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How to Survive a Long Haul Flight With a Baby or Toddler

A lot of people are soon leaving Shanghai for the summer now that borders are finally open again! Since a lot has changed in the world, this may be the first long-haul international trip you are making with a new baby or toddler and a flight to Europe or North America is definitely longer than a flight to Sanya. Thanks to the helpful members of our amazing Shanghai Mama WeChat groups, we put together a list of must-have items you can easily order from Taobao before your trip and Shanghai Mama Travel Tips!

Table of Contents

General tips

Tips on toys

  • Pack toys without many small loose parts and things you won’t care if you lose (aka won’t get lodged into the side of the airplane seats).
  • Give kids new toys spread out throughout the flight once they become bored instead of all at once.
  • Remove activity packaging ahead of time and discard bulky packaging for more space!
  • While talking and singing toys are great, they may not go over well on a night flight with your neighbors (especially some of these Chinese ones which are so loud). If you do bring them, make sure there is an off button!

SHMamas Tips

  • Gift wrap individual items with wrapping paper and ribbons to draw out the opening of a new item, half the fun of the item becomes unwrapping it!
  • Activity idea: Tie ribbon from your wrist or their own (depending on age) to items they are playing with so it doesn’t fall on the floor if they let it go

Ideas on toys

Decals, stickers, suction toys, splat hands, sticky ninjas

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SHMamas Tip:

Remove sticker sheet backing for easier peeling for little ones!

Sticker Books

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SHMamas Tip:

Post-its (colorful post-it tabs) and washi tape are residue-free and won’t require you having to peel anything off surfaces.

Busy books / quiet books / magnet books

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Memory cards

SHMamas Tip:

Create your own memory set using pictures of familiar people/places/things or hand drawn homemade or flash cards with familiar faces, if they get ruined or lost you can just print out a new set.

Mini puzzles

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Fidget poppers, squido pops and busy cube

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Lego boxes, Building toys like Plus Plus (Plus Plus Large), Finger puppets, Books

SHMamas Tip:

To avoid extra weight from books, limit your books to absolute favorites and bring lighter Indestructible Books and use book apps instead.

Wooden fidget figurines

Iwako Japanese eraser sets for older toddlers (small parts)


  • A favorite one or two stuffed animals 
  • Soft toys keychains
  • Surprise eggs with toys
  • Slinkies, squishy stress balls (not super bouncy balls which can end up a few rows back)

Under 1 Year Old Items

Soft books / crinkle books

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Fidget spinners that suction to the window

Silicon Cubes, Chew Toys

Arts & Crafts

Small Kinetic sand packs and a few small tools

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SHMamas Tip:

Make your own Playdough kits with popsicle sticks, small rolling pin (toilet rolls work well), a few animals to stick in, small tools like little knife

A roll of painters tape/blue tape/ road tape to stick on the seats for cars

SHMamas Tip:

Tape shut tray table and windows for them to open, make shapes with them, roads to follow.

Washable crayons/markers to draw with

SHMamas Tip:

Decorate the vomit bags into hand puppets!

DIY cardboard toys (animal figurines, vehicles)

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SHMamas Tip:

They are easy to pack, and can be thrown away after the flight

Origami figurines

Balloon pump (a favorite of Shanghai toddlers)

Magic Water Book, Etch a Sketch, Mess Less Books or Black Paper

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SHMamas Tip:

Pre-fill water pens before hand!

Use the Ikea art case to store crayons/markers and other items

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Kitivity Monster Kit

Purchase a plane tray which helps make sure items don’t fall off and onto the floor every few minutes

Wikki Stix, Pipe Cleaners make for fun crafts

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Tech (Shows and Apps)

  • Bring comfortable headphones for little ones to wear for their own devices and also make sure you have an adapter (See Taobao links listed under the section) to connect to the in-flight entertainment system so they don’t have to wear the large headphones (recommended brands include JBL kids headphones and Banz).
  • If your child is not familiar with wearing headphones start trying to have them wear them a few weeks before the flight to get used to it.
  • Make sure that ahead of time (with good Wi-Fi) you have downloaded videos (new ones and old favorites) to children’s devices phone/Ipad, YouTube Premium account, VLC App, YouTube Kids Offline Hack (switch your Very Pretty Necklace to India or Indonesia for option to download videos to watch offline).
  • Make sure Apps don’t require internet to work or have in-app purchases.
  • A controversial tip, but depending on your views and toddler’s age you may want to introduce the iPad to them before a flight, as a last minute resort that will buy you 5-10 minutes here and there.

SHMamas Tips:

  • Fisher Price, Toca Boca, Baby Panda World (Baby Bus), Khan Academy Kids apps are very interactive and interesting and work without internet.

