Help with First Time Flight

Updated on May 31, 2008
A.C. asks from Burlington, KY
16 answers

My family is flying to Texas in a week and a half. I have a 2 1/2 year old son who has never been on a plane before. It is a relatively short flight but I am unsure of how he will do. He does great traveling in a car. We have actually driven to Texas the last two years and he sleeps most of the way. I was wondering how other children do when flying for the first time at this age. Do children complain of their ears popping or hurting like adults do? He had tubes in his ears when he was nine months old and continued to have ear infections until about six months ago. I didn't know if his ears were more likely to hurt because of all the infections in the past. Also, do you travel with your own carseat or move him up to a booster seat? I read messages on this site all the time and you all seem to have great advice so I was hoping you could be of some assitance. Thanks!!

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answers from Columbus on

When I took my son on his first flight, I took tootsi rolls and lollipops with me to keep his ears clear. He told me later that the tootsi rolls worked better. Who knows, but maybe the movement in the jaw helped. Also, I would recommend using the seat he is most familiar/comfortable with. My son loved looking out the window too, and a few times he would close the shade. I don't know if it was just to close it, or if he was a little scared of what he saw - I think he just liked playing with the shade. I also explained how it would all feel & what to expect & he did fine. I also mentioned it to the flight staff it was his first flight & they were nice. The pilot let him (yes even after 9/11) look at the cockpit & as we took off he said "Here we go Max!" He loved it!



answers from Kokomo on

Considering his ear problems in the past I would take some gum he can chew on, this will also make ita little more fun for him.
As far as the car seat thing. If oyu are looking to buy a new one there are several out now that are easy to carry and are great for this transitioning age. The Safeguard Go Hybrid Booster is one that he can use now with the 5 pt harness and use later as just the booster so it would serve you for more than justthis flight.

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answers from Cincinnati on

We do not put our daughter in her car seat on the plane any longer as most of the time when we fly we are on smaller planes and the seat doesnt fit in the plane seats. but we do gate check it. my daughter has flown about 6 times in her life (she is 3) and she does fine. i do buy some "new" things-like a new color wonder coloring book and we have our portable DVD player so she can watch a movie or something. she does fine on the plane. now that she is older she does fine with the whole trip but when she was about 18 months she ran away from me in the security checkpoint while i was trying to break the stroller down and i was traveling by myself.

good luck.



answers from Dayton on

my son went on his first plane ride from ohio to florida to visit my in-laws when he was almost 3. we took along some *special* toys (hot wheels, etc) and a small snack as well. within a few seconds of the plane taking off, he was more interested looking out the window to watch the plane going into the air. he didn't complain about his ears bothering him. i would ask your doctor about the tubes if that would/will be a problem.
as far as a car would have to ask the airline on what they offer. we did and it would have cost more for some reason to take our car seat along. he sat in the seat and even buckled him in like myself and my husband.

hope this helps!



answers from Cleveland on

I think it just depends on your son. Given that he's had ear problems in the past, it's likely that he'll have some problems, but not guarenteed. I had frequent ear problems as a child and flew all the time with no problem. My first time flying was from California to Ohio when I was 10 months old and I had no problems with it. So I'm not sure you can predict how your son will react. I would just make sure you have some things along with you that he finds soothing, just in case.



answers from Cincinnati on

Hi A.,

I just traveled with my sons( 11 months & 34 months)to DC last month. I took our travel system (stroller with car seat) and my sister in law bought a car seat before she picked us up at the airport. Since you just have the one, you can gate check his car seat--the flight attendants are very understanding and will have this ready for you when you deplane. If he doesn't have to pay for his own seat, you can sit him on your lap.

As far as the ears popping, just make sure that he's sucking on a sippy cup or chewing gum when the plane takes off and lands. My son had no complaints.

Hope this helps!



answers from Columbus on

Our children have actually flown a fair amount and I traveled at least once a week for work for about 15 years so I've run into many different situations, good and bad.

