How to Survive a 6 Hour Flight with a 19 Month Old?

Updated on October 06, 2010
K.B. asks from Massapequa, NY
14 answers

This Thanksgiving we are traveling from New York to California to visit relatives with our 19 month old daughter in tow. She's not new to flying, but the last time we did this, she was 10 months and not walking. My 2 questions are:

1) HOW do you get through a flight that long with an antsy toddler? Granted coming and going are evening flights, but if she's not sleepy, the people on the plane are going to hate us. We figured we were hedging our bets by choosing flights times when her energy wasn't at its peak. We are aware of portable DVD players and lots of Elmo videos, but any other creative suggestions would be appreciated!

2) How do you handle the 3 hour time change coming and going?


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answers from New York on

My 23 month old daughter goes on planes frequently with us. What has worked best for her ears when landing is for her to chew on ice chips. She loves to play with it, it is healthier than candy, and the swallowing/chewing of the ice seems to really help her ears. The stewardesses will happily give you ice a little before landing if you ask (you have to ask earlier enough b/c they do close the kitchen before they land). As for entertaining her, we read lots of books, we point out things out the window (trucks, planes, before we take off, clouds, mountains, etc after take-off), we try to give her a new toy or two as well as bring some of her favorite ones, and we take many walks to the bathroom. She loves walking up and down the aisles and usually people don't mind. We now buy a seat for her but before we did (and when she was smaller) we'd bring the ergo and stand near the restrooms and rock her in it when it came time for her to go to sleep. Also, as others have suggested, we try not to have her nap as much as usual before the flight so she is tired when she gets on.

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answers from New York on

I didn't find it difficult for my kids to adjust to CA time from NY. It took a couple of days to adjust when we got back home. If she is large for her age and can walk, you may want to consider buying her a seat - even though you could still save money by putting her on your lap. I had a very miserable flight (thankfully not cross country!) with my daughter at 22 months when she was too big and uncomfortable for my lap. Somehow you endure it... My last flight to CA with 16 month old twins, my son pooped through diaper and pants and onto my husband's pants and the airplane seat! The airline served us each a free drink for enduring that experience! You live through it...and you have stories to tell!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Eugene on

The only thing I could come up with at that age the plane was taking off and landing to help with their ears was a sucker. I knew she would get messy, but she would suck on it. No pain with ears was the important thing.

We just flew Maui to Portland yesterday, 5 hour flight, with 2 1/2 yo, she slept for 4 hours. Timing was great the flight was during her nap, she just took a long one. You won't be so lucky with the timing. You could try cutting her nap short several days in advance to see if she goes to bed earlier. That is a chance if her is over tired it could be worse.

While you are waiting to get on the plane run her up and down. It will be important for you not to worry about the other people, relax and so will she. When you first get on the plane, start talking about everything that is happening outside the window. This will buy you a lot of time until you are in the air. Same thing coming down.

Get old wallet, put thing in it like magazine cut outs of babies and animals. Fake credit cards-they love pulling those things out and looking at them.
It is small and easy to carry. This is my only creative suggestion.

I have packed tons of things on flights and not used them. My kids have most of the time sleeping or watched DVD's. Reading, talking, singing, & playing, has filled in the rest. They seem to love have mom in one spot for a long time entertain them. Dad seems to sleep, but does hold them while they sleep.

With weather being nicer in California enjoy getting up early. It takes a couple days to get use to the time change and by then it is time to come home. The morning are nice and you can watch the sunrise.



answers from San Francisco on

Just did 14 hour flight with 2 year old... movies helped the most- but we also made sure she was tired before the flight- keep her busy all day and either early nap or no nap. The hum of the engine seemed to really help. (she slept 8 hours over and 5+ coming home) we also changed her into pj for the flight.

as a general rule jet lag is not as severe when you are traveling west- just keep her on a normal schedule- try to keep nap times to the local time as well as bedtime. coming home may be more difficult- but again just try to keep to you normal sched- ie don't let her take a four hour nap in the middle of the day-



answers from New York on

Everyone had great suggestions. We do the NY to California trip all the time and my 13 month old had done really well on the plane every time so far. The key, as everyone seems to point out, is planning for a diverse number of activities to break up the time on the plane. We also are big fans of the one or two new books/toys that we can introduce during the flight. For take off and landing I either give her a bottle, or something to chew like cheerios to help alleviate the ear pressure. Walking up and down the aisle is also a big hit.

