29 answers

How to Survive a 13 Hour Plane Trip with a 17 Month Old??

My husband and I are flying from West coast US to Australia next month with our 17 month old son. His favorite word is down and he is NOT a cuddler!!! I am starting to collect a few ideas on how to get through this flight (plus the 2 3-hour flights on either side of it). My pediatricians only advice was to not do it... this is not an option!! We will be there for 3 weeks and then have the same flight pattern home.

Has anyone been in the same spot? What about using benadryl or something to help him sleep? (mind you, I am NOT a fan of drugging my child. I would rather wait out a fever than give him anything.) Is there anything I should ask the airline before or when we get there??

We did not get him a seat and unless someone would like to send us $1200 for one, will just hope that there is an extra one!! =)

Any advice would help. He is not a fan of typical snack foods like gold fish or animal crackers... Dont know what his problem is - even I like them!! So maybe some new and interesting snack food ideas?

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What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Keep the advice coming!!

Wow! Thanks everyone for your advice! I started a list and have one compiled from all of your ideas plus some of mine. I REALLY appreciate your thoughts.

Looks like there are about 4 people who suggested getting a seat: thats, what $300 from each?? I'll let you know where to send the money ;-) Just kidding. I think keeping things in perspective is the best advice that most people agreed upon: Everyone on that plane was once a child. The flight will end. Take it in small chunks.

Check back in a month or so - if I remember, I will let you all know how it went!!
Thanks again!

UPDATE:
We made it!!
Benadryl did work wonders. I hated giving it to him, but as he only slept for an hour and then started tossing and turning and fussing, it seemed the only option. May I highly recommend Air New Zealand for any of your overseas travels... they made accommodation for us to either have the bassinet or an extra seat. My 30lb 18 month old far exceeded the weight and height allowances and so they moved us to an empty row on the way there and on the way back, they did a 4 or 5 person switcharoo and gave us another whole row!

The toys were great, so was the itouch with lots of apps. Tip, even if your child is not interested in the TV at home (as the passengers with a 15 month old claimed), the little screen on the airplane is different!!! They finally gave it a try and the little girl was happy for 45 minutes.
Snacks were our best friend. He ate a pack of yogurt melts in about 30 minutes.

End result??
We would do it again!

Featured Answers

well, I was with you until you said you didn't get him a seat. for flights with my son (starting around 15 months) I found having him in a car seat works the best. He knows the rules of a car seat - and knows he has to sit in it. I haven't taken as long of a flight as you have, but the time we didn't get him a seat - was MISERABLE. It was not worth the savings. He is a squirmy, active little kid. those airline seats are TINY. To cram the three of you into 2 seats is asking too much!

you're going to regret that choice... and I know it's too much money. but it will make the flight more barable, manageable and pleasant for everyone if you get him a seat.

Otherwise, I'm with the doctor. don't go.

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Oh dear. I just must say that you are very brave and very dedicated! ;) Seriously, though...good for you, you ahve to do what you have to do and I bet it will be better than what you think!

I don't really have a ton of advice for on the plane...he probably isn't really into TV yet being so young (I feel like right at 2 is when it hits) so a portable DVD player may not really be that good of an option. I would say take a ton of books and games, travel magnadoodles, race cars and wind up toys he can play with on the tray table are all good options. Buy a bunch of stuff that's kind a cheap or start hiding some stuff he already has so that all the toys you use will be new and exciting. Another option is an electronic type book...I think Fisher Price or something makes it and my daughter LOVED them. You can find them at any toy store or Target and they have really big plastic pages and it sings songs and lights up, they're pretty cool. Has he ever flown before? It's possible the white noise may make him fall asleep for a while. Also get a cup of ice from the flight attendant...you'll be surprised how entertaining that is!

As far as snacks...what about granola bars, cereal bars or yogurt covered pretzels. Whole Foods sells freeze dried fruit that my daughter loves. They come in all varities and they are actually very healthy for you. They aren't sticky or anything and they're easy to travel with b/c they're dried and won't spoil. You could also maybe do some mini muffins or banana bread cut into slices. The Glad Press and Seal wrap is amazing so if you make some thing ahead of time you can store them in this wrap and it will keep things fresh and stop things from leaking.

Lastly, a good tip I got from another mom was to take some balloons to the airport with you. Blow it up and let him go crazy while waiting to board the plane. It will keep him occupied and active plus other kids can play too. Before you get on the plane just throw it out or give it away!
Good luck! I hope there's an extra seat!

