Flying with Children: the reality (hint, we all survived)


... well, barely.

The flight there was the worst I'd say. We departed at 10:30am and landed after 8-9 hours in Narita just outside Tokyo at 6:30pm with a one hour time difference.

We got to the airport early (I would always do this with children so you have plenty of time for any surprises) and spent lots of time walking around exploring, watching the planes land and take off etc.

We boarded the plane among the last which I definitely recommend as you still spend awhile on the tarmac once the plane doors are closed.
For the 4 of us, we got lucky with two of us to a row of 3 seats and the other 2 directly behind in a row of 3 seats.
The first two hours started so well and lulled me into a false sense of security. Everyone was happy, excited and entertained. Around the two hour mark though, CB lost all patience, was fed up with being confined and my food and entertainment distractions were buying a ten minute window at best. 
There was lots of climbing back and forth between seats, starting movies only to refuse them 5 minutes in and just general irritable behaviour.
We tried to set him up for sleep with his familiar blankie and bunny and lots of cuddles but he wasn't having a bar of it. 
That's when the fun began. Tantrums, squealing and all out screaming. We tried ignoring, coaxing, bribing and I resorted to crying myself. 
After 2 hours of hell, he finally closed his eyes and we had respite for a whole 90 minutes ... I prayed for 120 but that 90 mins at least was bliss.
The remaining 3 hours followed much the same as those prior to sleep until he suddenly found his better spirits on descent and became Mr Charming Chatterbox to all around.

E on the other hand was a total delight, completely entertained by all the tricks in my carryon and happily watched movies etc until the last hour when he was clearly exhausted from refusing to nap and became whingy. Of course tiredness got the better of him and he fell asleep during the descent and needed to be woken upon landing meaning he was sooky and tired all through customs and getting our bags which wasn't fun.

Once we landed, we cleared customs easily and upon grabbing our bags, unpacked the pram and set E up in it where he went straight to sleep again while CB rode the skateboard and gave us running commentary on the sights.

We had decided to catch the Narita Express into Tokyo having used it before so we found the ticket machine and platform easily and with little fuss, were Tokyo bound.
As E was still asleep in the pram, S and I took turns remaining with him in the luggage hold area and it was during S supervision that disaster struck.
All was quiet and fine (and the train wasn't busy thankfully) when I looked up in time to see E sit up in the pram ... and vomit, EVERYWHERE. All over himself, the pram, the floor ... and he just kept going. 
I jumped up leaving CB with his godfather who was traveling with us. S grabbed E and held him while I sacrificed my scarf throwing it over the worst of the mess on the floor and pulled out the wipes and plastic bags I had in my carryon. 
Poor E was pale, exhausted and upset so S concentrated on him while I spent the trip into Tokyo scrubbing the floor and pram of vomit - fun times and not quite how I envisaged our holiday starting.
S had to take back all his questioning of why I took so many packs of wipes and plastic bags in my carryon after that experience.

We were lucky having been to Shinjuku before that we navigated the enormous station easily and caught a cab to our accommodation where our Japanese friend met us. He had already checked in for us, turned on the heating and made sure all the services were in order.
Poor E had one more vomit so I got the boys in the bath asap, threw on a load of washing (thank goodness we did Air BNB so had a machine) and got them to bed - it was still 11pm by that time and CB was all bright eyed and bushy tailed.

They both slept well thankfully and E was fine by morning much to our relief.

The flight home was an overnight one, leaving at 8:30pm and arriving home at 6:30am.
This is the one that had me worrying the most because the good thing about day flights is that people don't NEED to sleep apart from to kill time so if your children do act up, its really not the end of the world. A screaming toddler at 3am on the other hand is hideous for everyone.

We set off for the airport early and lucky we did as check in and immigration/screening took forever ... we had just 30 minutes before our plane boarded by the time we got to the gate.
At the gate, we changed the boys into pjs (Bonds zippies are ideal for travelling) and encouraged the boys to run around and pretend to be different animals, do little jump skip hop obstacle courses etc - anything to tire them out.

Again, we waited to board last and I highly recommend this if you are flying with kids - minimise your time on that plane!

Once seated, things looked grim for the flight ahead with CB ... he was overtired and not happy to  be on the plane. He spent the first 90 minutes carrying on and pushing boundaries while E watched a movie. Then suddenly, he took himself to the floor, grabbed his bunny and blankie, and WENT TO SLEEP! I couldn't believe it. E was out too and while I tried to rest, even managing a few fitful hours, every time one of them moved, I stopped breathing, terrified they would wake.
I finally relaxed when there was an hour and a half till landing - I realised we were going to make it unscathed without everyone on the flight hating us.
As it was, the boys slept right up until we were making the descent, so 45 minutes before landing. I seriously couldn't believe how lucky I was, a dream come true.
The flight home was a breeze, especially compared to the trip there.

What worked from my carry-on
If you've been following along, I packed a pretty extensive carry-on and there were a few things that worked really well with the boys.

  • triangular crayons (they don't roll off the table) and small colouring books
  • snacks, lots and lots of snacks ... try to go easy on the sugary ones but the biggest hits were Shapes biscuits, mini Oreos, pre-cooked Barilla tortellini, blueberries/grapes/strawbs/mandarin segments, le snacs, fruit cereal bars, yoghurt squeezies (frozen prior) and lollipops for take-off and landing
  • mini Star Wars micro machine playset - kept E busy for hours
  • Blind bags - Thomas mini's, The Good Dinosaur, Mash-Ems ... I had a few of these and they definitely entertained 
  • Blankie & bunny - both boys used these as comforters 
  • Large ziplock bags and  2 packs of wipes - story above, enough said
  • Ipads, wireless hardrive and kids headphones - we loaded the hardrive up with the boys shows and movies plus a few they haven't seen 
  • plasticine - CB loved this stuff and spent a good ten minutes at a time playing with it
  • The fruit pouches - a must! Flying can play with bowel movements and I think these really helped the boys (take a few to have once at your destination also - CB really needed them).

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