How I survived a 12 hour flight with a toddler

Flying anywhere can be difficult when you have a child, even more so when your flight is over 12 hours long. That is what I dealt with this weekend.

You may have read in our last post that we are now living in Japan. And while our adventure has just only begun, I am looking back to our flight and giving you all the dirt on how we survived.

First off let me say that we had three flights within 24 hours. Our first leg of the trip was 3 hourslong. Since we had to be up and out the door by 4 am, my little slept almost the entire first flight. So that was easy peasy.

I should also mention that he had his own seat on the flight which was a lifesaver since I got to lay him out.

Then came the layover, which was not bad. I let him run around the waiting area a bit in hopes that he would tire out and sleep more on the plane. I also hoped that having my parents over three days before our flight keeping him up during naps would make him extra tired for the flight. Well, it didn’t help.

The first hour of the flight went by pretty quick, and between being newly on the plane, wanting to discover the personal TVs and trying to look at the people around him he tired himself out quickly and fell asleep.

That only lasted about a good hour.

After that began the battle to keep him entertained, TV only caught his attention by spurs of moments. He’d see an episode here or there throughout the flight, but nothing continuous. However, it did give me a small 30-minute reprieve every so often.

Toys, overall this was the most prominent lifesaver. My son is very into animals and dinosaurs right now. To make the toys even better I made sure they were new toys he had never seen before. The awe and excitement of not only having toys, but new toys was terrific. I want to say he spent a good hour with each one when first opened.

I would say, for future flights, I will probably buy about ten small new toys, wrap it and give it to him every hour or so. Like this, he is always busy with a new toy. For us, this was where the biggest form of entertainment was.

Towards the end of the flight, he became extremely exhausted. He had bearly slept, and back “home” it was about 3 am. At this point, he began crying and very irritable. I got up and took him to the bathroom and let him walk in there. Yes, the bathroom was small, but he seemed content in walking those three paces over and over again. I could have let him walk the aisle, but my kid is way too friendly, and I was afraid he’d wake someone up to “talk” to them. For us, the bathroom was the best option. We were in there for maybe 5 minutes, enough to calm him and the crying. Then once back in the seat, I managed to get him to go back to sleep. He slept for the duration of the flight … 45 minutes. Oy!

Once again, in the airport, he was awake and walked about until it was time to board the plane once again. Once back on the plane for our short and final 1.5 hr flight he fell asleep before we even took off. At this point, the local time was 6 pm. He slept through the flight, through the luggage claim ordeal, through the car drive, and even putting him in bed. He did not wake up until 5 am in the morning, poor thing was exhausted and more than likely very Jetlag.

I cant say flying with a toddler is easy, but it is not as difficult as you’d think. As long as you have snacks they like, some tv, and toys, things will go ok.

For me, the stress before the flight was much worse than the actual flight.

I hope this in some way helps you, whether it be to prepare or ease your mind. Just remember at the end of the day they are kids, and people will more than understand. Even with his crying at the end, I kept getting told by the surrounding passengers how amazing he behaved. Maybe people just expect kids to cry the whole time, who knows.

So deep breath, all will go ok.

Safe Travels!

8 thoughts on “How I survived a 12 hour flight with a toddler

  1. Jillian

    Thanks for sharing this! I have 3 year old twins and we have only driven 16 hours we have never flown more than 4. We did do the “wrap the toys’ thing. Everything was from the dollar store and some were gifts given by grandparents! It was a lifesaver in the car 🙂

  2. Brittany

    We travel a lot with our three toddlers but have never gone on a 12 hour flight. Loved your advice! Enjoy your new journey!

  3. Stacey Billingsley

    Wow, I’m impressed! I have an eight-year-old, and I don’t know how she would do on a long flight like that. These tips are helpful. I try to have some new items for my daughter when we go on long car trips to help with the boredom. Thanks for the info!


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