Guest Post: Happily Enduring Long Flights With Little Kids, Part 2

by Laura on May 8, 2013

Here is the much anticipated Part 2 ofGuest Post: Happily Enduring Long Flights With Little Kids.”  A big thank you to my sister Heather, living abroad for the Foreign Service, for sharing these airline tips she’s collected from herself and other expat friends.  

Check out Part 1, if you missed it for toy ideas, emergency bag discussion, snacks, sleeping, and other incentives.

Guest Post: Happily Enduring Long Flights With Little Kids,

Part 2


6.         CAR SEATS and Strollers?

This is a huge debate and really only you can decide what will work for you and meet your needs.  For me, I feel like I will probably do it a little differently each time I fly because each time there will always be new variables.  For my long flight to Taiwan, I had an infant and a toddler.  It was important for me to be able to put my baby down to sleep and to be able to protect and keep her closed off from everyone during that time, so her car seat was vital!! For the toddler, from past trips I knew she was quite active on planes and had trouble lying back or on my lap to sleep. I wanted to be able to move and not be perfectly still when she slept (in case the baby woke up) so again, the car seat for her was necessary.

For me, my double stroller (Baby Jogger City Select Stroller with 2nd Seat) made a big difference in going through the terminal.  It was a pain and a half going through security, but after that it made for smooth sailing.  The stroller was also good when the toddler got tired of having to walk long distances through the airport.  I also had my front pack for going through security and getting on the plane.  Before boarding the plane though, I packed up the stroller in a travel bag so I didn’t have to do it with a line of people waiting on me.  You can ask the airplane attendant to help take it on the plane if you are alone.

One option to keep in mind for new babies (up to 6-8 months depending on the airline) is the airline provided baby bassinet. I have never used one myself, but have heard good reviews from others.   It attaches to the seat so your baby can sleep as normal.  There is a little zipper “bag” that needs to be over the top of the child to ensure they are secure, so this is really ideal for babies who still like to be swaddled.  It also gives you more space to move your baby and change their clothes if needed.  The only downside to the bassinet is that you have to sit in the bulkhead row of the plane, which means you cannot put any bags under the seat in front of you.  This would be mainly an issue on take off and landing, since you could slide the bag in front of the baby’s seat after that.  If you do decide to sit in the bulkhead row to use a bassinet, make sure you call the airline well in advance to reserve it.

For our next long trip, I will be pregnant (hopefully) and have a 2 year old and 4 year old.  I will probably bring the car seat for the toddler and maybe a travel type pillow for my 4 year old.   If I travel without my husband, I might have to forgo the car seat for the 2 year old, but if I can wield it, it’s coming!  When we come back (with a newborn), I will probably opt for a baby bassinet.


Self-questionnaire (since every situation is different):

  • Can you manage the car seats in the terminal?

(My stroller enabled me to travel with both car seats no problem.)

  • How will my kid sleep on the plane? Will they sleep better in a car seat?

(Both my kids slept great in their car seats at the time.)

  • How will I keep them sitting down? Do they like their car seat?

(My toddler did a lot better being contained.  I knew she wouldn’t mind too much because she had done pretty well on long car trips. )

  •  Will it matter that it might be difficult to use the tray table with a car seat?

(For me it didn’t really matter)

  • Do I want to buy my child his/her own seat?

(For a long flight I SAY YES!)

  • Is your car seat light enough for you to lug around the airport?

(I have the Combi Cocorro Lightweight Convertible Car Seat and it worked great for my toddler!)

  • Is my car seat FFA approved?

You might want to bring documentation of this with you.  You can find this info in the user’s manual.


7.         Scheduling Advice

There are different trains of thought for when to fly with kids.   Some people really like to start their flight at night so that their child will sleep more of the flight.  Then your child will sleep for at least 5 or more hours right at the beginning of the flight and it gets a large chunk of time out of the way.  I can see why this could be great for some families.

For us, though, night flights have not always worked out like that especially for flights over 10 hours.  It was always better if everyone got as much good sleep as possible the night before the flight, so we at least all start on a full tank.  Since my husband and I both have trouble sleeping on flights, we are also much more patient if we get our full sleep the night before we leave too.

Infant feeding Schedule: In my experience, it was best to forget the 3 hour regiment for your flight and feed on demand. Most importantly, breastfeed your baby or give them a bottle as you start ascending/descending for take off and landing. Let your toddler suck on a sucker or give them a drink they like a lot in their sippy cup during this time too.  This will help them depressurize their ears and save everyone a lot of pain.

During layovers, even if you are tired, encourage the kids to get out some energy.   Most airports have a kid play area.  If you can, find it and let the kids play there as long as possible.

When you get to the new place, try to keep the kids awake until close to bedtime to help them adjust to the new time.  This might be the most painful part of the trip.


8.         Cool Gadgets

These aren’t essential items but they can make the world of difference if they work for you.