First about the seat - you must have an FAA-approved car seat in order to use it on the airplane. Otherwise, the seat belt will not correctly hold the car seat in the airplane seat. You will not be allowed to use a booster seat under any conditions. If you don't know whether your car seat is FAA approved (most seats less than 4 yrs old are approved) you can look at the company web-site and you should be able to find out.

Regarding the flight - If you are flying at a time when this will work, let him be a little bit hungry or ready for a snack when the plane is taking off or landing. If you can get him to eat a snack as the plane changes altitudes, the chewing (or even drinking something like water) can help relieve the pressure on the ears a bit and not make it a painful situation. If you think he has any signs of sinus congestion, give him some medication before you fly. That has caused flights to be a nightmare for everyone.

My son was a fairly active 2 year old. Our biggest struggle was having to stay strapped in the seat for an extended time. I know they are used to traveling in a car, but that is different. On an airplane, you have flight attendants walking around and it doesn't look anything like a car so they don't correlate that as a reason for staying seated. If you have a surprise or two (favorite toys you've hidden for a couple weeks or new things to do), that can help distract a child from either pain or just whining.

Good luck with your flight!



answers from Cleveland on

Hi A.,
We took both our kids on atrip to florida it was the first time either of them were on a plane. One was 7 the other 2. They both did okay. I had them both suck on suckers for the takeoff and landing of the plane this helped there be no ear problems. I've also been told a pacifier works in the same way. One other thing I learned was to make sure your son doesn't get overheated on the plane. This happened to my son he kept his coat on the whole trip and got overheated. Take your car seat but check it with baggage. Have your son just sit in the seat. That's what we did with my 2 year old daughter. Check with the airline you are flying with because some have different recuirements concerning car seats. The one we flew on did not require her to sit in the car seat. We brought it along for car travel. Also if you are using a stroller ask them to check it on the plane so that when you land they can get it to you to make getting thru the airport eaisier. You should also be able to board early because you have a small child. Again check with your airline for there recommendations and rules. Have a great trip.

A. H



answers from Fort Wayne on

My kids have been flying since birth pretty much and we have never had any major issues. Our flights are pretty lengthy...Indiana to San Diego or NY to San Diego. My son, also has tubes, and got them at 8 months and still gets ear infections (he's now 21 months) When going up and down just have something for him to chew on or suck on...not necessary though. If he is asleep either going up or down, no need to wake him up. Flight attendants have told me that when they are asleep their ears will adjust. They were right.

I don't use a carseat on the plane...but some people do. I usually travel ,atleast one way, by myself with my 2 kids (21 mo. and 3) so carrying a seat would be tough. I let them sit and play in their own seat and if they are tired, I lay down a blanket on their seat and let them lay down and put their feet on me and they sleep fine. Portable DVD players are great as well as crayons and coloring books for entertainment.

Good luck...



answers from Cincinnati on

When we flew for the first time to Florida with our youngest that was 2 years and 5 month old and a 6 year old, who are now 14 years old and almost 18 year old. I had lollipops for both of my boys to suck on when the plane took off and landed to help with their ears. I don't know if you allow your son to have lollipops at this age yet or not? I also packed some little toys, coloring books, and books that they were able to play with on the plane. I also made sure that I had one of my youngest sons favorite blanket with us.

As far as with your son and with the ear infections that he has had, and the tubes I am not sure if his ears will hurt or not. Neither of my boys ever had tubes in their ears because of ear infections. I hope that this gives you some help.

M. S


I am the mother of 3 wonderful boys ages: 17 almost 18 years old, 14 years old, and 11 years old. I have been married for 21 years to a very wonderful husband. My 17 almost 18 year old just graduated from High School, and my 14 year old will be graduating from the Eighth Grade.



answers from Cleveland on

My daughter was about the same age when we flew with her. I did tons of research. You don't have to use any seat, you can. I used the same seat I used in the car @ that time. It will count as a carry on, though. I put her next to the window (some companies insist upon this for safety we'd EVER evacuate without them?). This way she could look out the window and see everything. I also brought an empty sippy cup. one that she had to kind of suck on? And a bottle of water, in case her ears hurt, but we had no issues. once she said her ears felt funny, so I held her nose and told her to swallow, she was fine. The best thing I did to make sure my info was right was to call the company directly with a list of questions written down ahead of time and just get their answers!
good luck!



