Guide to Survive an International Flight (with kids!)

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You know how long a flight is from the USA to Dubai? From NY, it’s almost 15hrs. Yes, 15hrs. Holy crap, it is such a long flight! And if you don’t have a direct flight to your final destination you will have even longer. It is the worst flight I have ever been on and one that I always dread having to make because I also have 3 young kids on the flight with me.

There have been ups and downs during flights but we have survived, and we learned a few things after taking this trip a few times. Each family is different. Each child is different. But hopefully, one of these tips will help make your long flight a little more bearable, a little less stressful, and dare I say it, a little easier.

It IS tough. Do not go ahead on a long haul flight thinking that it will be simple and everyone will enjoy it. No, no one will enjoy it. Not you, not your kids, and certainly not the people sitting closest to you. We have had multiple leaky or overflowing diapers. Our kids have kicked, screamed, and cried for the majority of the flight. And we have come to accept that our kids sleeping through a flight would take an act from Heaven because they certainly have never slept through even half of a flight before.

Here’s some tricks that I have learned over the years. (In no certain order)

Do yourself a favor and buy a few apple juices and at least 3 of those jumbo water bottles before you get on the plane! The airlines are trying to kill us all by dehydration. On one flight when I asked for water for my kids the flight attendant said that she couldn’t give me more because they were “rationing” it….with 4hrs left on the flight. Don’t children have first dibs on water? Come on.

Bring spare clothes for the littles. A diaper will leak or food will spilled on them, you will need replacements. We had two half naked kids at the end of a flight before, it’s mildly embarrassing but more important your kid will probably be cold and unhappy.

Bring a few different toys. Preferably ones that your kid can play with for a while. Examples: Ipad, cars, coloring book, maybe some books to read. A nifty tip I read somewhere (can’t remember the source), mentioned to bring one or two new toys for your kid and keep it in the carry-on bag for when your kid is having a melt down and needs a good distraction.

Be organized. Have really good carry-on bags with lots of organizing compartments or zippered bags. Imagine your kid screaming and needing a diaper change and gosh darn it you can’t locate the wipes and cream because there’s so much junk sitting on top of them. Or any other small item you might need in-flight. Been there, done that.

Pack treats. Again, before going on your flight, get some stuff from the little newsstand stores. Try to get items like nuts, granola, things that aren’t going to give you a sugar headache and are a little more filling. The snacks and food on the flight are not always amazing and your kid(s) may not like them. Mine never seem to.

Car seats. If you can bring one for your young kid then do it. Younger kids get so restless and it’s nice to be able to strap them in during the flight and know that they aren’t going anywhere. Plus I find that they rest better in their car seat than in the plane seat. Airlines allow forward facing seats during flight though, the rules are iffy for backward but they are generally not allowed during take-off and landing. Ask the gate agent before boarding (you will get different answers from one flight to the next. It’s super dumb, I know, but nothing you can do about it). I think about 4yrs old+ don’t need the seat as much.

Stroller. Bring it and gate check it. Tired kids are so much easier to handle when you can sit them down and wheel them around. There are gate check bags you can buy to protect it in transit.

Sippy cups. When the flight attendants come around with drinks (or if you go to the kitchen and request something), have those cups ready and just hand it over to them to fill. Playtex Sipsters are our favorite, we bought ours at Walmart.

Don’t be afraid to ask. For anything. You need a spoon for your baby? Or soft baby food? How about warm milk? Ask, ask, ask. I have walked to the “kitchen” and gotten so much help from the staff between meals when my kids need something. They are generally very nice and obliging, they know that an international flight is hard and even more so for a child and their parents.

Products that may make your flight a little better

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      • Noise cancelling headphones. You want to be able to hear your own movie a little bit but you need earbuds so you can keep one hear free to listen to the kids.

      • Adapters for headphones. Can’t listen to anything without the adapter. And those airline headphones are always junk so . . . don’t do that. Be prepared.

      • Neck Pillow. This is the last thing that really fits for anyone. You need something to help you rest when you can (if at all) but surely make you at least a little more comfortable. International flights have blankets that work ok but they do not have decent pillows.

All the other little things you can bring on a flight will really vary from family to family. As long as you have the essentials for food and drink plus basic comfort and entertainment, it’s up to you how you want to fill the rest of your bag. You already know that you need diapers and wipes, and maybe formula.

Extra tips:

      1. Mom and dad, bring those wipes with you for your own bathroom visits, wipe your face or make the “john” usable.
      2. Ladies, it’s a long flight, unless you bring extra undergarments I suggest using liners during your travels.
      3. Bring some Tylenol, Alieve, whatever you need to calm travel headache, “car sickness”, etc.
      4. Please, drink all that water you buy ahead and make your kids drink a lot too.

I wish you the best of luck for your international flight and hope that you manage to avoid any total crisis’.

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  1. Herlina Kwee | 7th Sep 17

    It took me about 20 hrs to fly from U.S. to Indonesia. Granted I didn’t have 3 kids with me… : )

    • thehaywirehoney | 7th Sep 17

      Oh goodness that would suck! If I can’t get a direct flight the travel time usually turns into almost 24hrs with a second flight and layover. I hope you had a great time in Indonesia.

  2. Tara | 7th Sep 17

    These are fantastic tips and would work for any flight really! Another thing I have done that worked well when traveling with a baby is to wear them with an ergo or something similar. Then you have your hands free and most babies love to be all snuggly with mom! I also bring an extra shirt for myself – the diaper blowouts and spilled drinks can get all over you too, unfortunately. Great post!

  3. Keri|flipflopweekend | 7th Sep 17

    Great tips! I have not had to do this yet, but I would definitely reference this if I ever fly a significant length of time with my littles!

  4. Trish | 7th Sep 17

    Great tips! I used to pack small new toys and treats with a plan to only bring out one new thing periodically. “new” is always so much more attractive, so if it gets put away after the flight until the next flight… it often seems NEW again!

    • thehaywirehoney | 7th Sep 17

      Good idea! I will have to hide a toy or two now.

  5. Katie | 8th Sep 17

    It looks like you have a great plan in place! We haven’t gone on a plane with our little yet, but lots of good books & snacks will be a must. Good call on bringing lots of wipes!

  6. Danielle Gould | 12th Sep 17

    I am bookmarking this and passing it on to my friends who really need this most…

    • thehaywirehoney | 15th Sep 17

      Thank you <3

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