In just three days we are jet setting back to Japan for a few months (as of now). When we flew over the first of January of this year Gabriel was 4 months old and when we flew back at the end of June he was 10 months old.
Though the flight is a non stop flight, it is still 10.5 hours. Yes, ten and a half hour flight. This does not include getting to the airport 3 hours in advanced, going through customs after the flight as well as traveling from Tokyo down to Yokosuka, which is another couple hours or so. More or less this boils down to a full day of traveling.
I'll be honest, I was pretty nervous about traveling with Gabriel. I am not sure if I was more nervous about the little guy or about everyone else on the plane… We've traveled a lot in our lives and have witness a lack of grace and patiences from many passengers towards those traveling with little ones- I feared being on the receiving end of that.
Our trips were almost unbelievably smooth and stress free. It did help that when he was 4 months all he wanted to still do was nurse so I spent about 10 of the 10.5 hours of the flight with a baby attached to a boob. On our flight home when he was 10 months and "mobile" I assumed the worst, and ironically because I set the expectation so crazy low we had yet another incredible travel experience. I do have to mention that our son has always been a decently mellow kid so it didn't come as a surprise to my husband that Gabriel didn't have any meltdowns or crying spells on the plane.
I wish I could tell you the exact formula or steps to make traveling with a baby stress free and enjoyable but I can't, no one can. What I can tell you is what we did that seemed to really help us and Gabriel and this will maybe give you some ideas as to how to prepare (or not prepare) for your big travels.
Check Stroller at the Gate
If your stroller collapses, most airlines will let you take it all the way up to the gate and attach a stroller tag (call your airline before hand). When you unload the plane, after everyone gets off,
you can retrieve your stroller at the gate before heading to customs/baggage claim. When we arrived at Tokyo it was so nice to have our stroller- Gabriel quickly fell asleep and remained asleep all the way through customs and baggage claim.
An Ergo is also super handy.
Less is more! On our flight to Japan we had the max number of carry-on we were allowed and it was so much to juggle. On the way home we reduced it by a few items and were so much happier.
I bought a few magazines, had my kindle and even brought some yarn and knitting needles! I figure that since it was a 10.5 flight that I'd have plenty of time to do all those things… Nope. I think I read maybe 4 pages on my kindle and that was about it. What I did bring that was useful was an extra change of clothes for me. This was a habit I got into through traveling with my mom back to Minnesota (she always insisted we packed extra underwear in our carryon just incase or luggage went missing), it was nice to have an extra shirt when Gabriel spat up.
Toys: Bring a couple toys making sure to include a favorite as well as a brand new toy never seen before.
Books: Like toys, favorite and new.
Travel Boppy: I am a nursing mother and a Boppy was/is my best friend in the beginning stages of nursing. I found online that Boppy makes a travel size that zips up and has a shoulder strap, wonderful!
Clothing: We brought three changes or clothes which took into consideration layering as well as warm clothes. The airports were decent in temperature but the plane fluctuated. The bus ride and the wait outside while luggage was getting sorted before being shuttled to our apartment was freezing! I was glad I had Gabriel's hat and mitten accessible.
Food: On our flight home we made sure to have some packets of baby food as well as mum-mums and puffs! If you are passed nursing you can get milk from the flight attendant and don't forget a sippy for water.
Diapers etc: We decided against using the clothe diapers for the flight- it's okay to do that. On our first flight we packed a ridiculous amount of diapers fearing we'd run out… it was embarrassing. On the flight home we anticipated a new diaper about every 3 hours and still had left overs. Wipes, bibs, and burp rages are also necessary.
Lovey: Our son has a stuffed sheep that he just adores and is his comfort/bedtime item. We made sure to have this with us. A cuddly blanket is always nice too.
At 4 months we didn't really need to do much for him inflight but at 10 months we made sure to let him get a chance to move up and down the halls and do a little exploring.
I have a "plan" for traveling with our 16 month old after talking to friends and doing some research. Here's hoping it works out for us! I'll be sure to let you know.
Please keeps us in your thoughts and prayers on our day in travel.