Last time when we went to Japan, he was only 8 months old and wasn't walking yet. We knew this time would be harder... So we tried to make it as easy as possible. We decided NOT to use direct flight - Jetstar.
|Melbourne Domestic Airport
Direct flights sound easier, but not with Jetstar. We had a terrible experience last time with them. We booked a night flight, but they changed it to a 10am flight the next morning, and then that was delayed even more to 1pm, so we arrived in Tokyo nearly 12am. We were really exhausted. To make sure our night flight was really a night flight, we booked Qantas this time. Qantas doesn't have direct flight from Melbourne to Tokyo, so we had a transit at Sydney.
We left Melbourne around 9.30am and arrived in Sydney at 11am. This short flight was actually the hardest part of our trip. Nico slept in our car on the way to the airport, so he was wide awake on this flight. He kept moving around non-stop between Paul and me and the empty seat. We were prepared for this though. I read some tips for flights with toddlers and bought new small toys for him. I also wrapped them up to make it exciting to open. We gave Nico one of them during this first flight. He really loved it! Also we saved Nico's favourite Gibli animation (Kiki, Totoro, Spirited Away and Howel's moving castle) to our iPad and it worked well too. He sat down and watched it for at least ten mins.
In Sydney, we caught up with our friends and had lunch together. Then we went to my sister's home to have a nap before our long night flight (9 hours). Actually Nico fell asleep after lunch so by the time we got my sister's place, he didn't really want to go to sleep, but at least we Paul and I could have a little lie down while my sister was looking after Nico.
|my sister and Nico
We left my sister's place around 5pm and had dinner at the airport. We knew that dinner would be served on the flight but the flight was 8.30pm and we knew that by the time the dinner was served, it would be nearly 10pm. We didn't want to interrupt Nico's sleep.
When we got on this flight, Nico was pretty tired and was ready to sleep. We got 1 extra seat so he put his legs on my lap and head on a cushion (it was actually my feeding pillow) in the extra seat and went to sleep after a feed (I still breast feed). He woke up a couple times for a feed, but slept nearly whole time! It was a good surprise for us how easy it was.
|breakfast time- Paul was still sleepy....
The flight back was easy too! We could get two extra seats this time, so Nico could sleep pretty well and I could sleep well too. We didn't need to give him a toy nor iPad. The arrival time was around 6.30am so the flight attendants started to wake passengers up for brekky around 5am (4am Japan time). Nico always wakes up quite early so it worked well too.
|Nico had an afternoon nap in the stroller we borrowed at Narita Airport
Our transit this time was at Brisbane and waiting at the airport was the second hardest time for us. We wanted to sit down and have a rest after long flight, but Nico wanted to move around. Well at least at the airport, we had space for him to run around. Also we could borrow a stroller there (our stroller was in checked luggage so we had no access during transit) so it was good. Our boy wants to be carried all the time so having no stroller can be just torture. We gave him another new toy there too.
|having dinner at Narita Airport
Because we had to wake up early for brekky, Nico was pretty tired by the time we got on the next flight at 10.30am. Nico slept for two hours from Brisbane to Melbourne. What an easy flight!
From Melbourne to Tokyo, it takes about 10 hours by direct flight. Like I said before, direct flights sound easier, but actually breaking up that 10 hours was much easier for us. If you're on the same flight for more than 10 hours, that means your kid will just be awake for longer hours. Just playing with kids in a small space for an extra 1hour will make you really exhausted.
If we can give someone tips for flight with toddlers, we'd say..
1. Choose a night flight as much as possible. If you have to fly during the day time, choose a flight around your kid's nap time.
2. If the flight is longer than 10 hours, break it up by using transits
3. Prepare some new toys 4. Ask check in staff to give you a whole row ( two extra seats) - it's sometimes difficult but you can still ask!
5. Get your kids ready for bed before the long flight - give them dinner, brush their teeth etc. If you try to have dinner with the other passengers, you and your kids won't be able to sleep until all the trays are cleared..
Personally breast feeding helped us with this trip (and the last trip) quite a lot. I was going to wean Nico before this trip but I'm glad I didn't. Whenever he was unsettled, I just fed him and he was happy. Feeding while taking off and landing helped Nico with ear troubles too.
there was a play space at Narita Airport..
It's good to make you kids tired before long flights!
We think Japan is one of the easiest flight destination with toddlers because you can choose a night flight. If we go somewhere domestic and it's 3 hour day flight, it would be harder than this 9 hour night flight.
Through this experience we got a little confidence in flying with a toddler. But we've seen mums with two kids or parents with a baby and a toddler on a flight too. Probably we haven't experienced enough to talk about this topic yet!