9 Tips to Get Your Child to Sleep on a Plane

Every parent wants their young child to sleep on an airplane.  It’s just the truth.  Having a sleeping kid on an airplane makes everyone less stressed.  Whether your flight is 2 hours or 15 hours, it’s a good feeling to get some much needed relaxation while the little one snoozes the miles away.  We have put a baby to sleep on an airplane, put a toddler and a baby to sleep on an airplane and we’ve even gotten two toddlers to sleep on an airplane. We have one good sleeper and one not so good sleeper, so it’s not always easy. In order to help other parents who feel overwhelmed by sleep time on a plane, I put together 6 ways to get your child to sleep on a flight, so let’s get snoozing!

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Latham using his DockATot DeluXE here and snoozing away a flight from Amsterdam to Prague.

Latham using his DockATot DeluXE here and snoozing away a flight from Amsterdam to Prague.


Here are 9 Ways to help your child to sleep on an airplane:

1) Tire them out.

One mistake many parent’s make is not allowing their child to run free inside the airport before a flight.  Instead of trapping them in a stroller or putting them in a carrier, consider letting them be the boss.  Let them run down the hall, climb a few chairs, or challenge them to a game that involves them moving around.  One game idea would be to have them go find as many airplanes as they can out of the windows.  The idea is to burn down the energy BEFORE the flight! Check out Why We Reccomend Airport Lounges for Families.

Charletta running through the pensacol airport

Charletta running through the pensacol airport


2) Invest in an Inflatable Foot Pillow

I give this tip a lot because it’s one of the best investments we have made for travel with our toddlers.  For long haul flights, we inflate them for each kid just after the seatbelt sign goes off and don’t deflate them until we have to put our tray tables away.  Our kids have slept through the night because they are able to laydown flat. If you want your young children to sleep on an airplane, inflatable footrests are worth their weight in gold.  Not all airlines allow these, so check before you fly.  Also, they are only allowed in the window seat OR the middle seat, so you cannot inflate one on an aisle seat on any aircraft.

The kids sharing a foot pillow on a long haul from Seattle to Atlanta

The kids sharing a foot pillow on a long haul from Seattle to Atlanta


3.) Follow your home routine. 

Both Kids went to sleep on this long haul from Atlanta to Amsterdam. C slept 7 hours and L slept 6. Latham is in his dockatot Deluxe (unzipped to make it more malleable for the flight)

Both Kids went to sleep on this long haul from Atlanta to Amsterdam. C slept 7 hours and L slept 6. Latham is in his dockatot Deluxe (unzipped to make it more malleable for the flight)

Are you flying during naptime or bedtime?  If yes, simply follow the same routine you do at home.  We bring these body wipes to give our kids a “bath”, then we put them into their pajamas, give them yogurt, read a book and lay them down.  We follow the exact same bedtime routine that we have at home.  And it works.  For naps, I general do the same thing.  Getting your kid to sleep on airplane is similar to getting them to sleep at home, so stick to a routine. If you’re changing several time zones, check out our 5 Tips for Overcoming Jetlag.


4.) Bring the car seat. 

If your child sleeps well in the car seat, it may be beneficial to bring your car seat on the plan for them to sleep in.  Neither of my kids do, so we haven’t explored this option, but we are in many family travel communities where avid family travelers use this method successfully. If you’re looking for a lightweight carseat, check out which Travel Carseats we recommend HERE.


5.) Get them full. 

The kids eating snacks on a domestic flight; they are using their oogaa silicone mat to keep the snacks germ free.

The kids eating snacks on a domestic flight; they are using their oogaa silicone mat to keep the snacks germ free.

Be sure your child is well fed before starting a sleep time routine.  Often a full tummy and the low drum of the airplane are enough to make anyone feel drowsy.  Pack snacks your child will love and that make them full.  We personally love bringing the Yogurt Pouches onto the plane for an easy, filling and nutritious pre-sleep snack. If you’ve got a picky eater, check out our blog on Traveling with Picky Eater.

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6.) Create a dark space. 

