Intercontinental Travel. Difficulty Level: 1 Year Old Baby
January 9, 2014 11:11 AM   Subscribe

As my BIL is going to get married in late June in Israel, we've started to consider how myself, my husband and son can all attend with the least amount of hassle. Is it even possible? Baby snowflakes within.

The wedding will be in late June 2014. We would likely also be traveling with my MIL who lives in the same state we do. Baby Stardust will just have turned 1 year. The flight time will probably be at least 8 hours, not counting any layovers or connecting flights, which we will surely have.

Now, we've never had much success getting Baby to sleep anywhere but in his crib at home. He rarely naps when he goes to the sitter. I was thinking it might be easier on us to attempt this flight overnight so he'll sleep through most of it, but I have no idea if he can even sleep on a plane. He doesn't sleep much in cars seats or in his stroller, plus new environments really throw off his schedule, so it's possible he'll be up and cranky.

Add to this the time changes once we arrive screwing up the sleep situation even worse. Unfortunately, Baby isn't one of those babies that can just shut down regardless of noise and environment when he gets tired. No, he cries quite forcefully until we can get him into an appropriate sleeping environment.

Parents with experience in this, are there things we can do to make this go a little more smoothly? Should I start trying to encourage him to take naps differently (different room in our house, different light levels) so that he will be better able to sleep in other environments?

Alternatively, it is an option for me to just stay home with Baby while husband and MIL attend, but it's not anyone's first choice. I enjoy the company of BIL and his fiance, so I'd like to be there, I just wonder if it will be best for the needs of the many for husband and I to be there in cranky-baby-zombie form.
posted by Kitty Stardust to Travel & Transportation (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I have not travelled intercontinentally with a 1-year-old but I have flown from SF to NYC with a 1-year-old, which is practically as far. My daughter didn't sleep much on the plane but she had tons of fun playing peekaboo with the person across the aisle from us (which was fortunate that we sat across from someone who liked babies) and was content to read/color/eat snacks most of the way. It was a lot less hassle than I thought it would be.

Also, since this is June you're talking about, this is an *enormous* time in the future. You're talking about what yo think your 1-year-old will do based on a 6-month-old. They'll hardly even be the same person, so you can't really generalize how you think your child will act at that point.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 11:28 AM on January 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Do not take an overnight flight. ALL of you will arrive severely sleep-deprived. Try to get a day flight if you can, so baby can be at his most cheerful and awake during the flight. Then worry about getting him to sleep once you're on the ground.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 11:40 AM on January 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

It will be difficult to guess how he'll be; he's only 6 months old now, and he could -- will -- be totally different in another 6 months. We took one of our kids to Europe when he was 9 months old, and have made many shorter (4+ hours) airplane trips with both our kids at various ages (earliest was 7 months old). Sometimes it's hard, sometimes not. Just try to be as prepared as possible -- lots of little toys (take them out in stages, not at once), videos on your tablet or smartphone if you have one (a godsend, even if you don't normally let your kid do that), snacks, dress him in layers, bring a blanket just for him and, of course, a couple changes of clothes, etc. Once you're there, just play it by ear. As a general matter, it's a bit easier to understand what a one year old wants than a 6 month old. In any case, kids are generally extraordinarily resilient, so don't underestimate his ability to roll with it.

For sure, though, I think you should go with baby.
posted by odin53 at 11:42 AM on January 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

I was about to say "yes, go for it," until I read this part of your question:

"We've never had much success getting Baby to sleep anywhere but in his crib at home. He rarely naps when he goes to the sitter."

And you know 6-months-olds in general sleep a lot more hours in a day than 1-year-olds do (I say this as the mother of 2 young kids). I know kids change a lot in the first year, but trust me, your kid is not going to all of a sudden sleep better in public at age 1, sorry.

Based on my personal experiences, one and two year olds are the worst possible ages for flying. They are too young to sit and watch a movie. They want to run around all over the plane. They don't have the coping skills yet to deal with ear pain. The cries of a 1 or 2 year old are the worst, because they cry and talk at the same time - and your fellow passengers are going to be meaner about a bigger baby crying than an infant.

