for! Thanks for supporting my blog. Maddie xxx

  34. Great blog! I just read someone else’s blog that freaked me out because they flew during the day and their child threw up and cried for the best part of 9 hours. Nice to read something a bit more positive! My husband is from the UK and we are flying from NZ to the UK to visit his family with our 13 month old. Will be going out to purchase the Yu Yee Oil before we go 🙂

    • Hi Kat – thanks for commenting! Yeah, night flights are always best in my opinion – mainly because aeroplanes are so compact and you are really expected to stay in your seats for such a long period of time rather than walk around. This is SO much easier if the kids are tired and prepared to go to sleep. Ferries, on the other hand, are the opposite. I’ve tried overnight ferries thinking the same rule would apply as planes, but the compact cabin has been difficult, and it was SO much easier for us when we did the crossing in the day because the kids weren’t restricted and were free to run around. Good luck with your flight! Let me know how it goes. Maddie xoxo

  35. Hi Maddie,

    Great blog and thanks for sharing your tips! Just a slightly technical question though, did you travel to aus on your aus passport and with your kiddies on British passports or do they have Aussie ones? I’m a dual aus/GB citizen with both passports but my son only has British at the moment which he’ll be using with a visa when we go on holiday (been slack and not had time to sort an Aussie one for him). Anyway I read that all family members travelling with some one with an ETA also need an ETA?? But Surely this wouldn’t apply in my case. Also fretting about the fact that my hubby with same surname as my son won’t be coming (not married yet so my surname different to my sons). Anyway just wanted to see if you in the same boat and what your experiences of travel in this case was.

    • Thanks GJ! Do you know what? I’m in EXACTLY the situation you explain. I’m a dual Aus/GB citizen and have both passports, but my kids only have British ones (I figured what was the point in paying for both when they’re only valid for 5 years). But the problem for me is that both of my kids are Aussie citizens too, but just don’t have Aussie passports. I tried to get them ETAs online, but the system knew that they were already Aussie citizens and wouldn’t let me get one for them. This throws up all sorts of problems (and time delays) which is ironic, as it takes us longer to get out of the UK and into Oz than it does if they were both only British citizens! Both times I’ve gone, I’ve taken their Australian Citizenship certificates with me, but the airline desk still needs to call the Aussie embassy to check that they are indeed Aussie citizens. And then when I entered Australia they took me aside for a few minutes while they checked again. The second time I did it, they chastised me for not having sorted passports for them since when they pulled me aside last time! It’s no huge problem, because they are citizens so they will be let in eventually, but it is just the extra hassle and delay that makes it an issue, especially after two very long flights (and more work for the staff, so that’s why they chastise you!). We also nearly came a cropper when we stopped over in Thailand, as their systems to ring to check were not as direct as they were in London, so we came pretty close to missing our internal flight, but we got there in the end.

      But I think your son is not an Aussie citizen, so that won’t apply – is that the case?

      If your son is not an Aussie citizen, then he will need an ETA. But you don’t need one, being an Aussie citizen, and even if you tried to get one, the system wouldn’t let you because it will know you’re an Aussie citizen.

      My Aussie passport is still in my maiden name, so is different to both of my children, and my husband (although my British passport is in my married name – very confusing I know!) I’ve never had any problems with my surname being different, but I also always carry my marriage certificate with me and my British passport too, just in case. But you won’t have any problems there – this is a very common scenario these days and their systems acknowledge this.

      I hope this helps to ease your mind. Please feel free to get back in touch if you have any further questions.

      Good luck with it all! Let me know how it goes.

      Maddie xoxo

  36. Maddie, thankyou so much for your prompt reply 🙂 We are due to travel in a few weeks and I havent been able to find anyone in a similar situation so its a huge load off of my mind knowing that our situation is well recognised. Bearing in mind the issues you have had I think I will take my sons birth certificate to show the parental connection just in case though.

    What a nightmare for you though having to go through the mill because your kiddies are also Aussie citizens – that must have been frustrating. My son is not an Aussie citizen yet but I do want him to have dual citizenship like me eventually but think I will apply for this when he is older or if we move back, due to the costs of having two passports rather than one.

    Anyway thank you again for your great advice, I am now less stressed about doing the long flight with my little one which has definitely got to help!

