18 answers

Overseas Travel Advice?

My husband, daughter, mother-in-law and I will be traveling to the U.K. soon. We used to live there and are seasoned travelers...but this will be our first visit with our daughter. She will be 17 months old when we make the trip. The 7-8 hour flight will be her first. We are looking for advice on overseas travel, long flights, and jetlag/sleeping schedules with baby. Thanks for your help!

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in case you haven't done a search on this site yet, I think I have seen postings about flights with infants. perhaps there are some tips that will work for you.
good luck.

More Answers

Hi K.,

my name is L., motehr of a 21 month old, Daniel, who has travelled to South Africa twice,a nd England once already.
The most important thing si to be prepared for anything on the flight. We hope they will sleep, but have toys, books, snacks etc handy incase you need to entertain her for a while. Don't rely on the airline to feed her either. I packed full sippy cups, yogurt, fruit and a sandwich for Daniel in a little cooler bag. Pack a change of clothes for her and you incase of any "accidents" Children wee alot on flights, and, in my experience, tend to throw up at the least convenient times.
Try and get into you regular routine as soon as you can. Maybe and extra nap will be needed for a day or 2, but dont let them go on longer than normal. Keep your bedtime routine the same. Take her usual blanket, and bedtime book on the plane with you.
Don't knwo how you feel about medicating, but I have found benedryl useful on occasion.

You can take your stroller right to the plane, and they will have it waiting when you disembark. Oh yes, and have one or 2 of you board first, with all hand luggage etc, and one stay behind with your daughter till the last moment. They tend to get a bit antsy waiting for the plane to take off.

Good luck, and enjoy your time in the U.K. We came back from there in June with a tan!!!!

Hi K.. My husband is English and we lived in the UK until our son was 9 months old, we now live in Gurnee and he works in Rolling Meadows. He has made ELEVEN flights to and from England in his 28 months of life and I definitely have a few tips. :)

1. Bring gallon sized ziplock bags. They contain accidents (vomit, food, or toilet) really well with no smell so you can still stash them away in your carryon.
2. Bring an entire change of clothing for the child, and an extra top for you. The one time I forgot to do this was the one time he puked on me mid flight. That wasn't fun.
3. I gave up my carryon entirely for baby stuff. I have yet to fly with my son when I had 5 or 6 seconds to myself. And if I did - I was definitely resting and not reading.
4. Portable DVD players are your best friend.
5. SNACKS. We always take *way* more easy snacks than we think we'll need and yet somehow they always get used. The flights rarely have anything to give the child if they get super hungry and cranky, so be prepared.
6. Drinking from a sippy cup on take off and landing always helps my son get his ears sorted out.
7. Even though your child is older, still bring a changing mat to use on top of the airplane changing table. A few times that we've flown the tables have been *nasty* and it was a hassle to line them with paper towels.
8. They will always let you take your stroller up to the plane, but we've only been allowed to keep it *on* the plane when we were the first to board. We don't board first however, even though they let you. By pre-boarding he sometimes has an entire extra hour on the plane and we want him on the plane as little as possible.
9. New toys. Bring something small and entertaining that they've never seen before.
10. We've always had a better time with the UK bound flight than the US bound flight. He has always adjusted to the time difference very well, which was a pain for us since we'd have liked to sleep in. :)
11. A lot of people suggest using Benadryl on your child to ake them sleepy for the flight - but ohmygod that was a baaaaaaad idea for our son. He's never EVER slept on a flight and making him even more tired meant a whole lot of yelling. :( It depends on your child's temperament if being tired is a good or bad thing.

I hope that helped. :) I'm ____@____.com. :)

My kids have never been bothered with time changes. I think they get tired out by the trip and are a little more willing to go to bed whenever.

Most international flights are evening/night so I have found that the kids will sleep most of the flight. The best distractor I found was this book, I think called WOW. It has a "paintbrush" that you fill with water and they can paint on this book. They can use it over and over again and can't color all over the airplane with it. They have it at KB Toys.

My daughter is a little shy so when people talk to her she tends to stay put with us which helps. Also having a seat of their own and car seat helps because they are used to having to stay put in the seat.

Barring that, I go to the dollar store and buy a bunch of new toys. Every few minutes you can pull something new out and it should keep them busy for awhile. We also bring pictures, either prints or on a laptop, because my daughter loves to look at pictures.

You can usually wheel your stroller up to the plane and gate check it, but I carry my kids in a sling. Much easier, keeps your hands free, and you have it with you all the time.

Good luck. We still travel all the time with our kids and it usually goes smoothly.