I'd rather fly with an infant or a 3+ year old who can be entertained in their seat. If you must do it, fly during the day. Never count on a baby sleeping during an overnight flight.

Don't do it. Also, do you really want to bring a baby to a wedding? Does the bride really, truly want a baby at the wedding?

"it is an option for me to just stay home with Baby while husband and MIL attend"

Pursue that option. Or is there someone in the US with whom you could leave the baby while you and your hubby go?
posted by hush at 11:47 AM on January 9, 2014 [6 favorites]

Baby Stardust of January is not Baby Stardust in June. You'll get through it.
posted by k8t at 11:59 AM on January 9, 2014

I traveled from US to Europe with my sister and her 1 yr. old baby years ago. My sister got something from the pediatrician that zonked the kid out for most of the flight. I'm sure your doctor might have something similar to prescribe. Relax, your kid may have turned totally easy and mellow by then anyway.
posted by mareli at 12:00 PM on January 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

We just took a series of flights with our 1.75-year-old that were supposed to take 24 hours door-to-door...and they took 45 hours instead. It was surprisingly survivable.

It sounds like a daytime flight would work better for you. I'd recommend bringing individually wrapped chocolates or other treats to pass out to the nearby passengers. It's amazing how much goodwill that will buy you. Buy the baby his own seat if you can afford it, and buckle him into his car seat on the plane for some of the flight, especially if he likes to nap there at that age. Take a baby car seat and snap & go stroller even if he's a little small for it -- they're much easier to schlep than a convertible seat.

Plan to take turns with the baby -- whoever isn't "on" should nap, read, etc. if possible so they're refreshed and ready for their next turn. Relax all rules from home -- ply the baby with treats, videos, stickers, a mobile, fruit pouches, whatever it takes. Babies can understand that planes have different rules. Make sure you nurse/bottle-feed/offer a lollipop on take-off and landing so the baby's ears pop. Do not let baby sleep on takeoff and landing, no matter how tempting it seems -- the eventual ear pain will not be worth it.

Take extra clothes for the baby and for you onboard. Messes will happen. Very unhappy messes. Use nighttime diapers on the flight, regardless of how much sleeping happens. Put the baby in extra-cute clothing to charm strangers. Offer toys that don't make noise or roll: new books, those wands filled with sparkly things, finger puppets, paper to scrunch up, photos of family members, etc.

When you arrive, take turns again -- whoever isn't with the baby should get some sleep. Draft your MIL for a turn. Draft other family members and friends for a turn. Hire a babysitter. Take lotsa photos of the baby's big Israel adventure! Don't even consider staying home. Bon voyage!
posted by equipoise at 12:24 PM on January 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

When my nieces were small I traveled with them on long flights (3 girls, 4, 2 and 1). The pediatrician recommended some OTC drops to help them sleep which also helped with ear problems. If there ears got blocked I sort of gummed/chewed on their ears which is sort of ticklish and warm and seemed to help a lot. You have 3 adults to amuse one child. Work it in shifts (and be ready to go up and down that aisle A LOT).

In your spot, I'd go with a daytime flight. A crying babe on day flight is bearable. When the cabin is dark and everyone is trying to sleep a crying kiddo is more invasive. On every flight there are a few people who like babies and they will help you: peek-a-boo, walking the kid up the aisle. More than one stranger was charmed into playing with my girls. Yeah, some people are jerks, but many are helpful. And many, many people who don't volunteer to help have kids at home themselves. They understand that crying is just part of the deal.

Should I start trying to encourage him to take naps differently (different room in our house, different light levels) so that he will be better able to sleep in other environments?

If you can, then it's good to have your child be able to self soothe in different environments - so yeah, give baby a chance to learn to sleep in different places. Don't make it a big war, just let your child try to get to sleep in a new place for a few minutes. If it doesn't work, then just head back to the crib. Honestly, it's unlikely that this will allow your child to sleep on the flight because a flight is a lot of stimuli for a baby to ignore and go to sleep.
posted by 26.2 at 12:45 PM on January 9, 2014

The other parts of the OP's question that give me pause about them traveling internationally with this particular baby boy on a plane this year was:

"He doesn't sleep much in car seats or in his stroller,"

"plus new environments really throw off his schedule."