    Will keep you posted about my experience.

    Glenda 🙂

  37. Tanks for the tips I will give them a go long flight next week from Dublin to Manila with 2 and 8 year olds let you know how it goes

    • My pleasure! Good luck – I’d love to hear more about how it goes, so feel free to stop back here after the big trip. Bon voyage! Maddie x

  38. Thanks for your great tips. I flew from UK to New Zealand when my little girl was 3 months old, by myself. This year I’m flying back to NZ from UK with a 23 month old, by myself. I am considering buying her a seat, as can’t bear the thought of her on my lap for 30 hours. Do you have advice whether to take a car seat on board or use the airplane seat?
    Also will the airplane supply whole milk on board? Thanks so much for your time xx

    • Hi there – I don’t usually comment but when I saw the words car seat on plane I had to say something! Taking our car seat on board was about the worst decision we made when we took our 17 month old to NZ in Feb. We thought we were super clever then once in the air realised the plane makes no discernable movement (unlike a car which stops, takes corners etc) so did not lull him to sleep. D’oh!! He hated being trapped in the car seat and because it took up the whole space (and we couldn’t stash it away) the three of us were crammed into two seats for 12 hours to Singapore. I should also mention we got a night flight that was supposed to leave at 10pm and left after 11pm. Then they proceeded to do a full dinner service and didn’t switch off the lights until 1am UK time. Our baby fell asleep in it out of sheer exhaustion, only to wake an hour later because another child started to cry. I’ve never been so relieved to get off a plane. On the positive side – the people surrounding us couldn’t have been kinder despite the overtired crying from our seats. Their understanding made it much more bearable. And yes, Singapore carried whole milk on board and our one drank it fine. I hope that helps. Ps. If you are on Singapore and going on their new planes, they are a dream. X

    • Hi Liz, I’m so sorry for the delay in replying. I’ve been away in holidays with my two and am only now just starting to catch up on things! I’ve never taken a car seat on board a plane, so I don’t know from personal experience, but there are some good comments here from Ihaka’s mummy, especially about the car seat not falling into the movement patterns of the aeroplane. I would think that maybe at 23 mths you might be best to buy a seat, but not worry about the car seat if you don’t have to – they can fall asleep on the plane seat or by leaning on your lap – as I’m thinking that at 23 mths they might be too large for a bassinet? Is that the case? If not, I would try to book one if at all possible. But if they’re not happy to be in a bassinet, then you have a long time with them on your lap, so at nearly 2, a seat might be the way to go. Also, any time there is air turbulence, you’d have to put them on your lap anyway. Wishing you the best of luck with your trip. Please do let me know what you decide and how it goes! Maddie xxx

  39. Thank you for this – we travel long haul next week with our 10 month old. It’s funny, when in labour my husband said “it’s just like a flight back home, it will be over in 24 hours”! (I laboured for 3).

    • Ha ha – yeah, I’m a bit the same. My first one was 1 hour 32 minutes I think and my second was 1 hour 26 minutes, so I can hardly talk. But I have done plenty of 24 hour flights to make up for my quick birthing technique, so I guess it all evens out in the end!!!

  40. I love your blog! for the first time, we are taking our 14month daughter ( she will be 19months old when we fly) to Hong Kong direct. ive heard that if babies are good sleeping in their car seats they will sleep on flights? is that true? if so, we will have the best flight ever! yes we have booked a night flight too, so that she sleeps if not all most of the night. she doesn’t watch TV, but onyl likes listening to music, do you reccommend any types of headphones for under 2 year olds? or will it be dangerous to their ear drums?, obviously it won’t be loud just enough so she can hear. We are packing her trunki full of snacks toys milk everything! we are very excited but some people think we are nuts! X

    • Thanks so much for your comment! Hmmm, I’m not sure if that is exactly true about the car seat thing. I’ve never taken one on board for my two, but I have heard that, because the car seat is essentially stationary throughout the flight (i.e. no rocking within the plane) then babies who are good at falling asleep in the car may not be so good falling asleep here – they may get frustrated about being strapped in. I don’t know about headphones for under 2s, but I’ve just bought a pair of these for my 2.5 year old:

      I don’t think it would be dangerous to her eardrums if you put it on quietly, but best Google ‘headphones and 2 year olds’ if you’re concerned. There is quite a lot of white noise in the cabin, so you might be lucky and the noise from the engines will make her fall asleep.

