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Moving week arrived far too quickly. My to-do lists were only half crossed-off; I had to prioritize and let go of trying to get it all done. Once everything was packed, we spent a couple of weeks visiting family, and then it was time to get on the plane to Europe. The actual plane trip is a comparatively small part of the whole moving process, but those long travel days can cause a lot of anxiety in parents. We made the trip with our boys, who are four and two. Here’s what we found worked–and what didn’t:

I took the boys to the airport a few times before we left, just to watch the planes and talk about our big trip coming up. They loved the field trip, and I knew they wouldn’t be overwhelmed walking into an airport. It would feel familiar. A few dollars for parking each time was a price I was willing to pay; once it was our turn to go through the airport, they were confident and eager.

We had decided not to ship our car overseas, but we did bring car seats. We’ll need them in taxis and when renting a car for traveling in Europe. So we brought them with us on the plane. Having the toddler’s car seat and an airline-approved harness for our preschooler on the flight turned out to be one of our best decisions. They felt secure in their seats and were able to fall asleep.

Since our new city is not a major hub for flights throughout Europe, we took three separate flights: one longer one from the East Coast to Heathrow and then two smaller hops to our new home. Unfortunately, the six-hour flight to London was not long enough for our guys to get some good sleep in. We had thought it’d be good for them not to sit still for so long, and that getting off the plane to stretch their legs would help with excess energy. Unfortunately, between the dinner service when we got on the flight and the breakfast service before landing, the lights on the plane were only off for two and a half hours. Nowhere near enough time for the little ones to sleep. Using eye masks might work for adults, but have you ever tried getting two little boys to wear them while people around them are eating, talking, and watching movies on the screen in front of them? Not gonna happen.

One great thing we found on our layovers were the children’s play areas in the airports. It was a lifesaver to be able to take the kids to indoor jungle gyms where they could take off their shoes and run around and play. Bonus, they often have baby changing tables there or family restroom nearby. If you’ve ever tried and failed to find a place to change a diaper in a busy airport, you’ll know how important that is.

We brought our own dinner on the plane. We have a son with a peanut allergy, and I did not want to find out while trapped onboard that he wouldn’t be able to eat anything they served. So we bought our Chipotle (I knew the boys would eat their quesadillas and guacamole) and ate it as soon as we were seated, to give the boys a chance to digest a bit and watch a movie after, and hopefully be ready to sleep as soon as we turned out the lights. The boys ate well, which turned out to be a great thing, because they were too groggy in London several hours later to eat any breakfast at the cafe. Despite the plate of eggs and bacon in front on him, our toddler got off his chair and voluntarily climbed back into his stroller to nap instead of eat. Make sure their bellies are full before you leave.

We arrived after 18 hours of traveling, exhausted. We had a snack, and then we went through our typical bedtime routine of Bible story, picture book, singing, and prayer. I rubbed some lavender essential oil on the boys’ feet and a drop on their pillows for a familiar scent. They were asleep within minutes, resting up to meet their new city the next day.

What are your tricks help your kids on long flights? Do you prefer longer overnight flights or more stops? How do you help your kids through jet lag?

Once you’ve survived the plane trip, be sure to read all about “Getting Over the Fear” of living in a new and foreign place.


Moving Abroad: Getting on the Plane | TakingRoute.net