Ok, I realize this image is just a dark photo of me holding a sleeping baby on the plane, but still. The plane lights were off, the shades were down and she was out! ….and,clearly, so was i

Ok, I realize this image is just a dark photo of me holding a sleeping baby on the plane, but still. The plane lights were off, the shades were down and she was out! ….and,clearly, so was i

One way to do this is by asking for or bringing your own extra blanket on to the plane.  You can create a canopy with the blankets by draping them over their seatback and into their respective tray tables.  This creates their own personal tent space and blocks the airplanes lighting from waking a sleeping baby. If you have access to the window shade, be sure to close it.


7.) Babywear

Put your baby or toddler into a baby carrier such as an Ergo Baby or a Toddler Tula and walk the aisles.  We have put our kids to sleep many times on a flights by doing this.  Sometimes stationary seat rocking just isn’t enough, so we walk the aisles until our kids fall asleep.  We then transfer them to the laying position.

While this isn’t me actively lulling a baby to sleep ON a plane, it is me getting 2 kids through the airport by myself. I highly recommend investing in a baby carrier

While this isn’t me actively lulling a baby to sleep ON a plane, it is me getting 2 kids through the airport by myself. I highly recommend investing in a baby carrier


8.) Choose the appropriate seats. 

Call your airline to secure a bassinet for the baby.

Call your airline to secure a bassinet for the baby.

If you’re traveling with an infant in arms, you may want to call the airline to request a bassinet for the baby.  (only available on long haul flights)  These bassinets give the baby their own place to laydown flat and sleep uninterrupted on the plane.  If you’re traveling with older children, try not to pick the bulk head seats.  The arm rests typically do not go up, so you lose the extra space.  With two children, we always try to snag the middle row of 4-seats across so we can have then entire aisle to ourselves. This gives all the extra room to stretch out and relax.  We also try to be near a restroom, but not so close that the traffic in and out is constant. (and loud)  Ideally, I like to be about 5-7 rows away.


9.) Relax. 

Our daughter at 23 months did not want to sleep at all on a long haul from Atlanta to Paris, so we didn’t force the issue. Instead we made her comfortable and let her entertain herself.

Our daughter at 23 months did not want to sleep at all on a long haul from Atlanta to Paris, so we didn’t force the issue. Instead we made her comfortable and let her entertain herself.

Seriously.  Don’t force the sleep issue.  Don’t expect your child to fall asleep before take-off and wake up after landing. (Although, that does seem awesome!)  If you are relaxed, your children will reciprocate.  Be gentle with them, understand it’s not their typically sleep environment, and most of all, try to go with the flow.  Sometimes your child will go to sleep 2 hours after their typical bedtime (or not at all) and sometimes they will take a 3-hour nap when they normally only sleep 1 at home.  With all travel, it’s the journey that makes the trip! If your kid doesn’t want to sleep, check out our guide to Entertaining Your Toddler/Baby While Traveling.


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Whether you are coaxing a baby to sleep on an airplane or prepping your older child to sleep on an overnight flight, these tips can help you make your efforts go further.  Humans typically sleep better in quiet dark spaces while laying down, so creating the most effective sleep space while still maintaining safety is paramount.  Please, always ensure your child is in a seatbelt or restraint of some kind.

What are some tried and true tips you have for getting your baby to sleep on an airplane?  I would love to hear about in the comments!

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Flying with young children, toddlers or a baby can feel scary, but it doesn’t need to be. I’ve compiled all the ways we get our kids to sleep on a plan. #flyingwithkids #familytravel #sleeponaplane #travelfamily
Flying with young children, toddlers or a baby can feel scary, but it doesn’t need to be. I’ve compiled all the ways we get our kids to sleep on a plan. #flyingwithkids #familytravel #sleeponaplane #travelfamily
Flying with young children, toddlers or a baby can feel scary, but it doesn’t need to be. I’ve compiled all the ways we get our kids to sleep on a plan. #flyingwithkids #familytravel #sleeponaplane #travelfamily

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