Flying with kids without losing them or it
November 13, 2005 11:42 AM   Subscribe

I need ideas on how to ameliorate the experience of flying across the country with a toddler and a baby. I'll be the only adult and will be holding my baby in my lap. Any advice, besides "Don't do it?"

I'm considering taking leave of my senses and flying from Colorado to North Carolina at the end of the month. I'll be taking 2 children, one almost four, one six months. I wanted to do a non-stop trip, but it's not really possible given my budget, so I'll have one stop each way (in the tranquil oasis that is O'Hare). I also wanted to buy a seat for the baby, but the planes I'll be flying only have 2 seats on each sides of the row, so he'll be on my lap the whole time.

I need advice and tips from people who have done this before. I've only flown with one child, and always with my husband, so I don't know what to expect, but I fear the experience. My last flight, with my then-3 year old, was so exhausting, for him and us, that I swore that we weren't flying again until the kids were significantly older. But this might be the only time my grandmother gets to see the kids, and I don't want to miss that opportunity. So, how do I keep my family and sanity intact in the process?
posted by bibliowench to Travel & Transportation (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I do not have kids, but I have parents swear by the judicious use of pharmacology.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:54 AM on November 13, 2005

Can you drug them? Like, with nyquil or something?
posted by cmonkey at 11:54 AM on November 13, 2005

Drugs are tempting (self-medication, even more so), but I don't want to dose the baby, and I'll need the older child to be ambulatory in the airports. They're good kids - not overly fussy or bratty - but I need help with the logistics of the process - taking bathroom trip, toting all the accoutrements, and so forth.
posted by bibliowench at 12:02 PM on November 13, 2005

Portable DVD players work wonders. You can even rent them... One of those with your four-year-old's favorite video could be a life saver.
posted by paschke at 12:03 PM on November 13, 2005

For the almost 4-year-old, bring lots of little toys (new ones that s/he hasn't seen before, not something from home). Plan on brining something new out every 30 or 60 minutes. I've also found a bag of M&Ms (or other small candies you can dole out in small increments) to be useful as bribes if things get really tough. If you have access to a portable DVD player or a laptop with decent battery life, you should be able to keep the 4-year-old quiet and happy for most of the time. If you keep the older one busy, the 6-month-old shouldn't be a problem.

Also, I wouldn't recommend drugging the kids. Spacy, disoriented kids can be more of a hassle than kids who feel normal. But a small amount of Valium for you (like half of a 5mg tablet) can make a world of difference in these situations.
posted by nixxon at 12:07 PM on November 13, 2005

Make very very good friends with the flight attendants. If you need to use the bathroom or something, s/he may be willing to hold the baby or something.
posted by k8t at 12:24 PM on November 13, 2005

I did this myself -- and survived! -- this summer, flying from Philly to San Diego with two kids. They were 6 and 2.5 at the time, so the age range is slightly different than yours.

I didn't take a stroller; I did take a carry-on suitcase and backpack for me, and my 6-year-old had a rolling suitcase for herself. That was a bit tricky with a 2-year-old who wanted to be carried, but it turned out okay. I imagine you'll have the baby in a sling or Bjorn or something?

One thing I would recommend, if you can, is to get seats in the LAST row -- being right next to the bathroom and the snacks and the flight attendants turned out to be totally key for us. Between diaper changes and small kid bathroom visits, it was very handy to be right there. Also, the flight attendants were great and enjoyed the kids -- they were very generous with the snacks and with letting them tour the flight attendant area.

What I did to keep them occupied was load up a backpack full of stuff that neither of them had seen before -- you'll probably be able to get away with not having to have two of everything since the baby's so little, but I basically brought two of the same things for each of them, so as to cut down on the in-flight squabbling. The big hits were:

  • Portable dry-erase boards and markers

  • Small "My Little Pony" and "Dora" activity packs that came with their own crayons

  • Books, including coloring books

  • A ziplock full of miniature plastic animals and dolls

  • and the most important thing of all: SNACKS

  • I had a supply of diapers, wipes, snacks, juice boxes, band-aids, and other "emergency" things in the front of the backpack so they were always at the ready, and that was good. I basically tried to plan for the worst, and went into it knowing that most likely I would be the passenger every other passenger would look at and think, dear god, I hope this woman and her kids are sitting far, far away from me.

    I wrote about my experience traveling with them -- including discovering upon arriving at the airport that the airline had assigned us three SEPARATE seats instead of two seats together -- here (Part One) and here (Part Two). I don't know if that will freak you out or reassure you, but the point is, we survived! And so will you, even if it's the longest couple of hours of your life!
    posted by mothershock at 12:42 PM on November 13, 2005 [2 favorites]

    (that should be "three SEPARATE seats instead of three seats together...")
    posted by mothershock at 12:45 PM on November 13, 2005

    I heartily recommend a baby sling, in particular the Over the Shoulder Baby Holder or Maya Wrap. You can keep the baby close and use an umbrella stroller for your older child.

    Since you'll be holding the baby on your lap, the sling will help support him if he falls asleep, leaving your arms somewhat free to attend to your other child.