  • Good pair of kid earphones:  In-flight movies and games can be very entertaining for a little while, but not if your kid is frustrated and uncomfortable from ill-fitting earphones offered on the plane.  Invest in good kid earphones.  This made a huge difference for us.  Here are the ones we purchased.

  • Skyrest Inflatable Child Travel Pillow: I cannot personally vouch for this inflatable travel pillow, but I have friends who travel extensively and can’t live with out it.  I am strongly considering it for my 3 year old now instead of her car seat, because her car seat doesn’t recline.  This unique pillow, once inflated, fills the area between your kid’s seat and the seat in front, which expands the surface area of the seat and forms a quasi bed.   It allows them to stretch out to sleep in a more natural position.  When awake, it offers them additional play area and you won’t loose things under their seat for mommy to fish out!


  •  Multi-Passport holder-: Find a secure holder for all the passports, tickets, and other important documents and keep it in a safe place.  Mine resembles this one:

9.         Have Fun

Try to realize the benefit of getting to spend a ton of time right next to your kids.  You can play games, I spy, play dolls together, whatever you want.  There are really not too many other distractions with phone calls or dinner to be made or the house to be cleaned, so enjoy it.  Here are some things we do to let out energy and have fun:

  •  Play “Car” games with them.  Happy Little Travelers has a ton of fun word games or imagination games that can be tweaked just a little to work for an airplane.
  •  Play with the ice they give you.  See how many they can hold in their mouth.  Have dolls skate with it, whatever! It’s only a bit of water.
  •  Let them run circles around the cabin or crawl up the stairs.  Do your best to have this happen when the whole cabin is not asleep, but if they are, make it a game.  My little one needed to walk around when people were sleeping so we played “tiptoe super quietly” around the cabin.  After a while, she just quietly did laps without disturbing too many people.
  •  Invest in creating a good relationship with the flight attendants.  Maybe the flight attendant will let you visit the cockpit or give your munchkin a special snack.   A happy, helpful flight attendant can make or break a trip, so be kind to them (maybe even have your kid draw them a picture) and hopefully they will return the favor.
  •  Fingerplays or fun little clapping games
    These can be a lot of fun and usually aren’t too noisy.
  •  Make a window display together with sticky notes.  Sun, moon, etc.
  • Watch videos of your kids together on your iPhone or iPad.  A fun, enjoyable activity.


10.         Find Humor in Mishaps

I have found that a little humor goes a long way.  If your child spills a drink, it isn’t the end of the world.  Clean it up, change clothes, and feel satisfied that you were prepared with an extra set of clothes.  Super Mom!  (or Dad!)  If you aren’t losing your cool, it helps a lot to ease other people around you and helps your other kids to see you are still in control.


So that’s it!!  I hope you aren’t feeling overwhelmed! For me, I would rather have way more information than less.  Good luck, plan well, and enjoy your next flight!

Questions: How have you handled the scheduling changes with your little ones?  Any other tips you would add that have worked well for your family on a plane?


Guest Author: Heather About the Author:

Heather is the mother of two adorable girls and has been happily married for 8 years.  She graduated from BYU in Elementary Education with an ESL minor.  Her family is currently living abroad for her husband’s job with the Foreign Service.  They are greatly enjoying their new adventures as expatriates.


Other related posts:

She Told Me I Should Throw My Baby Off the Plane

Preboarding with Young Kids

Keeping a Preschooler Busy on the Plane

To Carseat or Not to Carseat?  Airplane Traveling and your Toddler

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Andrea, Passports And Pushchairs May 8, 2013 at 11:34 am

Great advice! We stop using car seats pretty early, 16 months or so, because my kids are kickers and would kick the seat in front of them and the car seat puts them at the right angle for that. We use the CARES harness and it works great!


Laura May 8, 2013 at 1:21 pm

Yes, I always have that problem too! The CARES harness is a good idea. And…love your website. Lots of great ideas :)


Andrea, Passports And Pushchairs May 8, 2013 at 3:05 pm

Thank you! I am envious of people whose kids can be contained in a car seat on a plane, would make life so much easier during the flight!


Heather Woodruff May 15, 2013 at 5:36 am

I have been lucky that so far I haven’t done really long flights without another adult so we were able to have somebody sit in front of the kicking toddler when we arranged the seats. That won’t always be the case in my future though so that’s good to think about. Thanks Andrea!


Cheri June 13, 2013 at 12:34 am

Love the tips! I’ll have to look into the CARES thing. We like to check our carseats because we put them in carseat bags and use the extra space to put more stuff and prevent our other bags from going over the 50 lb limit. The airlines never care that our carseat bags are always filled with shoes, socks, diapers, or a trash bag of dirty clothes on the way back. As long as there’s a carseat in there too, they are fine with it.

I love the travel blow-up pillow too. Fabulous!

We have a very kid friendly pair of headphones that are a must when we travel. If you have more than one child, don’t forget the splitter!

Great posts! Good job, Heather!


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