Flying the red-eye with a toddler

You did it. You booked a red-eye. Not the best timing but it’s not so bad.

You will have a glass of wine, pick a movie to watch and maybe even sleep a little on the plane. You will land, albeit a little tired, in your destination ready to tackle the day. Wait a minute, no you won’t, that was a previous life. You have a toddler.

We are here to say that it won’t be easy, but by following these tips it is possible to not only survive flying the red-eye with a toddler, but also come out smiling on the other side.


  1. Pre-game at the airport: Gone are the days when pre-gaming meant having a glass of wine or three at the airport bar. Pre-gaming with a toddler means setting your little monkey free and letting them run around the airport and burn off some energy before you board while you down some coffee.
  2. Wear light, easily removable layers: We all know what little furnaces our tiny humans can be and that’s without them laying on you for 5+ hours. Dress in light, easily removable layers so you don’t have to add sweating buckets  to the long list of travel annoyances.
  3. Pack snacks: Snacking a great way to pass the time and a red-eye is no place to be hangry (the unpleasant for all combination of being hungry and angry).  Bring lots of snacks for the airport, the flight and for when you arrive. Trust me, there is nothing worse than being hit by a ‘hanger strike’ at baggage claim. Don’t forget to pack some goodies for the adults too. Trust me, a well fed (and caffeinated) parent can prevent a lot of frustration.
  4. Pack bedtime comfort items: Put your little one in their PJs and whether its a soother (don’t forget the soother clip to avoid all those plane floor germs), a stuffed animal, bedtime story or a favourite blankie make sure you bring them to start mentally preparing your babe for sleep.
  5. Make friends with your flight crew: These guys are going to be your best friends, especially if you happen to be flying solo. When they give you the pre-flight safety briefing talk to them about any concerns or needs you might have (e.g., need a bottle or food warmed). I also recommend asking them for an extra pillow and blanket for your little one.
  6. Pick your battles: – Whether its  non-stop screen time or too many snacks and not enough dinner – you have to pick your battles. Keeping your now overtired, emotional toddler from going into a full meltdown is more important (at least to me) than a double dose of cheerios.
  7. Pack some toddler headphones: Toddler headphones work double duty on the red eye. They come equipped with decibel limits to protect your littles hearing and they help block out noise.redeyeheadphones
  8. Place your must-have items within arms reach: Once your little one is sleeping, you are captive. Make sure you have everything you need (Read: lip balm, water, headphones, book, tablet, etc.) at your fingertips.
  9. Start your bedtime “routine” after  meal service: Anything and everything is a distraction to a toddler. So do yourself a favour, save your energy and wait to try and get your little to sleep until the plane has entered “sleep mode” too. Wait until the announcements are done, the food and beverage services are complete, and the lights have been dimmed. Your chances of success will be much higher with a calmer environment.
  10. Stay on alert : Try and anticipate disruptions as much as you can. Cover babes ears when you see the food cart coming. Use that extra blanket to shield your babe from the light when the lights come on.

Bonus Tip: Wine in the bottle is a parents best friend. Do yourself a favour, skip the glass and just ask for the mini-bottle. It has a cap so you won’t spill and can be stuffed into the seat pocket in front of you. What’s not to love?


How do you handle red-eye flights with a little one in tow? What are your pro tips?