Suggested tips, tricks & products for flying with a baby [2019 edition]
September 10, 2019 1:16 PM   Subscribe

What are your best tips / tricks / products for creating a nap environment and/or easing fussiness?

My wife and I are taking a 2-hour flight with our 1-year-old. Our son hates flying — but it’s not the air pressure that bothers him. It’s the enclosed space, having to be held while sitting down, and not being comfortable enough to nap.

The problems we’d want to solve for are helping him nap and/or easing his fussiness. Here’s what we do so far:

  • Plan our fight in accordance with his nap schedule. But the problem here is that he often skips the nap and is overtired.

  • Bring snacks (puffs or Bamba) in a snack container.

  • Bring a couple toys.

  • As a last ditch effort, we’ll let him play with our phones or watch a show.
  • posted by shrimpetouffee to Travel & Transportation (14 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
    Run the child in the halls of the airport for as much as humanly possible before boarding. I usually chose a wing that was less trafficked to stay out of other people's way, and basically had the kid run laps. "Run to that wall, touch it, and run back to me! Now go to that carpet square, jump twice, and run back!"

    Also consider the phones/ipad less as a last ditch, and more as a medium ditch. There is NO SHAME in screens while traveling.
    posted by Liesl at 1:38 PM on September 10, 2019 [8 favorites]

    One is a tough age to fly, because they just want to move. It gets better when they can start paying attention to toys for a longer time, c. 18 months-2 years. Recent long plane trips (ages 2-4) for us have featured playdoh, magnatiles, crayons, books, and, huzzah, naps.

    If you're going to fly during nap time, the best thing is to really wear him out first -- arrive at the airport earlier than you'd otherwise plan to so there is plenty of time for him to walk (crawl?) away some of his squirm before he gets stuffed in the tin can. Airports are fun to explore if you're not rushed.

    Then rampant bribery! Airplane rules are different than home rules for junk food and screen time. Get a handful of never-before-seen toys (small/cheap) and bring them out as needed. Bring favorite/rare snacks, and make eating them an elaborate (time-consuming) production. This depends entirely on your kid, but a bag of gummy fruit snacks (say) is more fun when loaded one by one into a (new) tiny dump trunk, or dispensed as part of a game with a (new) favorite animal hand puppet, or packed inside a (new) container that takes kid a while to get out.

    We also are often Those People who get up as soon as we can and pace the aisles with small persons for 5-10 minutes at a time, because anything beats sitting cooped up with a toddler on a plane. You get a surprising number of smiles from bored fellow passengers.
    posted by puffyn at 1:42 PM on September 10, 2019 [6 favorites]

    Ask for a cup of ice. Our 1-year old spent a reasonably long time playing with ice cubes and if they fell on the floor they just melted into the carpet without really making any mess. We also let her stand in the aisle, holding onto the arm of our aisle seat. She was easy enough to scoop up if someone needed by, or if she tried to make a break for it.
    posted by velocipedestrienne at 2:23 PM on September 10, 2019 [3 favorites]

    As an experienced parent I say this was never the hill I wanted to die on, so: inside the plane, anything goes. That means screens, new toys, favorite snacks. Pure bribery. Dress him in clothes he can sleep in. Get up and carry him around as much as you can, given the flight restrictions.

    Good luck!
    posted by BlahLaLa at 2:23 PM on September 10, 2019 [5 favorites]

    Pre-boarding is a two-phase process. Parent 1 gets on with the seat (if used) and the luggage that needs an overhead bin. (The staff will know this isn't technically allowed but are not stupid in the least and will permit it.) Parent 2 waits until boarding is almost closed, to minimize the total time. Not sure planning during nap time is a great idea; ours would consistently be manic all flight and then fall asleep right before landing. He also was not interested in phones for at least a year after that. Frozen grapes were about the only thing that really slowed him down.
    posted by wnissen at 3:22 PM on September 10, 2019 [2 favorites]

    Benadryl, or other drugs to make him sleepy enough to doze on the plane?
    posted by Mistress at 3:56 PM on September 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

    After one absolutely miserable, squirming, crying, 4-hour flight, we have just paid for the third seat so our daughter can have her car seat.

    This folding hand truck thing that turns the car seat into the best airport kid mover was worth its weight in gold.
    posted by rockindata at 5:49 PM on September 10, 2019 [4 favorites]

    No moral qualm with Benadryl, but don’t make it your first time; some kids get paradoxically hyper. Like mine.
    posted by chesty_a_arthur at 6:44 PM on September 10, 2019 [4 favorites]

    The best item we brought for our son at that age was a slinky. Draped over feet. Drape over seat. Also painters tape. Put on window. Peel off. Put on window. Peel off. Put on tray. Etc. We also brought goldfish, puffs and other things that could be consumed one at a time. And he really liked the cups from the flight attendants.
    posted by melodykramer at 6:46 PM on September 10, 2019 [4 favorites]

    For the nap part we also brought a portable white noise machine and draped a blanket over him so it was dark.
    posted by melodykramer at 6:47 PM on September 10, 2019 [1 favorite]

    Took my youngest at that age on two 7 hour flights by myself. Things that worked well - playing with a disposable toothbrush, opening and closing lids, putting stickers on the seat, scribbling, snacks, and lots of walking around and pointing at lights and being amazed at everything. Putting things on your head/covering your head never gets old. Staring at people without smiling or acknowledging them was a popular activity she came up with by herself. Not so great for the mildly disappointed people around us, but seemed to be helpful for her. Things with texture to rub/slide against seems interesting at that age. Painters/gaffer tape is a great idea from above.
    posted by recklessbrother at 6:58 PM on September 10, 2019 [2 favorites]

    My doc recommended lidocaine ear drops for our last flight. We used them, the kids were chill but they are pretty chill flyers anyway. But it might be worth a try.

    My other trick is singing quietly into their ear along to a favorite playlist (I use Yacht Rock, YMMV) with earbuds or headphones assist. I got my 14mo to sleep like this which lasted about half our cross country flight. I will employ this same strategy for a flight in November when baby is 18mo.

    Good luck!
    posted by emkelley at 5:34 AM on September 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

    A flight attendant showed us a pressure point to relieve pain (just below the earlobe ) when our kid started crying during landing. I'd def check out acu pressure points to relieve ear ache. I had killer sinusitis on a flight, and researched the living ₩×€$; out of pressure points cuz man did take off & landing HURT. They helped immensely.

    ooh. and straws are also pretty cool to play with on a flight.
    posted by speakeasy at 6:27 AM on September 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

    My best piece of advice is to get him his own seat. Having a whole row to ourselves made our last flight with our toddler much less miserable. Agree that on a plane, anything goes - bring so many snacks, let him play with an iPad, etc. when we flew with our kid at 10 months, we recreated naptime as best we could by bringing her favorite books, blankie and stuffed animal, nursing, and singing her bedtime songs. It worked marginally well (she did sleep but not for long.)
    posted by tatiana wishbone at 10:45 AM on September 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

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