Answer by Thomas Zerbarini:
12 hours is a long time for a little one. It will not all be perfect the entire time. We travel on airlines with our four children all the time from 4mo old. These are some of the things we do to keep them busy:
- Have a carseat and seat for every child and keep them buckled up when seated and not moving or stretching, (you never know if you'll ever experience severe turbulence or an aborted takeoff–there is no-way you will be able to hold on to your small child during these events)
- Walk a lot in the terminal before the flight. No sugar snacks or drinks.
- Make sure the child cannot kick the back of the seat of the person in front of them. take their shoes off when seated.
- Plan a loose schedule for the entire flight keeping the child busy and entertained the whole way. It is unrealistic to expect them to sleep all the time. I would say keep them awake and busy. (Boarding, Eat Meal, Clean up, Meat seat neighbors, play with toys, walk the aisle visit Flight Attendants, snack at seat, read a book, nap time, socialize with neighbors, play with toys, walk aisle visit bathroom and play/splash with water, dry off, have snack, color/read book, meal/bottle, and so on)
- Grab a snack or a meal and eat it on the airplane after you're settled and in the air.
- Have plenty of non sugar healthy snacks.
- Benadryl works for some kids but makes others hyper.
- Have plenty of pacifiers, diapers, wipes and little baggies for messes.
- Keep your area clean for the Flight Attendants–they will help you more than you know when they see you care about them.
- Eye contact and even conversation with passengers around you will help alleviate their stress. I have often asked the Flight Attendants to offer special snacks or cocktails on me for the passengers around me as a friendly gesture.
- Have plenty of books, toys and even puppets to entertain and goof around.
- We do use movies, but we keep it to one or two if at all. We use it as a special event during the flight. We much rather keep them busy in other ways because they will act better and sleep better when you get off the flight when you really want to visit, rest or get on your way.
- Children almost always fall asleep on the descent and landing. Plan on this and take advantage of it.
- Finally, on the descent, your child may experience ear discomfort. the best way to alleviate this is an old Flight Attendant trick using two cups, warm water and thick paper towels. Prep for this before the descent. Take the wad of paper towels and stuff it in the bottom of the cups. pour hot water in the cups, just enough to saturate the paper towels. Then hold the cups over each of the child's ears to create a warm moist environment around the outside of the child's ears. This should loosen the inner ear tubes and balance out the pressure during the descent. Be sure the paper towels are not TOO HOT.
Enjoy your flight and your trip. Share your experience later when you complete your journey.