Travel: Flying alone for 20 hrs with a toddler

We’re BACK from a four-weeks long vacation in Shanghai, China. It was AMAZING!!! we came back 10 days ago but I’ve been super busy catching up with life/work/sleep, so bare with me with the posting.

Today I want to share my experience of flying alone with Sofia, 22 months old toddler, for 20 hrs. I was really concerned how I could deal with her and keep her busy/happy during the flight and keep my sanity. It turned out that it wasn’t that bad.

We arrived the airport 1.5 hrs before departure time and had plenty of time checking around. I picked a midday flight so we can keep our usual schedule and did not have to rush.


Two weeks before the trip I bought a airport book for Sofia and read it to her every single day. So by the time we arrived the airport, she was familiar with the environment and was nearly obsessed with the plane. She’d point it and say to me “avion avion avion”! super excited.


we waited until almost all passengers went on board so Sofia could release energy before getting stuck in the small space. Although she’s under 2, I still bought a seat for her because at this age, I can’t imagine having her on my lap for the entire flight.


for take off I gave her candies. It was her first time and it entertained her for a good 15 min. πŸ™‚

Food: she didn’t eat the food served on the plane because she’d snack here and there, as part of her entertainment activity, so by the time the food comes, she’s not hungry. But she couldn’t pass the ice cream. πŸ™‚

Favorite snacks: puffs, raisin, crackers, seaweed, dry fruits.


she doesn’t normally eat ice cream, maybe the first time ever? so she was very entertained by the experience.


another advantage of getting her a seat is that between two of us, we had three seats, so she could lie down completely to sleep.

Sofia took her normal nap at 3pm for 2 hrs.


and night time sleep was wonderful, 5 hrs straight, almost until we landed.


we had two hours between connection at Tokyo airport. It has a playground for kids! WONDERFUL!!!


we spent most of our connecting time there


unfortunately our flight was delayed for two hours… and we were both exhausted.


look how cute is the child food serve by ANA.


So, how I entertained Sofia during the flight? I’d say she slept half of the long flight (14 hrs), the rest was spent between snacking, reading books, playing stickers, bothering other passengers, diaper changes, walking around, making huge mess with drinks.

I was exhausted by the time we arrived because I couldn’t close my eyes all this time, not even when Sofia was sleeping because I was afraid that she’d fall down the seat. But overall it was not as bad as I thought, and it gives me confidence to travel again with her in the future.

Packing tips:

Since I was traveling with Sofia alone, I didn’t had carry on. Instead I had a backpack and a handbag. Things that I packed on flight:

  • diapers (1 every fliying hour)
  • wipes
  • changing pads
  • snacks
  • two bottles (1 for milk, 1 for water)
  • books
  • stickers (these are life savers)
  • hand sanitizer
  • paper + color pen for drawing
  • iphone (to show her pictures and videos)
  • portable battery for iphone
  • 1 set of changing cloth
  • blanket
  • makeup bag
  • utensils for Sofia that she didn’t use
  • umbrella stroller
  • documents (passports, travel authorization for Sofia, birth certificate)
  • spare bags for trash
  • bibs
  • ibuprofen for children and nose spray



Filed under Uncategorized

4 responses to “Travel: Flying alone for 20 hrs with a toddler

  1. I’m glad that you had a great trip! And how great that the long flight went so well! You were clearly well prepared!

  2. This packing list is really helpful!

  3. thedelicateplace

    did you layover at narita? i flew to the Philippines via there and found it kinda dumpy 😦 not much for adults! nothing like LAX or Heathrow ya know πŸ™‚ i’m eager to hear about your trip to China—I have several coworkers from all over so I enjoy smelling/hearing about their lunches every day haha

  4. Sounds like a success!!

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