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How to do a TransAtlantic Flight With a PreSchooler



I did a post almost 3 years ago "Air Travel With Your Toddler" that I still use most of the tips for and Madison at the time was only a year old. As you know, I recently took my pre-schooler to London. It was not her first flight but it sure was one of the longest in quite some time. We have traveled to the Caribbean quite a few times, where we have had long layovers and our entire journey took over 9hrs. Now while we've been traveling since she was 3 months old, it seems like the older she gets, the more difficult it becomes. As an infant you don't worry about much besides having those few extras. However for a preschooler (age 3-5) there is so much more you need to remember besides a snack. Flying for long hours can not only a grumpy child make, but it can also make your trip stressful when you have a preschooler who just hates being on the plane, cramped into a seat with little to do. When we flew to London, we had an AMAZING airline and I'll be sure to share my experience with you, but today I want to give you a few tips and tricks for taking a transatlantic flight with your preschooler.


Before You Get On The Plane:

Getting Through Security:

If you haven't signed up for a traveler program such as CLEAR or TSA Pre✔ and you're a frequent traveler you might want to consider doing that. Security lines are usually pretty long and your little one can get restless while waiting. These programs allow you to bypass those lines and get to security screening a lot faster. Have your boarding pass and ID ready to give to the security agent and limit your carry on, know what is allowed so that you won't be pulled aside. For example, I was carrying a snow-globe (too much liquid) and was actually pulled aside and asked to dump it or return and have it checked onto the plane. Electronics such as laptops need to be placed in a separate tray so have it easily accessible. If weather permits, wear shoes that are easy to take off/put on. Your little one (up to age 12) won't need to take their shoes off, but you will be required to and the faster you can get along, the easier it will be for all of you.

Carry On for You and For Your Preschooler: 

Whenever I travel with my little one I always make sure she has a backpack, which is her special own carry on filled with supplies that she would enjoy. From age 2 and up a separate seat and paid airline ticket is required, which means that she is also allowed a free carry on. Let him/her choose their own backpack for their flight. Make sure that it can fit under the seat in-front so that you're not getting up out of your seat to reach in the overhead compartment.

Potty Before You Board:

Visit the bathroom before getting on the plane. While I don't mind inconveniencing a fellow traveler so that we could use the bathroom, and it's going to happen eventually on a flight that lasts more than 4hrs, the less we can do so, the better. The airline bathrooms are also pretty small and can barely fit 1 person, much less 2 of you. I also don't let my pre-schooler use the bathroom anywhere alone, so if she goes before we get on the plane, there is a great chance that she'll only have to go once.


Items You'll Need On the Plane:

Extra set of clothing:

Most toddlers and preschoolers are potty trained, but that doesn't mean that you don't have to walk with an extra set of clothing, and include underwear in there too. If this is your child's first flight, they may be nervous and anything can happen when they're nervous. Also, if you have an unexpected layover and your bags go on their merry way without you, you'll also have something to change into.

Wipes and Hand Sanitizer:

Kids are known to make messes and it doesn't matter if they are thousands of miles in the sky. You can use these wipes to clean up messes, wipe hands and even to clean down those tray tables. You might be surprised to know that it is actually the dirtiest spot on the plane. Yuck!

Light Blanket: 

Unless you're flying first class, blankets aren't always available for your use. You may even have to pay for one if the flight becomes a little too cold, even after turning off the air overhead. If your little one has a special blanket that he/she loves, you can take it along for the added security and also for comfort.

Headphones:

Walk with your own earphones. You might probably have a pair that has noise reduction to protect their little ears and trust me, you don't want to spend an extra $5+ for airline headphones when you can use your own for free.


Kindle/Tablet/iPad:

This is generally any electronic that can keep your little one occupied for hours. Since you more than likely won't have free wifi on the plane, consider downloading a few apps and movies that can keep your little one happy. Not only would your electronic be great for the flight, but you can also have it for any layover you might have.

