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3 Tips to Tackle the Red Eye with your Wide Eyed Toddler

Rachel O'Reilly

Flying with a little one can be a big enough challenge in itself, but when we faced an 11 p.m. flight home on our last trip, I had to dig deep into my “mom trick bag.”

My daughter is a little over three and we still do a pretty consistent bedtime routine, so I knew this was going to significantly shake things up. Sounds exciting, right? Rest assured, I found these three things made it easier for all of us.

  1. We had a healthy dinner at home and skipped bath and pj’s. My thinking is it would confuse her (aka meltdown) if she did not go to bed right after her normal bedtime prep activities.  

  2. Bomb snacks! Somehow my child is always starving on an airplane, no matter how much she has eaten before. I stocked up on tons of nutritious options and let her dig in as soon as we sat down.

  3. Desperate times call for desperate measures - I did bring a couple of her favorite books as a first line of defense, but I also packed the iPad and downloaded a few of my daughter’s favorite shows. She watched for a few minutes, and then wanted to lay down on my lap and sleep.

Turns out, she was down for the count at that point, fell right back asleep once we got in the car, and made it through the rest of the night. We started fresh the next day like nothing had happened.

There were crying kids all over that flight. I attribute the fact that my daughter was relaxed partially to a tiny miracle, but have to factor in some of the prep work. I still think it’s ideal to travel on your child’s schedule, and even though things went smoothly, I wouldn’t choose that flight option again if I could avoid it -- but that’s not always possible. Being nimble and shaking up routines is a good chance to teach our little ones (and ourselves) how to roll with it.

Hopefully these tips will help you if you find yourself on a red-eye with your little one! What else do you do to prepare for late night travel? Leave us a comment below.