How to Survive a Flight with a Preschooler – Part 1

Survive a Flight with a Preschooler

Earlier this year, Mr J and I braved what we thought was the impossible – a 9hr flight with an almost 3yr old. To give a bit of context, the furthest we’d ever ventured before was a 2.5hr drive to Center Parcs with the comfort of a fully packed car which quite literally included the kitchen sink – well, at least rubber gloves and washing up liquid!

Instead of remaining in our staycation bubble, we decided to embrace Disney World’s policy of not charging for under 3’s and ventured forth to Orlando.

It wasn’t a decision we made easily. Apart from the significant cost, we questioned whether Wonderboy would manage the time difference, would he be ok in the fierce heat and was there actually enough for little ones to do? Sure, the parks all have rollercoasters aplenty, but how much can a 92cm tall 2yr old do and, more importantly, would he actually enjoy it?

For us though, the biggest hurdle was – how do you get a little boy, who constantly has ants in his pants, to sit (relatively) still for 9hrs on a flight? As always, I turned to the almighty Google for answers and sadly found very little. Advice for entertaining older children was plentiful but, as we all know, preschoolers are a completely different kettle of fish from school age children. They have precious little patience, energy to burn, are not always reasonable and, if you’re Wonderboy, have the attention span of a gnat. My poor husband was so put off by the prospect, we nearly didn’t book what turned out to be an amazing family adventure. Instead, we felt the fear and did it anyway – hurrah!

So, in a bid to save you the hours I spent fruitlessly scouring cyberspace for suggestions, here are my tried and tested tips for surviving a flight with a pre-schooler …


Manage Your Expectations

However smoothly your flight goes, it’s unlikely to be the best day your family has ever spent together. Little ones will get tired, fidgety and, once the novelty has worn off, bored. It can be hard work but it’s a small price to pay for your fab holiday so just keep your eye on the prize Mummies!


Toiletry Bag

Keep whatever toiletries you need – pull ups, nappies, wipes, nappy sacks, disposable changing mat (hello Pound Shop ;)) and any medicines – in a separate little bag within your handluggage. I then kept this in the seat pocket in front of me for easy access and to save lugging a massive bag to the tiny toilet.


Change of Clothes

Have at least one change of clothes for your little one (and yourself) in your handluggage. Then if anything spills, or worst case scenario they’re travel sick, it’s easily dealt with. Keeping a spare plastic bag is also useful for keeping any wet or dirty clothes separate.


Comfortable Clothes

After take off, the first thing we did was change Wonderboy into PJ’s for full on stretchy comfort. A comfy child is a (relatively) happy child!


Ear Popping

Over the two flights we had, Wonderboy only looked a bit uncomfortable on one descent. I think it’s just luck to be honest – I have terrible ears myself. To try and head off any sore ears we gave him some ibruprofen 30mins before take off and descent. We also gave him a dummy to encourage him to suck to relieve the pressure and gave him drinks of water. I’ve heard of people using ear plugs which are probably worth a go if you know your little one struggles.


Snacks, Snacks and More Snacks

Take plenty of their firm favourites. Not sure I’d recommend endless sugary treats (though I’m not opposed to a bit of bribery ;)) unless you want a hyper pre-schooler in a confined space but we took raisins, oat bars, breadsticks, crisps, fruit and yoghurt. Just remember that depending on which country you’re destined for, you may not be able to take the leftovers into the country (e.g.  fruit and dairy) so just leave them on the plane if in doubt. We also took plenty of sandwiches in case Wonderboy didn’t like the plane food – who could blame him?!


Night Flights

Our return journey was an overnight flight and it was not a thought I particularly relished. After dinner, we attempted to signal that it was sleepy time by sticking as much as we could to our normal bedtime routine. For us, this meant teeth brushed, PJ’s on, milk, stories and bed. Needless to say we skipped bathtime at 30,000ft! He actually only slept for the last 2hrs of the flight but he did realise it was quiet time and I’ll take that as a win!


Wow, this is turning out to be quite a long list so I’ll divide it into two more manageable posts. Keep any eye out for the final instalment and in the meantime, pop any of your own suggestions below so we can all pull our ideas together – anything to make a Mummy’s life a little easier!


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    What a great first post! You’ve made me feel so much better about flying with a little one (something I keep putting off), and made some important points that make me think I probably shouldn’t worry so much! Kaye x

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