      Good luck – please come back and tell me how it all went! Kind regards, Maddie xoxo

  41. When travelling long-haul, you have no better friend on the planet than your frequent flier miles. You enlisted the help of your travel agent to find flights on which you could burn up all of your Continental miles to upgrade your entire trip. It meant catching puddle jumpers to your final destination in USA. but a couple of short extra flights were a small price to pay for 27 hours of first-class legroom, fully reclining chairs, edible meals, entertainment and breathing space.

    Wholesale escapes

  42. Great, great post! Thank you for sharing–great advice. I have a question: I will be flying to London from LA with my 22 month old on a very tight budget. Could you tell me your thoughts: Would you fly or have you flown with that age of child on your lap or would you only fly with him having he’s own seat? Thank you for answering.

    • Hi DeAnne, yes I’ve flown with that she child on my lap – actually, I’ve done it with them in a bassinet provided by the airline when you sit in the bulkhead seats. Having one of these is good because it frees up your hands so you can eat, etc. I’ve flown by myself with an infant on my lap without one if them (none left) and it was tricky because it is impossible to eat and the flight attendants won’t hold your baby (I had to rely on the kindness of the person sitting next to me to do so – bless him, he was a young man in his early 20s!!!) I would never pay out to buy a seat if I didn’t have to – save your money, you’ll be fine with a bassinet – just try to book one with your airline as soon as you book your ticket to ensure you get one reserved. Thanks for visiting and commenting. Let me know how it goes! Maddie x

      • Thank you Maddie for your quick reply. I am finding the airlines have their bulkhead seats are now the exit isles and the bassinets are for babies under 8 months. So, its lap all the way. 🙂 which airlines have you flown, perhaps I can check in with those to see if they fly from La to London. Thank you again for your great article and advice! Blessings to you and your family!

      • Hi DeAnne – wow, 8 months does sound young for a cut off limit on the use of bassinets – my two have definitely been in them older than this, but some airlines do it by length/weight and my two have always been small for their age, so maybe that’s it. Are you travelling with someone else or on your own? If you have someone with you then having a lap baby will be fine, as you can always take turns in eating, etc. If you’re on your own then this can be difficult, but Etihad are the most child friendly airline, as they have special ‘Flying Nannies’ who will help you with your children. Many other airlines won’t help for health and safety reasons. I’ve flown Emirates and Malaysian before – they don’t really help but I think they are less strict on the bassinet age. I hope that helps! Good luck. Maddie xxx

  43. Luggage allowances vary widely, so if you need to carry a lot of baggage (as we did), it can help to shop around. You’ll also be wanting a personal entertainment system on every seat, kids’ meals and any kids’ goodies you can get your hands on (some airlines offer play packs etc.). When choosing your airline and seat.

    Wholesale escapes

  44. You’ll also be wanting a personal entertainment system on every seat, kids’ meals and any kids’ goodies you can get your hands on some airlines offer play packs etc.

  45. This is awesome! I’m flying from UK to Australia with my 18 month old in a couple of weeks. I will definately be stocking up on cbeebies for the iPad! Thank you for sharing!

  46. I have just booked tickets to fly from Oz to the UK by myself with 3 wee monsters under the age of 7. I did it 2 years ago when i had a 9 month old, 2 yr old and 4 yr old and learnt LOADS from the experience! I bought 2 car seats with me – big mistake.They were cumbersome to get on the plane and the kids refused to stay in them, so I ended up stashing them in the hold when we changed planes at Singapore. I also bought too many games and activities, almost a whole cabin bag, in fact. The children watched movies, slept and explored, and completely ignored the bag of treasures i had taken weeks putting together. 🙂 Next time i plan to carry far less: probably just an iNanny (saves carting around DVDs and DVD players) and a colouring book for each of them.
    One problem i haven’t yet found a solution to is how to stop the kids sliding off their seats when they are sleeping. Perhaps my lot are just big wrigglers but they wanted their seat belts slightly loosened so they could curl up comfortably, which meant they then somehow wriggled their way underneath and onto the floor. I am wondering whether you or any of your readers can suggest any solutions. I have seen additional airplane seat belts ( and am considering buying a couple for my youngest. Has anyone used them?
    Many thanks!