Every kid is different, and sure, there are kids who sleep really well in a car seat or stroller. The OP has already said her son does not do this. He only sleeps in his crib at home. He's not usually able to nap at the sitter's. So obviously there's a pretty good chance this kid would not sleep well during the entire trip. Which includes a wedding. Sounds like a recipe for disaster.

@26.2 is right about this: "Honestly, it's unlikely that [giving baby a chance to learn to sleep in different places] will allow your child to sleep on the flight because a flight is a lot of stimuli for a baby to ignore and go to sleep."
posted by hush at 12:52 PM on January 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've also read suggestions somewhere that the parents of the baby bring a package of ear plugs and offer them to people around them if anyone complains about the baby crying. Ear plugs help, I always bring them on planes in case there is a crying baby.
posted by at 1:05 PM on January 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Our son had some pretty specific sleeping patterns, but after some long car trips, a flight from Boston to San Francisco, and a big trip to Hawai'i from Boston he's gotten much more flexible. The Hawai'i trip was the hardest at 1.5 years, he stayed up for most of the time and we didn't buy an extra seat for him. But lots of small wrapped toys, a few cell phone apps for babies (we don't otherwise let him have screen time), plenty of snacks, and walks up and down the aisles got us through the 12 hours of flight time split across two flights. On the way there he was awake for most of the time, but for the flight home he slept for most of it.

Some folks are saying recipe for disaster -- you've got to decide how much you can take. Worst case scenario (awake and crying the whole time?) might be acceptable, especially if you intentionally book a flight with a layover so you can get off the plane after a few hours, stretch legs, play, etc. You might find that things go much easier than you plan for!

There are bound to be other parents if not other parents with babies on the plane who will be understanding -- take a few steps to be courteous to others and ignore any dirty looks. Sometimes babies cry, and sometimes you've got to take a crying baby on the plane. It might not be ideal, but you are not a terrible person or parent if your baby ends up crying for a while.

Last bit of advice: bring a change of clothes for the baby AND for both of you. It is hard to change a diaper on a plane. I haven't had a disaster, but know someone that did, and you don't want to get stuck in some messy clothes if you can avoid it!
posted by cubby at 1:24 PM on January 9, 2014

You want to go to the wedding? Just book your flights and go. I've travelled across the Atlantic with a < 1 year old a few times. 10 hour flights. Had connections onward after some of them. It's no picnic, but you'll all get over it.

When you book your seats, specify the age of your kid, and, even if you do buy a separate seat, get the bulkhead that flips down to hold the airline's crib thingy. That's what these things are meant for on International flights. There will be other kids there. In fact there'll be a crying kid in that crib on that flight, whether it's yours or not. Most international travellers know this going in and most of them with sense don't sit anywhere near the bulkhead when they don't have kids. Everyone's got earplugs, headphones, etc. anyway but it never hurts to have a few spares I guess.

Your kid will probably cry when the pressure changes. My wife either breast-fed on takeoff and landing, or we'd give the kid a bottle. My kids slept a bit, moaned a bit, got cuddled a lot, cried some, sat quietly know, a normal day. We always did overnight flights outward, because that's the way they're scheduled. Daytime flights in. The overnights were easier for us - the kids slept more. Daytime was a pain in the ass, since everyone else was up and moving too, but at least they weren't being kept awake. Any rules we had about limiting screentime went out the window for the duration of the flights (and in fact for the whole vacation - need 30 minutes of peace and quiet? Why thank you Baby Einstein, yes I do)

Have one of you order one of the special meals - I usually go for lactose free, cos you usually get something pretty good, but whatever works from their list. That way one of you gets your meal way ahead of the other and is done before the regular service shows up.

