Ask Shelly: Tips for long-haul / overseas flights with baby?

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Here is a question from a reader in Australia that I’m sure many of you may share. While I’ve addressed some of these issues in various parts of Travels with Baby, here are some tips specific to travel with a baby around 13 months, and a few new ideas.

Hi Shelly,


I live in Australia and we’re heading off to Mexico in a few weeks. Just wondering if you had any tips for long haul flights and jet-leg/time-zone/sleep tips?


My son will be 13 months, he’s a ‘good baby’ but from a few domestic flights we’ve done I know that just keeping the peace and entertaining a happy baby in confined spaces can be tough, let alone when they’re cranky/tired etc.


Any tips for long hauls would be great.



I’ll start by saying, “Hooray for you!” I bet you guys will have an absolute blast on your vacation.

Now, as far as long-haul flights with a baby are concerned, that’s a biggie. Turbulence is also a more frequent issue over the Pacific than it is on some other routes, so you’ll want to mentally prepare yourselves for some unanticipated stretches confined to your seats as well, and give safety some extra consideration if yours will be flying as a lap child (consider the Baby B’Air if your airline won’t provide belly belts).

Here are a few tips that may help on your overseas flight with your 13-month-old:

1. Plan your flight time in segments, but don’t worry if the segments go in a different order from what you’d expect them to. For example, if he usually goes to sleep not long after your departure, don’t be surprised if the cabin environment is too exciting to sleep for the first couple of hours. Try not to sweat it (with any luck this will even help prepare him for the change in time zones). Sticking to your segments, but staying flexible with the order should help you all keep your sanity.

2. Some ideas for flight segments with your 1-year-old might look like: Eating time #1, Adventure Walk to the Lavatory #1 (perhaps by way of the galley to say high to a flight attendant and get a cup of water), Discovering Baggie of Small Toys #1, Finger-fishing for crackers in Snack Catcher Round #1, Adventure Walk to the Lavatory #2 while searching for other babies, Reading Books time #1, and (finally) Sleeping time #1.

3. Be sure to plan some segments that include some physical activity that can be done at your seats. Keeping hands busy can be very helpful when the rest of the body must stay put. Magnadoodle drawing boards, stacking cups, and small zip bags filled with interesting objects from the kitchen can be useful.

4. Avoid snacks and foods with high sugar content and, of course, juice in flight. This may sound like a no-brainer, but keep in mind that even yogurt often has as high of sugar content as fruit juice. Little people feel it—especially on long flights.

5. Make sure you have your Baby Travel Kit for Carry On fully stocked and with you in the cabin to help alleviate any discomforts that may crop up in flight (see tip below and more info in Chapter 15 of Travels with Baby).

If you haven’t already, check these sections in Part 5 of Travels with Baby that you might also find helpful in these final weeks before your trip:

  • Selecting Your Seats
  • Carry-on Considerations
  • Planning Your In-Flight Entertainment
  • Clearing Security with Small Children (and a Small Mountain of Gear)
  • Ear Pressure, Pain, and Relief
  • I could go on, but will stop myself here. 😉

What to Pack in Your Baby’s Travel Kit for Carry-On

Safe journey,

Shelly Rivoli, author of the award-winning guide Travels with Baby
The Ultimate Guide for Planning Trips with Babies, Toddlers, and Preschool-Age Children

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