Coloring Books /Crayons/ Sticker Pads: 

What better way to keep your child entertained than with a coloring book and some crayons or even sticker pads. I picked up some from my local dollar store before our trip. You might want to get an adult coloring book  or even a crossword puzzle for yourself as well.

Snacks:

While you may get snacks available for purchase and sometimes for free on certain airlines, it's great to have snacks that you know your child would like on your flight. Fruit snacks, peanuts, granola bars are great to take along. While some security may let go with a juice box or two, it's not always guaranteed. Water, sodas, orange and apple juice are normally offered on board flights so it's recommended to ask the flight attendant when the need arises. I also like to have my little one chewing on something during lift off and the landing so that her ears don't get clogged.


Now those are some of the things that have worked for me on very long flights. Madison is a pro at flying and her ears has only gotten clogged once, and that's because she fell asleep on our flight from Iceland to London. Our simple trick of holding your nose and blowing worked miracles.

These tips can be used not only on your flight, but also before your flight. If there's a layover, it's always a great idea to pull out your supplies and get busy and keep your little one occupied. If there are other tips that you'd love to share, I'd love to hear them.

Let's discuss: How do you keep your little ones' occupied on long flights? 

Annmarie John
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70 comments:

  1. These are great tips for anyone not just the littles!

    Did you know you can bring frozen liquids through the checkpoint also? Great for bringing along the little one's favorite juice. By the time you board and are in the air a while enough will be melted to enjoy!

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    1. That's a hit or miss Rachel which is why I didn't mention it. I was able to fly with it out of the US to go to London but coming back in, they told me no because it was still considered liquid. I thought once frozen it was a solid but I guess not. :)

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  2. I love the idea of being able to get through security without having to stand on long lines. I'm going to look into those programs so I don't have to deal with that with our 10 year-old.

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    1. Both programs are awesome. Being military however I'm able to bypass most of the lines but got CLEAR for the family. CLEAR however isn't available at all airports. You just need 1 adult membership and it will cover all the kids under age 18 in the family.

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  3. We'll have to take a closer look into Clear and Tse Pre-check. We're planning a vacation with the grandchildren in tow, and this would make them a little less fuzzy. Kids can be very impatient!

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    1. Oh tell me about it. I purchased CLEAR but being military I go through a lot easier by using TSA Pre-Check wherever it is available.

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  4. I never thought that flying with a kid require a lot of care and management. Thank you for this information; truly enlightening. Great tips!

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    1. You're very welcome Akhil. Yes kids can become very restless very fast so anything that you can do to help ease their boredom will be appreciated, not just for you but your fellow passengers as well.

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  5. These are great tips. I've been on some flights with unhappy pre-schoolers. Their parents looked both panicky and embarrassed =(

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    1. Maybe if they had used some of my tips it might not have been as bad. :)

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  6. This is great information. I would have NEVER flown like that with my kids unless I had to, though. I would be a wreck!

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    1. We love to travel and it's cheaper to fly sometimes especially if it's just me and Madison. For international flights however, we don't do them yearly anymore but it's good to know what to do if you have to.

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  7. We just traveled a transatlantic flight two months ago with our eight-year-old. Even at that age they need so much entertainment. We took almost everything that you mentioned in this post trust me when I say you are so right.

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    1. Thank you Jeannette so you know what I'm talking about. Since my pre-schooler gets bored easily I have to walk with lots of stuff. When she was tired of playing with her iPad she started coloring, when she was done with that she wanted a snack. For our entire flight I had to make sure she was entertained until she fell asleep.

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  8. Oh yes, it's all about the entertainment with my kids, too. We only fly domestically, but in addition to their electronics, I only take flights with TV's on the back of the seats.

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    1. I don't really are about the TV's on the back of the seats because sometimes some airlines only have it on certain planes. As long as we both have our electronics we're fine.