Sleep is messed up on the other side. We've tried everything. What seems to work best is just letting the kid stay up as late as they can. Usually ends up with them wide awake at 3 in the morning anyway, but if you can ride that out for an hour or two you might get them back to sleep some. My kids adjust about 45-60 minutes a day, they're usually back to their normal routine 3 days in. Assuming you're staying long enough for the kid to adjust, you'll have the same problem when you get home, but, honestly, I wouldn't miss a family wedding I wanted to be at for a few days of crappy sleep. You've probably got used to functioning on crappy sleep anyway. Go, have fun, make memories, let your kid be passed around by distant relatives.
posted by IanMorr at 1:32 PM on January 9, 2014

We took our daughter to Japan just before she turned one, something like a 12 hour flight. She was pretty much nursing or sleeping the entire time. I remember carrying her down the aisles a couple of times but it was a pretty unremarkable flight. To keep her occupied while awake we gave her a special toy just for the flight (dollar store wooden puzzle) and showed her her favourite video on our phones a couple of times (Weezer's Island in the Sun).

If you want to try out how he will do on the plane, you could try taking trips via subway/commuter train as it is a fair bit closer to the airplane experience than car trips.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 1:40 PM on January 9, 2014

We took our baby from SFO to LHR and back (10 hours-ish) when she was a year old. Not a problem at all. We bought tickets for midweek flights, and chose seats online for me & Mrs W0mbat leaving an empty seat in-between us. We didn't pay for a seat for the baby, just got a lap-child ticket. Checkin desk at airport was willing to block out that middle seat out as the flight wasn't full and no lone traveller wants a middle seat. Both directions we got that seat for the baby for the price of a lap child ticket.
Baby slept ate and played. The little noise she made could not compete with the jet engines.
It helped that we had got a few cheap small toys from the dollar store, and didn't let the baby see them until needed on the flight.
posted by w0mbat at 2:33 PM on January 9, 2014

Note that any flight to Israel will have lots of babies (unless it's Friday night.). If yours cries, he won't be the only one.

I've done this multiple times now, and the night flights were -so- much easier than the daytime ones. Basically I hold the kid in my lap and he nurses/sleeps the whole way. But the nursing bit was key for us; that always puts our son to sleep, so YMMV.
posted by wyzewoman at 3:03 PM on January 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Also: being in Israel with a baby is really fun; everybody makes a fuss. I'd do it if I were you, but try to stay as long as possible to maximize non-jet lagged time.
posted by wyzewoman at 3:05 PM on January 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Came here to second wyzewoman. Flights to Israel have a LOT of kids on them, due to US/Israel family connections, so I wouldn't worry too much about having the baby on the flight, although it'll be much better if you can buy him a seat.
I've heard of this trick, but never tried it: someone I know actually has their babies sleep in a baby tent inside of their crib. They bring the tent wherever they go, so the baby is always sleeping in the same environment as he's used to. This isn't for the flight, but for the travel afterwards.
I think you should do it.
posted by ch1x0r at 4:07 PM on January 9, 2014

(Regarding my Friday night comment: I actually far prefer and recommend the Friday night flights, as they're a lot less crowded. And there will still be some babies, just not like twenty.)

Also, if you're comfortable with it, you could consider going the medication route. We tried a teensy dose of melatonin on our most recent trip, both on the flight and at bedtime for the first two nights there. It was kind of miraculous: our son slept the whole flight there and then we had no jet lag because we were able to get to sleep at the proper time starting from day one. Check with your pediatrician first, of course...
posted by wyzewoman at 7:11 PM on January 9, 2014

If the baby's not going to sleep, don't take a night flight. But that's no reason not to take a day flight.

It looks like you're flying from Miami? Might be worth calling American Airlines and asking them about the rumored plans for nonstops from Miami-Tel Aviv. If theres nothing concrete coming along that path, do you have friends you can stay with overnight in New York and fly out the next day? That's what I'm planning to do for our Tel Aviv flight since the transatlantic from where I live is too long for my kid… break up the trip and whatnot.

I would absolutely not try to hold a squirming 1 year old on your lap for a flight to Tel Aviv. That way madness lies. I know it feels like a waste of money when they SAY you can do it, but you gotta have that extra seat -- if only for you to have room to stretch and get comfortable while you hold him. Trust me, I've held an infant on my lap HALFWAY to Tel Aviv, and it was ridiculous. With a squirming one year old? No way.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:21 PM on January 9, 2014

My now-16 month old is not a napper and never has been, bit it turns out he's a good traveler, and has flown about ten times now with no drama or misery. I'd encourage you to go for it and enjoy.
posted by judith at 11:50 AM on January 10, 2014

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