  • If your child doesn’t have their own device yet, use an old phone (doesn’t need to have a SIM Card) for the trip where you can download shows, apps, and movies to which they can use and save your phone battery.

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SHMamas Tips:

  • Use pill boxes. These are fun and give a variety of options to kids, and can be decorated with stickers during the flight.
  • Activity idea: Make cheerio jewelry for them to eat.
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  • Melatonin (tiny gummies) low-dose (See Taobao link under the section) but make sure you have tested it before the flight to make sure you know your child’s reaction to it

  • Don’t forget to pack your preferred medicine (Tylenol, Calpol, Ibuprofin, etc.) 

  • Digest Zen from Doterra helps easily calm upset stomachs

  • A small travel thermometer is good to have to monitor temperature (especially on your way back to China) as well as a few cooling patches

Shanghai Mamas Tip:

Make sure your child has tried any medicine you give them before the flight to avoid any unknown or unpleasant side effects.

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Sleep + Gear


  • For economy travel, consider purchasing a Stokke Jetkids/ Minnow/ Taobao copy (see links under the section) or inflatable foot rest which fills up the gap between the seat and seat in front of you and provides a bit more space for kids to sleep/play on, or a foot rest for you in the worst case (FYI not all airlines allow these, you can check on some airline websites or if you choose to use it anyways, be discrete with blowing it up or setting it up in view of the flight crew)

  • KidsFlySafe Restraint Harness or a similar harness is also an option for sitting toddlers 

  • For young babies a carrier is very useful both for sleeping (If you don’t have access to an extra seat or bassinet) as well as for boarding/ de-planing and keeping your hands free for other baggage

  • Baby Hammocks which hook to the tray table and have baby restraints are another nice way to get a break from physically holding your young infants (lap babies) for a short while. This shouldn’t be used for long periods of time though as they are not super safe for sleeping babies due to the lack of head support in times of turbulence.

  • The Yo-Yo (and Yo-Yo imitation strollers YAYA, VOVO, etc.) are allowed to be wheeled into most planes right up to the seat (some European airlines do not allow this) but it’s good to try and take advantage of this especially if a baby is sleeping

  • Make sure to try and bring your stroller (Yo-Yo, Yo-Yo equivalant, Bugaboo Ant, etc.) into the cabin so you don’t have to wait for the handlers to bring it up to the door, but in worst case try and gate check your stroller so it will at least be delivered to the plane door and not go to baggage claim. You will want the stroller to disembark and transit/ make your way to baggage claim through immigration and customs (ESPECIALLY when flying back to China)

  • If you want to bring your car seat check the tag to see if it’s approved to fly (many available from brands like Graco) or not, purchase extra airplane straps to make it compatible, but remember that the size and weight of a car seat will also add a lot of baggage to your trip. Being able to sit in a familiar seat that a child is used to and liked really helps. 

  • Consider a small fan (See link under the section) for breastfeeding moms/hormone-filled newborn moms/ or just generally all moms stressing out taking care of their kids during a long haul sweating through their clothes! Before boarding can also get hot for you and your little ones!

  • Some moms like to have their younger babies (0-2 years old) wear earphones (See link under the section) to reduce the noise on the plane and in the airport during naps. This is more helpful to some babies than others and most babies don’t like wearing them, especially for a long period of time but if you have a little sleeper who needs a quiet environment these may be worth it!


Sleep & Gear

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Shanghai Mamas Tip:

A stroller/carrier blanket can be used as both a blanket or playmat on the plane and easier to remove on sleeping babies than clothes to control their temperature.

Extra Bag


  • Don’t forget about extra clothes for yourself to avoid having to smell like vomit/orange juice/sweat/milk etc. for 16 hours of travel

  • Bring ziplock bags to place any soiled items in without ruining the rest of your stuff!

  • Extra outfit, a sweater, blanket for the baby (some flights in and out of China are still not providing pillows and blankets so make sure you are covered incase they don’t)

  • Extra diapers and wipes and a changing mat (mid-air diaper blowouts from air pressure changes are real!) 

  • For potty trained toddlers make sure you have your own toilet covers/toilet seat attachment, or small portable potty. (See links under the section)

  • Pacifiers

  • Wet wipes/ portable hand wash spray (See taobao link under the section) for hands and toys/bottles/pacifiers/utensils and Detox/Clorox wipes for cleaning the surface areas, arm rests, tray tables, seat belt buckles before kids sit in it.


Bathroom Hygiene

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Shanghai Mamas Tip:

A stroller/carrier blanket can be used as both a blanket or playmat on the plane and easier to remove on sleeping babies than clothes to control their temperature.

At-a-Glance Packing List

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