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  9. These sound like some great tips, I have to admit I'm not the best flyer so can't imagine what it is like for younger children. x

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    1. Oh it's horrible for kids when they have to fly for long periods of time. They get super cranky. :(

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  10. I can't imagine flying overseas with a toddler. I did cross country with my 2 year old and that was hard enough! Great tips!

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    1. Think of flying overseas the same as doing cross country with your 2yr old and your toddler might actually surprise you and do a lot better on the flight.

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  11. Yup, you pretty much covered everything we have done. My only thing is that I offer the kids new things, like new books, new coloring books, new fun for them to do :) Keeps them busy longer

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    1. Well I usually go and buy coloring books before we travel so they're pretty much new. :)

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  12. Great tips, we have been travelling with our daughter since she was very young. We have the good, the bad and the ugly experiences, alas!! We did survive and she is a teenager now!

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    1. You sound so much like me. I remember once on a flight from the Caribbean, Madison was about 9 months old at the time and we were traveling for almost a full day and she was just cranky and had had enough. I finally got her to calm down however. :)

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  13. I am actually scared to fly myself! My kids have never been on a plane though. I love that your daughter is a pro!

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    1. She LOVES to fly and if I decide to travel without her she gets upset. We used to fly at least twice a year, sometimes 3 times so she's gotten used to flying.

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  14. Great tips! We took a trip when our oldest 2 were just a toddler and baby from the states to Japan. Oh my that was long. I think it was harder on us then the kids though. They did so well. Prepped with snacks, a tablet, and a fantastic airline really helped.

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    1. Don't you just love when the airlines are a big help as well. It's one of the reason why I would fly again with Iceland Air.

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  15. We've only ever done Florida, which is 2-3 hours, but maybe California is next. I find the kids do ok as long as they get up to stretch/use the bathroom, and have plenty of snacks and water.
    And some sort of tablet/computer to watch!!

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    1. That's really what they do need. Some snacks, entertainment and they're usually pretty good. :) Can't wait to hear about your trip to Cali. I have plans on going myself but my family is coming this way first then we'll head there after.

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  16. Whew! I don't envy you one bit. I don' think I could handle a transatlantic flight with someone else's child on board, much less my own!

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    1. Oh it's actually not that bad and if your child is accustomed to flying it can actually be a great experience.

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  17. We haven't traveled with our little one yet but I appreciate the tips. That's a long flight and I even get nervous on them. Now, I know how to keep Liam entertained! :)

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  18. I actually have never been on a plane before. I can see how it would be hard to keep kids entertained though. I'd be bringing plenty of snacks, water, coloring stuff and tablets to keep them busy.

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    1. Oh you've got to take a flight at least once in your lifetime. I've been traveling since I was about 6 years old and I have a wander bug. I can never been in one place for too long. It's one reason why I loved the army. I love going to new places.

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  19. These are really great tips! I've been thinking about taking my nieces to DisneyWorld but haven't really thought out the logistics of travelling. Happy to have read through this post.

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    1. You're very welcome Lisa and I'm glad I was able to help you. BTW your nieces and YOU will love Disney World.

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  20. These are amazing tips!! I think that long of a trip would be hard on me no less a preschooler! She looks like she handled it like a pro!

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    1. Oh she most certainly did. She's accustomed to flying however so she's used to it.

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  21. What great tips, I cannot imagine flying with a preschooler, never flown with any kids yet. Great tips though for anyone having to do this!

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    1. Oh it's really not that bad as long as you have something to keep them occupied. You'll be ok.

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  22. Great tips! I may be headed out this summer with my 4 and 7 year olds and really needed some ideas to make it easier.

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    1. Then I'm glad I was able to help you Jody. Have fun wherever you're heading to.

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  23. I can't wait to get to use these tips. These plans are what make or break a trip and I need all the help I can get!

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    1. It's good to have help and I'm happy I was able to help.

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  24. Wow, that's a long flight for a kid. Great tips though. She looks like she handled it like a champ.