    • hi everyone… thx for such relevant information. .. I also have same concerns as Rachel about whether I should use any special harness for my 3 year old.. I m tavelling in December with my daughter alone for the first time with a connecting flight from jfk to dubai and then from dubai to India.. I m not planning to take her car seat or stroller coz it will be difficult for me to manage her and our hand luggage that way… pls share your recommendations to help her sleep properly and also if taking stroller is a better idea..


  47. Thank you so much for your blog/post! We’re preparing for a 16hr flight from Vancouver, Canada to Sydney, Aus with our 2yr old (28 months). He’s only ever flown short haul and typically sleeps the majority. So we’re really nervous about this one! I love tip #7 and know it’ll definitely help him get into bedtime mode. And the Yu Yee Oil. Will def be picking some of that up before we go. Fingers crossed it goes as smoothly as possible. And I’ll beach with any new tips I pick up. 🙂

  48. #2 and #5 are good shouts. Sleep deprive the kid before the flight and they’ll sleep most of the way. Longest I’ve flown is 14+ hours from Europe to China and that was about as long as I could do solo. I couldn’t care for a kid for 24 hours straight. I exercise but even I, after 14+ hours of flying was about to collapse after that flight, because it’s not just 14+ hours, as you are at the airport 3 hours before, 1-2 hours after, add 1 hour either side for commuting to the airport and that is 21 hours!

  49. Hi Maddie, this post seems to be quite popular so no need to reply if you’re tired of the subject! … but I wanted to say that feel a lot of love for you right now for making my apprehension about MY long haul flight tomorrow a little easier. Lots of great tips, and many more from my fellow respondents.

    I’m going Bangkok to London with my 4yo and 18month old tomorrow … and mother is staying here, so it’s just me! I was originally doing one leg with BA and then changed to Emirates night flight in two legs, but I don’t know that’s any wiser. We’ll have to see.

    Well. All the questions I have have been answered here so thank you to all. Great post, much better than the others I’ve read.

    I’m actually going to read it another time because I’m petrified again.


    • Do it Suzanne! The positives your daughter will get from seeing her uncle in Oz will be worth so much more than some potential hardship on an aeroplane. Even a difficult flight is forgotten pretty much immediately – it’s like pain – and the memories you make with your family will be remembered forever. I’ve just taken my two again to Oz (on my own this time) so will be writing another post with some new tips soon – watch this space! Maddie xoxo

    • Hi Kathryn, I’ve never done this. I guess it depends on how much your little one likes to sit in their car seat. You don’t get the whole rocking motion like you do in a car so they might find it more difficult to fall asleep and they might get annoyed being strapped in for long periods of time. You’ll also have to lug the car seat round – not great when you have a load of other things to worry about. Personally, i don’t think i would bother as i wouldn’t think it would be worth the hassle, but mine have always been totally fine on a seat of their own. It has to be an approved car seat too so you’d have to check that yours is ok to take on board. Good luck with your flight. Let me know what you decide.

      • Going to use CARES. It’s what Qantas recommends. It’s just some straps that go on chair and act like car seat. Thanks for the advice

  50. Pingback: Emirates SFO-DXB—16 Hours with a Toddler!

  51. Pingback: Emirates SFO-DXB—16 Hours with a Toddler! | ✈ via vola

  52. Thank you for the great tips!

    With travelling with a todler who is too big for the basonette do you have any tips on how they can sleep in the chair on the flight? Is there anything you can get to help sleep more comfortable?