answers from Dayton on

When we took our son from Ohio to Florida we had a stop in Atlanta. The first leg of the flight he cried nearly the whole time. We had a sippy cup, suckers, candy gum, etc, but nothing seemed to work. As the seatbelt light came on for our landing in Atlanta a lady came back with some NECCO wafers, she said they always worked for her child when they were younger. Sure enough, we popped on in his mouth and it worked. My husband ran to the gift shop in Atlanta to buy more for the next flight. Anytime we fly I alwaysa bring them along though my boys are 12 & 9 now.
NECCO wafers, in case you don't know are a candy. They are flat circles and they come in a roll like Rolos do. They are kind of bland tasting- made like the Sweetheart candy for Valentines day. will show you what they look like.
Best wishes for a great trip!



answers from Cleveland on

My oldest had ear infections and tubes as well. His first flight was at 14 months and he screamed and cried in pain during takeoff and landing. Before our next flight I asked our ENT and he recommended giving him Dimetapp 30 minutes before takeoff and again 30 minutes before landing (if the flight is longer than 4 hours). The decongestant limits the fluid and pressure in their worked like a charm.
He was calm and pain free - and slept much of the flight.
I now take Sudafed every time I fly and give all my kids the children's Dimetapp. We took our full carseat only because we needed it in the rental car on the trip. If you can rent a van with built-in seats, the booster on the plane should be fine, but since he is not yet 4, even if he is over 40lbs he needs the full carseat in a car. Hope your trip goes well!



answers from Terre Haute on

Hi A.,
I can completely understand your anxiety about flying alone with your son for the first time! I had to first fly alone with my daughter when she was one, to visit her dad who was away on a job for the summer. I found it a challenge to keep her occupied on the plane and was worried about how others might react. I found people to be very understanding for the most part and ended up sitting next to a nice grandpa who kept my daughter engaged with a magazine!

Since that time, we've flown together many times and this summer she will be 3 when we fly again. Since your son is 2 1/2 it will be a bit of a challenge, but he might surprise you. We did invest in a portable DVD player and pull it out when we've exhausted all the books and other toys we've brought. I don't give my daughter a ton of sweets, but I have played a game where I take mini M&Ms and put one in my hand, giving clues about the color. He may be a bit young for that, but if he knows some colors, you can have him guess. I once spent 15 minutes playing this game! And, she didn't end up eating a ton of candy in the long run. :)

We've never taken a car seat, actually, but it isn't a bad idea. It's interesting...some airlines will be more strict than others on that...I've also had some flight attendants who have been judgmental. Flying alone with a toddler is challenging in terms of everything you are carrying as well as the baby. I had a flight attendant lecture me mid-flight about not having a car seat in front of other passengers. While I see her point, I didn't think it was appropriate to do that in that time/place.

It'll be just fine, though, and once you get that first flying under your belt, you'll be a pro in no time!



answers from South Bend on

I took my oldest boy on a plane for the first time when he was a year old. He did fine on the plane. I brought some crayons and coloring books with me and a couple of toys to keep him busy. His ears didn't seem to bother him at all. The previous ear infections will not make a difference in whether or not his ears will bother him during the flight. I would move him up to a booster seat as long as he is tall enough and weighs enough for a booster seat. They have the height and weight on the boxes and you can decide whether or not he is big enough for a booster yet. Just bring a few things to keep him entertained for the flight and he should be fine. Also, if you can bring a snack for him in case he gets hungry. I don't know all of the airline regulations now but when I took my oldest you could bring snacks on the plane.

I am 31 and have been married for almost 12 yrs. My husband and I have 3 boys ages 10,7 and 4.



answers from Cleveland on

i think it will be good to take something he can nibble on and chew while in the plane, like candy or something. gum if he knows how. if u do that i think he shold be fine.

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