Surviving a 15 hour flight with a 1 year old

Justin and I love to travel. And we loved sharing this passion with our daughter, Juliette. When she was 4 months, we took her to Barcelona (SFO-London-Barcelona). She slept 8 hours straight in a bassinet on the way there — what a dream! Looking back, that was our favorite time to fly with her — young enough to sleep a lot but old enough…to sleep a lot 🙂

So when it came time to fly from SF to Melbourne, Australia (15.5 hours + some delays so stretched into about 17), with our very fidgety 1 year old, we were ready for a new experience. Here is what we learned.

The extra space matters

The best tip for us was getting some extra space, so we bought Juliette her own seat. As relatively frugal folks, this was a hard pill to swallow and we didn’t like the idea for paying for something that can be free until she is 2 years old. But we decided to do it.

Game changer.

We had seats in Economy. I would much rather have had the extra seat in Economy than just two seats in Premium Economy. The extra seat meant we had our own row and Juliette could crawl and play on the floor. We could spread our stuff everywhere and get up as much as we wanted to without bothering anyone. It also let me and Justin lie across two seats and sleep when the other one was with her, and that rest was fantastic.

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We also got the seat because we were hoping Juliette would sleep in her own seat. We bought this inflatable cushion that sits on the floor and then acts like a bed for her. We knew some flight crews might not allow it, but many travelers were able to use it more often than not. We blew it up and got her totally comfy, even laid out her sheet, got her sleeping and in her sleep sack!

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It wasn’t even 5 min later that a flight attendant came by and told us we had to deflate it as it posed a risk in case of evacuation — like she would need the floor to walk out of her window seat. Big bummer but we made it work.

Despite that, the conclusion on our seat selection: the extra space was awesome.

Now the big question, would I rather have 2 Business Class seats or 3 Economy seats? Probably Business since those seats are so spacious and then the other person can seriously get a good night’s sleep, but that wasn’t quite within the budget.

Be prepared with all your “stuff” handy

It is annoying and stressful to always be searching for the thing you need (bottle, milk, pouch, toy, sanitizer) when you need it. When we first got on the plane, we unpacked everything we needed and had the stuff that we really needed urgently (a toy, bottle, diaper pad) handy so that we didn’t have to go into the overhead bin for them.

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Always keep hand sanitizer or Purell wipes close. Even after doing a super thorough wipe down of the seats, seat backs, seatbelts, walls, tray tables, screens etc. somehow we still found we needed the hand sanitizer close by.

Clearly Juliette has seen us use these a lot because she immediately started helping.

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Passing the time

SNACKS. At one year, Juliette really loved to eat. We made sure we had lots and lots and lots of snacks — especially ones that took time to eat. Like One. Cheerio. At. A. Time. We also brought lots of bread. It was just one days so we were okay going carb heavy.

Walking around. There is a lot to see on an airplane and a one year old can see it over and over again without getting bored. We probably spent an hour hanging out in the galley with a super nice flight attendant, looking at the latches and watching him do his job. He even gave us an extra banana and fruit plate 🙂

Toys. It’s a long flight so be sure to save some toys and activities for later in the trip. Don’t give away everything in the first hour (which is easy to do!). We found we actually didn’t use our toys as much she played with the (wiped down) air safety pamphlet and any cords she could find.

Have your go-to gear ready

Here are our favorites:

  • Baby outfit. Juliette’s “flying outfit” — the only outfit she has ever traveled in — the Bond Zippy Wondersuit. This is not just a pair of pajamas, it is a miracle in cotton. It is double zippers so you can unzip from the bottom for super easy diaper changes without snaps or pants. It also has fold-over feet and hands which we used a lot when she was younger to keep her warm on the plane.
  • Wireless earbuds. Holding a fidgety baby who constantly pulls at your headphone cords is not the ideal movie watching experience. This time, we bought an AirFly wireless adaptor that I used with my wireless AirPods so I could watch a movie and hold her at the same time. We felt like full on geniuses.

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  • Front baby carrier. We love our Infantino carrier because it is so light weight, but use whatever carrier is most comfortable for you. We were so glad that we got Juliette used to sleeping in a carrier at an early stage. Once our brilliant inflatable bed idea was squashed, she had to sleep on us, which we totally made work.

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  • Cut out the distractions with a cover. It’s easy to have FOMO on an exciting airplane so we covered her in a nursing cover when we were trying to get her to fall asleep. This also helped her not be distracted by all the new and moving sights when she woke up and helped her go back down easily. Any nursing cover will do. We like this one with the wire ring so it’s easy to see in on her. We also use a sun hat to cover her head ad block out the distractions when bouncing her to sleep.

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  • Diaper pad pack. Have your diapers, wipes and a good distraction toy (we used keys) in a travel pack you can easily grab and take to the bathroom. It is so nice to not worry about a loose pack of wipes or stray diaper. It’s also nice to have a mat to use to avoid laying the baby directly on the changing table.

And with that, you’re there!

The time actually went by way faster than we thought it would have. I only got to watch 1.5 movies on the way here since I was either with her or sleeping. I may never know how Once Upon A Time In Hollywood ends.

Justin and I got some good sleep on the flight, as did Juliette, but nothing beats another nap on the way back from the airport 🙂

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What are your tips for long flights with a one year old? We want to hear them all! And let us know what we’re in for. Leave any advice for flying with a 12-24 month old. Tell me it gets even easier 😉

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