    I’m planning on travelling with a 2 year old and am worried about her not sleeping comfortably. I’ve read that some bulkhead seats do not have arm rests that lift because of the TV screen in the arm. any advise would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

    • Pleasure Neil – glad you’ve found them helpful! In my experience, I’ve never had a problem with toddlers sleeping in their chair. They might stay up a bit later than normal, but they generally crash pretty solidly (babies in bassinets, not quite so much, but toddlers in seats are pretty zonked once they’re out). I really don’t think you need to worry. But if you want to give a bit of a helping hand, my husband and I have two of these, and both Gammon and Chips love to use them: They just help with that whole ‘trying to sleep sitting up’ thing. Toddlers generally slump and because they’re not very big, they’ll somehow manage to curl up on their seat lying down – the difficult thing is making sure they have their seatbelt round them at all times – but again, sort this out before they fall asleep and it shouldn’t be a problem. Good luck! Please pop back once it’s over and tell me how it went! Maddie xoxo

  53. Just about to embark on my first trip with my 3 month old. It surprised me that the hostesses don’t offer to hold the baby. Where do I change him?

    • In the aeroplane’s toilet – they all have change tables that come down over the toilet.

  54. Hi maddie, thanks so much for the tips. I’m about to travel to the UK from Aus with my 2.5 year old and 6 month old, on my own. Have you any tips on travelling solo with 2 kiddies? I’m absolutely dreading it!!

    • Hi Wendy, have you booked your ticket yet? If so, who are you flying with and what time flight is it? I’ve just done the trip solo with my two. Different ages to yours, and I was totally dreading it too, but they were actually pretty good. Make sure you specifically order a kids’ meal for your 2.5 year old, otherwise they’ll give them an adult meal. And double confirm it with the airline, as I ordered kids’ meals for my two but the order didn’t make it across, so I struggled with two hungry kids the whole flight across. Annoying as it should have been avoided if the orders went across properly. Will your 2.5 year old wear headphones & watch telly? That made the trip doable for my two TBH.

  55. Hi Maddie, i came across your post while looking up airplane survival tricks and tips and your post came as a ray of hope over all the anxiety i have had of flying solo with my 2 year old. I am flying solo London- Mumbai in September with my son. Really appreciate all the tips and words of encouragement. Thank you.

  56. Next month I am taking my family from New Zealand to England. My eldest daughter is 10, so she will be able to keep herself occupied quite well. My youngest is 8 weeks, so we are hoping she will sleep large parts of the journey. That leaves our middle child, who is almost 2 and full of energy! I am trying to think of as many things as I can to keep her occupied but I know it will be a long journey no matter what! So far, ideas I have are colouring books, ipad, download Frozen (her favourite film). I am hoping we get a good flight and passengers don’t get too grumpy with us!

    • Hi Michael, yep – I’m sure your 10 year old will be fine – she’ll put those headphones on and probably won’t take them off until you land! And yes, your 8 week old should sleep for large parts, both night and day. Your two year old may find it a bit more difficult – not quite old enough to use the seat back TVs and still needing to burn off energy. But my experience (blanket generalisation of course) is that girls are generally more suited to plane trips than boys, and are much better at sitting down and staying sat down… so you might be lucky! I would be careful not to bring TOO many things/toys that will just be annoying for you to carry and get to. That’s why I love the iPad, because it does SO many different things in one easy-to-carry case – films, books, games, songs, colouring apps, etc. Don’t forget to get her some special 2-year old sized headphones if you don’t have any already, otherwise she might struggle to keep adult ones on her head. You’ll probably have to walk the aisles a bit to burn up energy, but that’s to be expected (even adults do that!) If you’re on an A380 sometimes they’ll let you climb up and down the stairs too. Good luck! Let me know how it goes. Maddie x

  57. You’re hilarious! I was laughing out loud reading this.

    Great tips though! I’m about to fly alone again with my 18month old. She’s been over a lot of seas by plane in her short life already, but each trip is so different, depending on her age. She’s done Cape Town to Vancouver and Cape Town to Antigua, WI a number of times and it’s been fine. I generally opt for a long layover in LHR, between the two long hauls, so she sleeps on the night flights, but I was planning on pushing through the break this time, just to get there quicker. I think I’ll stick to the break, like you suggested though, and put up with two red-eyes- or four, for that matter.

    I find breaking the legs up a necessity if you’re travelling across major time zones. For example, Vancouver to Heathrow’s red-eye is fine because the babe is on Pacific time and sleeps through the night. But, the next red eye is on London time (9hrs ahead) down to Cape Town. So, while everyone else is trying to catch a wink, you’ve got a kid on daytime speed, running around the plane babbling her life story away to anyone with an eye mask on. 12hrs of, not cool.

