If you're embarking on a long-haul 8+ hour flight, I've got one advice that'll make the trip easier. A quick background first, I'm a single dad that has flown my girls around when they were as young as 1.5 yrs old. Many of our flights were 13 - 16 hour flights between the US and Asia.
If I can do it, you certainly can.
Here goes: the single most important thing is sleep.
Make their sleep time the most comfortable as possible on the flight, and mimic their normal bedtime routine.
No matter how much you try to help the trip, a cranky child without good sleep is going to stay cranky and disagreeable. Added their week's long jet lag they'll have when you arrive at the destination, if you don't take care of their sleep, you're in for one helluva trip.
On one of my earliest trips to Asia, a 15+ hour flight, my daughters and I flew Economy on the amazing ANA (All Nippon Airways), from JFK to Tokyo (Narita Airport). After our first meal, I started preparing for their bedtime.
- [Tip #1] There are many products out there to help their sleeping situation. I went old-school, and brought a todder-sized sleeping bag with their own pillow (the one they use at home) for sleeping on the airplane floor beneath your seat. Yup, you read that right. Use airline pillows and blankets to add more padding underneath and all around to buffer any turbulence.
- [Tip #2] And since it's not kosher to have a child sleeping on the floor, use an airline blanket as a canopy to cover your child, because... well, you don't want the stewardess to see. Trust me, it's worth it, 100x over.
I also pre download many hours worth of storytime podcasts to help them fall asleep. Bedtime stories are what mine are used to, so a podcast is a perfect mimic of their bedtime routine.
- [Tip #3] Pre-download many hours worth of podcasts they can listen to on the flight, and the bedtimes for the rest of their trip. Perfect for limiting screen time, and for adding smiles and peaceful sleep.
- [Tip #4] Buy a pair of children's headphones (about $35 - $45) for better audio than the airline's (the high treble is too harsh for anybody's ear really), and for a much better fit than grownup's.
After they were asleep, I ordered myself a Sapporo, got out my Kindle, and gently fell asleep not too long after I finished my beer.
- [Tip #5] You. Make sure you get yourself an entire night's worth of sleep the night before your flight. You want to feel fresh / ready if your kids are rambunctious on the flight. You also don't want to be tired upon arrival, because getting to your final destination (taxi, public transportation, bus, etc) in a foreign country, with kids in tow, is another journey in itself.
A good two hours into my sleep, Ashley's crying/screaming jolted me up. Click the link for that story.
Good sleep is by far the most bang for the buck advice. So with these simple tips above, you've set yourself up for a much easier, enjoyable trip. Now you have a solid foundation to take on all the other tips out there.
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Thanks for reading!