    Also, an unpadded sling like the Maya makes a great "leash" for a toddler and a "belt" for shopping carts and high chairs. This site has some great pictures.
    posted by Biblio at 12:48 PM on November 13, 2005

    I drugged the baby with Benadryl, at the suggestion of her pediatrician. I figured it was doing the kid a favor. The baby's mother was a bit appalled, but the passengers around us applauded when we got there because she was so quiet.

    Make sure you have something to drink going up and down with the baby, so they keep swallowing to pop their ears, and gum for the 4 year old, or something to keep that one swallowing.

    Might want to have a kid decongestant in your purse, just on the off chance one of them got stuffy ears at the last minute.
    posted by unrepentanthippie at 12:54 PM on November 13, 2005

    I second the sling recommendation for all the time that you are not actually in the plane. Or, if you do not like a sling, try another method of babywearing. On (free reg. required, unfortunately, but they do not do nasty things with your info) forums lots of people have experience with these things, I have heard from many people that a baby carrier has saved their live with two kids (I already feel that way with only one child, but I am sure that sounds like peanuts to you).

    I personally did not like the Maya wrap at all, though I know many people love it. I love my Kozy Carrier and MamaBaby. You could even wear the baby on your back in the Kozy (or in two MamaBaby's) or in a similar carrier. It is wonderful to have both hands available in those situations.
    posted by davar at 1:23 PM on November 13, 2005

    Considering trying the Bach Flowers "Rescue Remedy". It's safe for babies, and is often recommended when transporting pets. It works as an overall tonic of sorts to soften the mental blow of any sort of shock, trauma or stress. It will have a calming effect. Just a couple drops on the tongue is all it takes, or if that's problematic, a couple drops in water or juice.

    Not saying it will keep the kids quite all the way, but the subtle calming effect they feel will probably help to keep them at least a little less stressed, and therefore, perhaps well-behaved... and best of all it's not a drug or a medication, so you're not having to resort to knocking them out.
    posted by RoseovSharon at 1:47 PM on November 13, 2005

    get seats in the LAST row

    Although this might not be advisable if you are on equipment like an MD-80 that has the engines in the back and is hence extremely noisy in the last row. Also, last row seats frequently do not recline. has seat info if you need it for your equipment.
    posted by grouse at 2:46 PM on November 13, 2005

    If you go with Benadryl or other drug option, be sure that you try it on your kid before you fly. Some kids have an opposite reaction and you DON"T want a wild crazed child on a plane.
    Also, do take tylenol or something like that with you. If either child decides to have an earache or teething pain ( being on a plane can aggrivate both) your life will become awful.
    Good Luck!
    posted by what-i-found at 3:27 PM on November 13, 2005

    Talk to your pediatrician about Benadryl, which is over-the-counter and regarded as pretty safe. Test before 1st use. If nothing else, bring it as a backup plan. When my son was a baby, we learned that there is no such thing as bringing too many diapers with us. I don't know if it was the change in pressure or what. If you're nursing the 6 mo. old, that can make dealing with the pressure changes easier. Prep the 4 year old with lots of stories about what will happen, and how to ask for help if lost. It can happen incredibly fast in a crowded airport. Put a name tag on the 4 year old with your name and an emergency #, and dress the child in a bright easy to spot color.
    posted by theora55 at 3:42 PM on November 13, 2005

    Put a name tag on the 4 year old with your name and an emergency #, and dress the child in a bright easy to spot color.

    Yes, absolutely. I made "bracelets" for my kids with their name/my name/my cell on them and dressed them both in bright orange tees when I flew with them.

    (and yes about the Benadryl -- my older kid is one of those that gets hyper from taking it. You do not want that! But Rescue Remedy works really well.)
    posted by youarejustalittleant at 4:38 PM on November 13, 2005

    You know who the big babies are on airplaanes? The lazy, middle-aged people who look at babies like they're wild dogs. Babies cry. Airplanes are a public space. Do your best to keep your child happy, but keeping tight-assed, unhappy businesspeople going on another useless business trip happy is not your job.

    I've been on planes with crying children. I've taken my kids on flights. Do your best. Anyone who can't handle the sound of a baby crying should stay home. It's not the end of the world. Anyone who boards a plane without earplugs is in for an unpleasant, noisy time anyway.

    There's lots of great advice here to help you, your child and other passengers. Best of luck.
    posted by GuyZero at 6:38 AM on November 14, 2005 [1 favorite]

    public space
    damn. and there's me, always paying for a ticket.
    posted by andrew cooke at 6:59 AM on November 14, 2005

    Well, I suppose it's debatable about whether it's public or private space. Yes, you paid for a ticket. Do you have the right to prevent other passengers from boarding?

    When I go to the movies, I pay for a ticket - is it a public or a private space? I pay to eat in McDonald's - public or private? I pay for a ticket to a sporting event - how legitimate is my complaint about the guy with the airhorn?

    I'm not being completely rhetorical - you may have a different opinion than me on this issue. While an airplane is some company's private property, to me it's effectively "public space" as I don't control who's there. Unless your ticket has some sort of no-babies condition attached to it.
    posted by GuyZero at 11:51 AM on November 14, 2005

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