3 moms found this helpful

I'm sorry to hear you didn't get him a seat. Those flights are usually PACKED (I travel to Japan with my 3 kids every few years and have lots and lots of experience with those long flights, they have not had ANY extra seats for the last 10yrs or so because they all code-share now and pack 'em in like sardines) and that age is the absolute worst at sitting quietly on the flight. I've flown more times than I can count and the worst flight I ever took was one from Japan to Calif with my 18month old on my lap. That was over 10 years ago and I still can't erase the terrible memories of that flight. You won't be able to put down your tray table to eat because your child will be on your lap. You will not be able to read a book. They squirm and squirm and squirm. You can't reason with them at that age. You can't bribe them with treats for good behavior. They don't care that the people around them are trying to sleep (because at some point it will be an overnight flight) and will yell or cry when they realize they can't run up and down the aisles over and over and over and over. Of course, those are all just inconveniences. The most compelling argument for getting them their own seat is this: my good friend, a flight attendant, has seen children literally flying through the air during bad turbulence and air pockets and hit their heads or get otherwise injured. You are not allowed to put your seatbelt around your child. Your child is being held in your lap with only the strength of your arms. Trust me, when the airplane hits an air pocket and drops unexpectedly, you will not have the strength to keep your child secure. Honestly, I don't even know why airplanes allow lap children. Flights are expensive, true, but my childrens' safety would be worth the extra $1200. So my one piece of advice for you: if it's not too late, get your child his own seat. Good luck!

2 moms found this helpful

I would definitely support the idea of heavy medication--for YOU! LOL
Seriously, take some books, small quiet toys and snacks that you know he likes....and PRAY for an empty seat.
Can you take a portable DVD player with you? Or at least rent a movie on-plane for him to watch?

1 mom found this helpful

Hopefully there will be an extra seat on the plane. That would be the best option, especially if he is not a cuddler. That way when you get exhausted fro holding and struggling with him you can at least strap him into his seat/carseat and he might sleep better. I've always had a seat for my babies on the plane because I'm a nervous flyer to begin with and I need my hands free.
You could try Benadryl if you already know the reaction it will have on your child. My son's Dr. told me that Benadryl could make a child sleepy or it could have the opposite effect. It never had any effect on my children at all.
You might try a late flight that way he may sleep half the way or make sure he does not take a nap before you leave.

1 mom found this helpful

A., You will need to pack a lot of patience for the flight. Try getting a seat in the front like a bassinet row non-bassinet seat and take a light blanket with you. In case your son starts to fuss, pull out the blanket and let him play on it by your feet. This will only work in the front row seats. Also, carry some new toys, magic slate, play-dough, some books that you think will entertain him on the flight. I recently flew alone to and from India with my 15 month old who had just learnt to walk. And walk around the plane she did, but only during the second half of the journey. She slept like a baby in the first half maybe due to the white noise.
Your husband and you can take turns eating since it is a hassle to eat with a toddler on your lap.
Don't worry. Take it 1 hour at a time, before you know it, it will be over.
Good Luck!

1 mom found this helpful

I haven't done a trip quite that long, but when our son was 18 months we did about 12 hrs on a plane. Here's my advice--at least try benadryl before you leave and see what effect it has on him. My son did NOT nap when there was anything interesting going on, so it was really helpful in getting him to at least rest for a short period (he is such a light sleeper that it only helps him sleep for about 45 minutes)...so, I am always prepared to not have him nap while we are in route without some "help."

Before our big trip my husband reminded me that we are going to get on the plane, they will shut the door and then no matter how awful the flight is--the doors will open and we'll be there--that always really helped me in my mental processing. It was like I needed to be reminded that no one was going to "turn the plane around" if our son was a pill.

I will say we've done quite a number of cross-country trips with our son and this is the hardest age--but the things that helped us at that age were the little finger puppets from ikea and "gerber fruit treats" or something like that (we typically would never buy stuff like this, but it was an ace in the hole for us). We also would put ourselves on 2 hr shifts--so that one parent could rest or gather his/her thoughts while the other was "on" although we weren't strict about this. I would suggest an aisle seat--our son didn't care about looking out the window at that age, but we did a lot of aisle hiking (also not a cuddler in the least). The hardest part was take off and landing because we had to hold him.

Overall, our flights went surprisingly well--I think it's because compared to the "worst case scenario" we had in our minds it could only get better. You guys will be fine and then you'll be in Australia! Your ped. just doesn't have a sense of adventure--once you do this you'll feel like you can take you kid anywhere and that is such a wonderful feeling.

1 mom found this helpful

Good luck. Remember a few things - 13 hr trips are tough for all of us. He will get upset sometimes... just breathe and try to relax. He will also sleep some of the time : ). My kids don't get sleepy from benedryl, it actually makes my daughter hyper, so be sure that you know his reaction to it first. Bring NEW toys to distract him when you need to. I found lolipops to be great for the ears and take a while to eat - somewhat calming. Enjoy the trip!

1 mom found this helpful

Wow yuck. I fly from Portland to all over the west coast with my 17 month old son and don't look forward to it... ever.
I would say pack a toy bag and a snack bag. Coloring books can keep them entertained for awhile, so can zippers or picture books.
You can always ask the flight attendant for a cup of ice- that usually works at keeping a cranky babe happy for at least half an hour or hour.
Also take full advantage of letting them get up and walk up and down the plain at least once an hour. Long flights are horrible for children, but at least if they can walk up and down the isle they'll find fun people to "chat" up or flirt with. :)
Also the tv/movie would can be a savior.
If none of this works, I would advise switching parents every half hour or so- so that you each get a little tiny break while the other one handles your son. Pray for happy/easy going neighbors- they can make all the difference in the world.
Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful

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