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    1. Yes it was, and it was a long flight for me too but she's accustomed to flying so it was like nothing for her. :)

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  25. You are so brave to attempt such a long flight with a pre-schooler. I have 4 kids born within a year, including triplets, and can't imagine doing this when my children were that age, especially in the age before tablets and digital movies you could download onto a laptop.

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    1. OK I personally can't see myself doing it with 3 kids at once who are pre-schoolers, but one isn't that bad. If I had help maybe but you need at least 1 person per child. :)

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  26. Nice post, I'm sure to save all your tips so they will be handy whenever I need them or whenever we travel on plane! Thanks

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    1. Thank you Ryan. I'm pretty sure that they'll help.

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  27. I don't have a toddler or any little ones but I have seriously thought about doing a Pre check when I fly just to get through the lines faster.

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    1. I would do it if I were you. It does make a really big difference. If you're running late it could mean not missing your flight.

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  28. What I liked about your tips is that they are versatile enough for children of all ages and for domestic flights. There was a lot of good information here.

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    1. Thank you Janeane and I hope they'll be able to help someone taking their very first flight.

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  29. I am an expert at this! I flew across the ocean multiple times with my very little children. I tried to pick flight times where they would sleep a majority of the flight (hopefully), it usually worked. I would also take a backpack for each of them filled with toys they had never seen before (even if I had to borrow them from friends). They could take one toy out of the bag per hour. It truly worked. But doing it alone without a partner was really difficult. One adult per toddler is preferred.

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    1. Oh you gotta have a backpack for each kid. I don't think that I could survive without it. Madison has a few backpacks and I make sure I stuff it with the essentials.

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  30. It's all about planning ahead. You know they're going to be bored, so you definitely need to bring things along to distract them. I try to have simple new things or things they haven't played with in a while.

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    1. You are absolutely correct and I feel sorry for the parents who don't plan ahead.

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  31. Great tips you share. I am trying to put this off until theyre older!

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    1. That's not a bad idea but we love to travel. However these tips will still work even when your kids are older.

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  32. I was so nevervous the first time I traveled with my son. I packed so many items from snacks to his iPad. He ended up sleeping most of the trip. LOL

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    1. Well that was good I assume for both of you. Madison stays up the entire trip and talk, talk and talk some more. :)

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  33. These are great tips. I frequently fly long flights with 3 under 5 and we use a lot of the same strategies!

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    1. Wow, I can't even begin to imagine what it's like traveling with 3 kids under the age of 5. I think I'll pass thank you.

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  34. Sounds like you had a wonderful experience with your kid & these are some great tips that will make sure the trip is smooth & fun as flying with a kid always require a lot of care. Will be helpful when we have a long journey.

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    1. Oh it sure does require a lot of work but it's not that bad once you've done it for a while. You automatically become a pro.

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  35. I remember a few years ago, I took my son on a flight for the very first time. We traveled in July but it can get really cold in the plan. So my tip is to bring warm socks!

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    1. That's a great tip as well. It does get rather cold on the plane so an extra pair of socks will do the trick along with your blanket of course.

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[name=AnnMarie John] [img=https://3.bp.blogspot.com/-X9gUeVik-ZY/WJjwNTOobII/AAAAAAABTJ4/qEhU0n62_AIo-j6-6LA2OFOr44lKCHASwCLcB/s100/AnnMarie%2BJohn%2BHeadshot.JPG] [description=AnnMarie John is a lifestyle blogger, mom of 4, retired army veteran and a huge Disney lover. Formerly from the beautiful island of St. Vincent and the Grenadines in the Caribbean and now living in colorful Colorado, she loves sharing her opinions on everything, crafting and food.] (facebook=http://www.facebook.com/theannmariejohn) (instagram=http://www.instagram.com/theannmariejohn) (twitter=http://www.twitter.com/theannmariejohn) (pinterest=http://www.pinterest.com/theannmariejohn) (email=mailto:annmarie@annmariejohn.com)

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