Hi, I don't know if you still are looking for advise but I thought I would through in my own two cents. :) You are really lucky to have help from your mother-in-law and husband. I also traveled to the UK when my son was only 12.5 months old and of course I sought the advise from his pediatrician who gave him a vaccination (don't recall the name) for immunity for the flu (being exposed to a lot of people at such a young age and going overseas) and he also advised requesting from the airlines a bassinet service, which was wonderful because my son slept through most of the flight and was comfortable and secure (with enough room to change his diaper) and I didn't have to hold him the eight plus hours (except when he wanted to feed).

PS: I would advise yourself, husband, and mother-in-law to get vaccinated against hepatitis A (I didn't, and although I had been to the UK two times prior to the first time I traveled there with my son, I still got infected and it was a nightmare!).

Good luck!
A. - mother of 2 year old, sweet and naughty Omair. :-)

Hi K.. I'm English now living in south elgin and i travel back to the uk with my 4 year old boy often. I just arrived in the uk yesterday actually. I have found the outbound journey to be fine as they are usually at night so everyone is sleeping and they turn the lights down low. Its probably best if you can get her fed before she gets on the plane that way if she is tired you can let her go to sleep straight away. Coming bach is the tricky part and i think entertainment is the key. On thing we find works is to gift wrap a few little items and give them to the throughout the journey. The flights tend to be late morning which means you have to get up early to go to the airport. my boy is usually shatterted when he gets on the plane and tends to sleep for maybe three hours. People i've spoken to say that kids tend to have longer naps on a plane for some reason. Maybe the motion! We have a portable DVD player which is worth its weight in gold too. Hope this has been some help to you. Enjoy your trip. K.

There is a lot of good advice here. I have flown twice to Florida with my son before he was 2. We bought the sit-n-stroll for these trips. It is pricey but I thought it was worth it. It is a combination stroller and car seat. It can be wheeled right down the aisle of the plane to your baby's seat. Then, you fold the wheels in and you have a car seat for the plane.

Hello K.,
When our son was just over two we took him to europe to see my dad. Out son was out of control because he was over tired. plus There was a heat wave so we were all missing a few winks. Later I learned that to help a baby adjust, once you arrive you follow the same sleep schedule as if you were at home. In other words, when it is 1PM there and that is nap time, he takes a nap. I hope I am clear. If I had it to do again it would be a lot less math. Have fun - good luck.

Hi K., I fly alot with my 2 sons, but the flights have only been 3 hours at the most. I've found portable DVD players are helpful. A friend suggested bringing an extra battery in case the first runs out. I would also recommend packing enough food & drinks that your child likes. The stewardess' are always busy and can't stop to fill sippy cups, etc. Both of my boys LOVE to have their special blankets with them on the flight. It makes it much easier to take naps in such a strange place. Good luck!

I am an international flight attendant w/American Airlines,and hopefully some of these tips are helpful in addition to the many excellent suggestions you've received.. Request the first row (bulkhead) which will allow you to use a wall-supported bassinett supplied by the airline. There are also cardboard bassinetts that are also quite nice, but if the seatbelt sign comes on, the child has to be removed/held (the wall bassinette has a restraint). MUST HAVES: extra water, juice, snacks, baggies, diapers, meds, tissues, blankie, toys to entertain: DVD, books,etc. Sit n-Stroll seat can be problem, as it is bulky & doesn't allow px in front of child to recline. Lastly: to help on descent, give bottle/sippy cup for ear pressure.


When my first girl was 17 months, we traveled to Germany to meet up with her dad's business trip, and then spent 2 weeks roaming around. So I know exactly what you are in for.

Schedule your flight during the day - not at night. I expected her to sleep on the plane, but it was too new and too much 'fun', so she missed out on a lot of sleep, made a racket, and even caused other people to come up to me asking if they could help. Night flights - bad idea. The day flight home worked great.

Once you are there, don't expect her to get on 'UK time'. For us, the time difference worked out fantastic, as she was about 4 hours later than her at-home routine. That is, she slept in really late each morning and stayed up til 11 each night. We were able to dine out each night and not have to worry about her getting tired or the grumps.

As with domestic travel, don't plan too much in one day, and make sure to keep somewhat to your at-home routine. Naps, especially!

And last, don't expect perfection. Everybody gets a little worn-out when traveling - even adults. She is entitled to a melt-down now and then, even if it's at 150 kph on the autobahn between Berlin and Munich.

Other than than, make sure to pack lots of distractions. Stickers and crayons worked great for us.

Have fun!

