21 Ways to Survive a Long Flight With a Toddler

21 tips for surviving a long flight with a toddler

Where do I begin???

In the past three weeks, we have celebrated Rosh Hashanah, taken an AMAZING girl’s trip to NYC,  celebrated Husband’s 32nd birthday, had some crazy family news, had a few different friends come stay with us AND spent 11 days in South Korea! Life has seemed upside down lately and I am desperately trying to get back to some sort of normalcy. Especially when it comes to sleep…this jet-lag has been insane. FYI, worst part of traveling with a toddler is dealing with their jet-lag.

Speaking of toddlers and jet-lag, can we talk about the scariest part of traveling with kids….the flight!

Before our flights to Korea I messaged a group of friends (Moms) and asked them how they felt, morally, about giving a toddler Benadryl on 13 hour flight… to which they responded, they are morally opposed to flying with a toddler for 13 hours in general. Not very helpful, but honest advice. I was deep in the throes of packing for our trip and desperately trying to plan forms of entertainment for Luna. Just to give you an idea of how much entertainment I needed, from our front door to our first stop in Seoul, we had a total of 20 travel hours….that’s like 3,000 episodes Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. I needed other forms of entertainment besides the iPad.

So, being me, I began a list, and you know what? It’s kind of bad ass. If you have a long flight (or any flight) coming up with your kids…you’ve GOT to steal some of these ideas!

21 tips for surviving a long flight with a toddler

ALWAYS begin by using EVERYTHING around you before ever opening that bag full of goodies. Exhaust the new and exciting in-flight junk first. (Not the TV…save the best for last.)

1.Look out the window. What do you see?  How many planes can you find? What are those people doing? What colors/shapes/objects do you see? Play “I spy”. Even teaching them how to use the window shade can be entertaining.

2. Look through the free catalogs. Ask similar questions from #1. Let them draw in it, pretend to read, pick out what they like, find letters, etc, etc. Luna particularly like the plane safety brochure.

3. Teach them about the plane. Show them how the arm rest goes up and down, where their lights and air vents are, where the headphones go, how to use the tray table and whatever else you can find. (Warning, Luna became a bit obsessed with her tray table and was pissed when we had to put it up for take-off and landing.)

4. Once you’re in the air, take a field trip! Periodically, we would tour the plane. We’d walk to the bathrooms, visit the flight attendants (maybe ask for an extra snack or juice), look out the windows in the back of the plane, do yoga, tip-toe down the aisles and even pretend to be on a bear hunt.

Exhausted all the “in-flight” goodies? It’s time to open up the good stuff!

5. Most importantly, do NOT take out multiple items. Take out one toy/game/activity at a time and let them use it for as long as possible.

6. Pack masking tape (or painter’s tape). This stuff is so cool! You can use it to make car or train tracks on the tray table or chair. You can roll it up and make a sticky ball to toss around. You can tear strips in cover the tray table or seat and have them rip them up one by one. It doesn’t leave any sticky residue and is so easy!

You can use my Amazon affiliate link to buy painter’s tape here!

7. Bring window clings. We had a bunch of Halloween window clings from the $1 bin at Target and Luna LOVED sticking them on the airplane window. She’d put them on, take them off, stick them to her tray table and then repeat the process.

8. Bring those “mess free color wonder” markers and coloring books. Magic!


9. Make a tent. International flights give you nice big blankets. I tucked Luna’s blanket into both the seat in front of and behind her and made a “tent”. It kept her area separate, dark and special. She LOVED being in her tent!

10. Pack a couple of their favorite toys. Luna has been obsessed with her little princess figurines lately. I brought a few for her to play with because, a) they’re small, b) they’re replaceable and c) I knew she’d be excited to play with them.

11. Pack a couple of new toys. I picked up two Buzz and Woody action figures from the Dollar Tree. Cheap and easy! It’s always exciting to get a new toy too.

12. Use reusable sticker pads. Two days before we left, I happened to see a coupon on Target’s cartwheel app for a Melissa and Doug reusable sticker pad and thought might as well give it a shot! It was a rather larger pad so I tore out a few pages and packed them in the backpack for the plane. So glad I did, because these were a big hit!

Here’s the one I bought.


13. “Paint with water” coloring books. This one can be a tiny bit messy, but SO WORTH IT. These little coloring books come with little squares of water colors on each page. I got a cup of water from the flight attendant, dipped Luna’s brush in and let her go to town! Our main rule was that I get to dip her brush in the water. Extra perk: I found ours in the $1 bin at Target! Score!

14. Stickers. duh. Also, temporary tattoos. Can you guess where I found ours…? That’s right, Target’s $1 bin!

Exhausted from all this creative play??? Don’t forget about nap and bedtime!

15. Make nap and bedtime as routine as possible! Brush teeth, put on pj’s, bring their lovey, read books….(did I mention to pack a couple of children’s books?). Whatever it is that you do at home, try to do it on the plane. Tuck them in under the darkness of their tent and say a little prayer that they actually sleep.

16. Tent and chair not working? Make a pallet on the floor below your feet. This works especially well if you have the entire row to your family.

17. If your doctor gives you the clear, you can try Benadryl. If it works, then you may all get some sleep and feel better when you land. (Luna actually had a horrible cold when we left for Korea so she really needed some meds, but unfortunate for us, they didn’t make her the least bit sleepy.)

When all else fails….

18. Time for T.V.! Thank God, most international flights provide individual TV’s for each seat. Typically, they give you several of options too, including kids’ TV shows, movies and games.

19, Do not forget to pack child friendly headphones. They will stay on much better than the free ones from the airline and are volume controlled.

20. Maybe bring back up. We also brought our iPad. It was stocked with Luna’s favorite shows and she liked that she could hold it and control it herself. Not to mention, you can use it everywhere else on the trip.

21. FINAL TIP, pack the Xanax. When that little angel of yours loses it and starts acting like a demon, just pass the whole bottle around the plane. Your’e welcome.

toddler on international flight

Alright friends, what do you do on long trips with your kids? Anyone having big trips coming up? I am dying to hear all about it!



4 Replies to “21 Ways to Survive a Long Flight With a Toddler”

  1. Misti Sanchez says: Reply

    Great ideas! Now I just need tips for keeping adults happy.

    1. positivelypanicked says: Reply

      bahahaha! Umm…snacks, alcohol and xanax! Peter had a cocktail of Dramamine, Xanax and Excedrin, worked great for him!

  2. Hilarie! You sound like a pro! Those are all really great ideas!

    1. positivelypanicked says: Reply

      Thanks Kali!!! I do like to think of myself that way! lol

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