    Hanging out in the Galley becomes your best option to avoid stabbing yourself in the eye with the cocktail stick from your 10th gin and tonic.

    Thanks again. This was great. x

  58. We are getting ready for a flight from south Africa to Brisbane and I had heart palpitations every time I thought about my 3 year old and my 7 year old on the long haul flights. Thanks for these tips. I’m sure they’ll come in handy!

  59. Thanks so much for the tips! I’m flying solo from US to Europe with my 2 year old DD and 2 month old DS, so I’ll need a mountain of luck 🙂 especially in the airport where running after a toddler isn’t always practical whilst wearing a baby!

    • Thanks for commenting. Glad you liked the tips. Good luck with your flight!!!! Maddie 🙂

  60. Wow This blog post has been going for a long time!!! I am about to fly LON -AUK with a very active sitting, crawling pulling himself up 6 month old…. I’m definitely going to book a bassinet seat but my question is, if we cant break up the journey with a stopover, is a longer transfer time better? eg is it better to spend 12 hours in Dubai airport that 1? or is that an equal nightmare ?

    • Hi Olivia and thanks for commenting. I would definitely advise against a 12-hour stopover at the airport because that is a long time. The ticket is probably cheaper because of the inconvenience, but with a 6 month old you’d need to do a short stay at the airport hotel, which would most likely negate any savings. Defo go straight through and get it over and done with. Good luck! Maddie x

  61. Very great read, and right on time. We go on our first long haul flight in a month! Just a 15month old and a Mama adventuring from DC to Thailand.

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  63. 🙂 Thanks – I’ve been so worried – will be flying with a 4 month old to New Zealand next March from Sweden.
    This really put me at ease!

  64. This is really useful! I’m contemplating flying with my 21 month old son from Boston to Perth (without dear husband!) – and reading this post helps to convince me I can do it (and survive)! I was also thinking about doing a layover in Dubai to help break up the journey – hard even for adults to do 24 hrs of flight time! One question I did have is where did the kids sleep on the plane? Should I bring the car seat and have him sleep in that? Or do kids do fine/ok just sleeping on a regular plane seat? I really wanted to avoid the car seat – the fewer things to lug around the better! I know it’s been a while since you wrote the post but figured it’s worth a shot!

    • Hi MamaWalla, If you take your car seat, then you’ll have to pay for a seat for your son (which is around 85% of the adult cost) because it needs to be strapped in I’m pretty sure (you can’t just put it on the floor). So I personally wouldn’t, but it depends on your flight budget. If they sit on your lap then they’re virtually free I think. It might be worth Googling which airlines have bassinets/carrycots up to 2 years – some do I think. That’s your best bet I think. Otherwise he’ll just have to sit on your lap, which can be tricky for things like eating, but there are always lovely people on the plane prepared to hold your son while you eat. The other option is to buy a seat for him, but I don’t think I’d bring the car seat as it’s a bugger to lug around. Just put the normal seatbelt on him and he’ll be fine… although he’ll probably spend a lot of the flight on your lap/or walking around the cabin with you anyway – the extra seat is just handy for if he falls asleep on you, then you can lay him down to sleep on the seat. If you do have him on your lap, then when you check in at the desk, ask if there are any empty seats – airlines are pretty happy to give any spare seats to parents with babies on their laps. Even if they say there are no spare seats, it’s definitely worth asking the flight crew when you board, as sometimes people fail to make their flight, and again, the crew will be happy to move you to take advantage of the spare seat if you’re a mum with a baby on your lap. Hope that helps! Good luck! X

  65. Thank you for the great tips (I have just discovered this post!) I am just about to embark on a 10 hour flight with a 3 and 5 year old and am terrified…I shall be using all of the tips mentioned thank you xx

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  69. Hello Maddie,
    Thankyou for this wonderful post. I am travelling with my 1yr old and 5yr old sons next week. To be honest I havent slept for the past few days thinking about the travel.
    We are travelling from UK to India, its a day flight, so i dont expect my kids to sleep much. The worst part is we reach India in the middle of the night, have a 7hr layover before we catch our domestic flight.
    Could you give some tips on suriving the layover? Is it ok to let your children sleep on the floor near the gate.
    I am mostly embarrased as to what people would think.

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