We have traveled overseas many times with our 3 kids, aged 6, 4, and 1, since my oldest was 4 months old! My best advice for the flight is, bring your own snacks and . . . pipecleaners! They are small, light, disposible, and can be made into all kinds of toys.

I tried Benadryl on my kids--for my oldest it worked as a sleep aid (I figured, I take a sleep aid when I fly overseas, why shouldn't they?) but for my middle it made him jittery. So if youare inclined to use a sleep aid, test it before you leave. There are also some homeopathic treatments, Calm Child and "calms" pills, which do seem to help a little.

If your child is the age and temperament for a bit of bribery, I found that offering a small toy or lollipop from a "magic bag" every hour or so as a reward for good behavior can help a lot. I clearly set the rules--no screaming, no kicking the seat in front of you, sitting still for take-off, etc,--and then let them pick something from the bag if they have made it some specified amount of time. This worked wonders for my oldest when he was your child's age, but with my middle (who is a bit more of a devil) it wasn;t quite as effective until he was over 2, so a lot of it has to do with your child's personality. (But the lollipops do help for ear pain at any rate)

In country, will just need to be prepared to keep a much slower pace than you are used to, with ample time for naps and leisurely strolls. The 3rd day for us is almost always the worst, then things improve after that. I just count on losing that day to tantrums and weird naptimes.

We spent Christmas in London with my oldest son, now 18months, and discovered the joy of seeing everything through our child's eyes. We have never stopped traveling with our kids--in fact, it is one of the things we look forward to most as a family.

PS DO NOT underestimate the time it will take you to get through the airport. Give yourself at least 2-1/2 hours--I know it soudns drastic, but you will be happier if you give yourself time to not be stressed out, and it is good for the kids to be able to run around a bit in the airport before boarding the flight. If you don;t already have an Admiral's Club membership, now might be the time to consider it. We really appreciate the quiet space, the drinks, and the good bathrooms when we are waiting around in the airport, and we have found them to be pretty child friendly.

Good luck and have a great time!

in case you haven't done a search on this site yet, I think I have seen postings about flights with infants. perhaps there are some tips that will work for you.
good luck.

My husband and I have traveled quite a bit with our now 2 yr old and have ventured to both Spain and the UK for the longer huals. If you have a pack-n-play that she is used too sleeping in it's much easier to get them down than trying a borrowed crib. I tried someone else's once and she didn't sleep at all and will never do that again, it's worth the extra luggage. We use the same blanket that we've always used so it smells and feels the same. Our daughter slept some on the plane but we put her down for a nap when we arrived and funny enough I think they transition better than adults b/c they are used to going down and getting up with the sun. I found just starting a routine right away and putting her down for naps at the same time has worked well. If she's used to adjusting then she'll get the hang of it and go with the flow.

You've received alot of good advice, I'd add it's good to take advantage of the play areas in the terminals so your daughter can burn some energy before the flight (or do stretching and jumping in place, where possible). In flight, my son liked looking out the window near the kitchen to stretch his legs in between the food service. With the new carry-on restrictions you may need to rely on a lollipop instead of liquids when ascending and descending but do pack something because it's terrible when a child has ear pressure pain. Allow plenty of time for obtaining a passport. Have a great adventure!

When we flew to germany with a toddler we found that no matter what we did he could reach the seat in front of us and he kicked it for the entire flight home. So my advice is buy two seats in one row and two seat directly behind it. So if you child kicks a seat it will be someone from your family. I'd also invest in some new 'flap' books and surprise toys.

portable DVD player with a bunch of new dvd's of her favorite shows----a LIFESAVER!!!!!

A lightweight stroller to help move baby through the airport, and books/dvd/toys on plane are helpful. The flight we went on was very erratic in regards to giving juice,milk and water for our baby, so definitely take stuff with you that she likes with you as you don't want her to go hungry/get thirsty. ONe advice I was given in regards to jet lag was continue on the baby's original schedule for a day till they adjust a bit to the new place then start the baby on the new eating schedule..

Good luck!

This may sound strange, but my best advice regarding sleep, etc. is to pretend that you're still in Chicago as far as nap and bedtime (and even mealtime to the extend possible) goes. The beauty of this will be that your daughter will get to stay up really late and go out and about with you guys until midnight or so (6 pm here - right?) and then sleep in the next day (noonish - hallelujah!!). This especially works great if you have relatives that can stay with her while you go out for breakfast, shopping, sightseeing, etc... I've found that this approach works well for probably a week or more, after which the child will start to gravitate toward a more local AM wake up time due to the hours spent in daylight/dark.

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