You are doing the right thing by planning ahead! She will have a wonderful flight and so will you!



answers from Honolulu on

Well, my suggestion is to book your seats.
Even travel agents use this site.
We have used it.
It is great. It is accurate.
You can find child friendly seats this way.

good luck,



answers from New York on

I can only share our experiences in hopes it helps! We are world travelers & my 20 month old daughter LOVES to fly. First of all, we talk & explain a lot about going bye-bye up-up-up in the sky to see "so n so"...then, we are thrift store crazy (especially when it comes to all these transitional toys) so we try to be savvy & hunt down great quiet toys, set them aside n then introduce them slowly---small board books, we found a counting quiet activity book she LOVES, so that's reserved only for travel. She enjoys colors, so I found the small sized colored pencils n scrap paper. I always pack her favorite blankie n have milk ready to go for take off. She loves Thomas so we take the laptop w a DVD n we distract her with ANYTHING...looking out the window, saying bye-bye to the other planes, naming things out the window. Then, once in the air, she loves to play the game of seeing who all is night-night so we say sshhhh! n then wave to those who aren't asleep, a couple of trips to the bathroom n then sharing time between my hubby n I usually works for us...for our longest flight (18 hours) we DID keep the Tylenol handy because it just helped her be more comfortable...we kept plenty of her favorite snacks on standby, but notice she was always more curious about airline food, so we always asked for food for her, some of the planes we've been on have the tv screens w the remotes-she enjoyed figuring those out. O, at the airport we found those animal backpacks to come in handy-no impulsive running away from you! Good luck!



answers from New York on

I read some of the answers you already got and they seem pretty good. I used to walk back and forth and sit sometimes on the floor by the restroom to play.

You seem to be considerate of others, good luck



answers from New York on

Last year I took my 2 y/o & 4 y/o grandkids out to California from NY to visit their dad in the Navy. I deliberately did not get a direct flight. They needed the break to stretch and run around and eat at a table. I flew out early in the morning, which means we left home at 4 AM and they dozed in the car but were wide awake going through check-in and security. Then we had about an hour before the flight so they ran around the gate looking at planes and all and were very excited. I gave myself plenty of time so they could walk to the gate and in general exhaust themselves. LOL We were only in the air about 30 minutes and they were sound asleep. We landed and again had 90 minutes till the next flight, I let them walk, we ate and they fell asleep even faster on the next leg. On the way back we took a red eye and it was morning when we changed flights (time change) and they were tired again. I have to say they both were very very good. The main thig you need to worry about is ear pressure, which is why most kids cry on a plane. Bring a bottle, gum, lollypop or anything to get her to swallow going up and coming down.



answers from New York on

Try bringing several age appropriate, beautifully illustrated books along to read to her. I also recommend Place & Trace by Discovery Toys ( because it's not just a set of 3 puzzles (dinosaurs, house pets, and transportation), but you can press the top surface's texture into play dough, do crayon rubbings of the textures, learn the names and colors of each piece, cut out the clay into shapes. All Discovery Toys products come with a parenting guide that suggests many ways to use a single toy.


answers from Los Angeles on

For the first hour or two, do regular evening stuff
like reading stories together and watching Elmo videos, etc.
Then, gradually, sloooooooow down.

It's sleeeeeepy time . . .
we are singing quiet songs and rocking gently.
we are playing very quieting music, like Satie or maybe Debussy.
we are avoiding sugar and other foods that might create bouncy behavior.

As for the time change . . . . I don't think it should be a problem.
She's going to wake up about the time you get off the plane.
On the drive from the airport to wherever you are going,
she will probably nap in the car.
When you arrive at your destination, just be "normal" . . . .
breakfast or lunch or whatever. Play it by ear.

On the way back, it may be different.
But I think going west should turn out pretty comfortably.

Wishing you safe and comfortable travels!!



answers from New York on

1. have her walk around tons and tons that day before you get on the flight so she's really tired. ( i bought a leash for my 17mth old when flying with him for 9hrs by myself back from europe, it really helps at the airport) bring books, toys attached to a string so she won't play the drop it on the floor game, wondercrayons that only draw on wonderpaper if she likes to draw.
in case you have an iphone there are several very cool apps with animal noises etc.
bring healthy bite sized snacks so you can make snack time into an activity.
i also gave him 4 drops of the bach flower essence for kids. it's completely harmless and helps to calm them down. he slept 3hrs and entertained the rest of the plane for the rest of the time. it went so much better than i thought it would go.
2.put her on her regular schedule right away and spend a lot of the awake time playing outdoors in daylight.
lastly, make it an adventure, make it fun, enjoy your time together and don't get stressed yourself because little ones really pick up on that. don't worry too much about your fellow passengers, remember she is little and there is only so much you can do to keep her quiet.
GOOD LUCK!!! : )



answers from Atlanta on

I don't know if it's financially feasible for you, but the best thing I could recommend would be to get her a seat. Flights are so much easier if you can keep the toddler strapped down in a car seat instead of wiggly on your lap. Also I've found that they tend to have a better shot at sleeping on the plane if they're in a car seat.



answers from New York on

The time change means it takes my kids a day for every hour of change - that's 3 hours. My kids would wake up at 5am the first day - thankfully, my parents took turns being up with the kids and letting them watch movies.

I brought a few new books - with those flaps they open, made a cheerio necklace she wears and nibbles on. I know people who bring on the car seat so the kids simply sit in the car seat as if it were a car ride - they know they never get out of that.

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