Non-stop or Split up Flight???

Updated on June 29, 2008
L.C. asks from Bothell, WA
9 answers


I've been sifting through some of the back air travel posts and can't seem to find this answer, though I probably missed it!

We will travel to Mexico to see my in-laws when my son is 13 months old (December/Jan) and have to purchase tickets ASAP b/c hardly any seats left. Obviously, I don't have a clue what his nap schedule or activity level will be at that time; I can only assume he'll be fairly active, he may/may not be walking, and he'll get fidgety. We cannot afford a 3rd seat for him (tix are already over $1000 each), so he will be on our laps. Flights will be full to capacity because it's Christmas/New Year's. I have heard a variety of things about going non-stop vs. having a layover. My thinking is one ascent/descent would be best for his ears, but NS means 4.5-5 hours on the plane, as opposed to having a layover in LA (2.5 hrs. each leg, and honestly, just seems like more hassle w/carry-ons, gear, etc.). Departure takes off 7-8am, meaning getting to airport b/w 5-6 (ugh!), and return is afternoon flight (with potential leg taking off @ 9pm LAX => SEA) What are some opinions out there from people who've flown w/kids @ 13 months, walking and not walking? Non-stop or split up in two legs?

What can I do next?

  • Add yourAnswer own comment
  • Ask your own question Add Question
  • Join the Mamapedia community Mamapedia
  • as inappropriate
  • this with your friends

So What Happened?

Thanks for the great info, ladies! I probably should have said we're seasoned travelers ourselves, so we know all of the little tricks of the trade, and yes, thank God we have an Alaska Visa...been using it for years. We ended up buying some miles to enable us to get two "free" tickets...much better price-wise than even a companion fare. We are flying non-stop down; hopefully he'll sleep a little, but if not, oh well! We have a layover on the way back, but it's 4 hours, and we've got family in LA...who knows...we might even get bumped to the next day...fine with me. I love the info about buying something new for him; hadn't thought of that, but makes sense to have a novel item(s); bulkhead seating also a good idea...I think most airlines, though, have seats where armrest doesn't move. Thanks again!

More Answers



answers from Seattle on

Dear L.,
My view is the same as the advise you received from Danielle. Last week we travelled from Europe to West coast, 10 hours non-stop with our 11 month old son.
Ask the airline if you can have bulkhead seats for you and your husband, this offer a little more leg room and privacy. Also ask if the armrest between your seats can open so your son can stretch out between you.



answers from Seattle on

Non-stop definitely. Have flown four times with my now 18 month old and the worst experience by far was the one involving layovers. Short flights, but just the constant moving, getting gear on and off the plane, maneuvering through the airport, etc. Made for a very stressful experience.



answers from Seattle on

I took my son to Chile at the age of 13 months. There are no non-stop flights from Seattle to Santiago so we had a layover in New York on the way there and in Miami on the way back. HOWEVER: The first leg of the flight was 7 hours and the second was 10 1/2 so if you only have a 5 hour flight, I would go non-stop. We had very few problems during the flight to New York. We had books and snacks for him. In reality, the hardest part was the layover where he wanted to run all over the airport and we had to lug around all the luggage and baby gear you mentioned. It is much easier to get it over with and be done that board and deboard over and over again. Go non-stop: it's also usually less expensive. Good luck!


answers from Seattle on

We do flights to Europe and back every summer and Florida for Christmas since my son was 6 months old. Non-stop flights worked better for us. And we are talking 8-12 hours flight. You don't need to get him a sit until he is 2 years old. And at that age he will end up in your lap anyway. If you need to distract him, you can always take a walk between the ailes. Longs flights helps with following the schedule and less ears blocks. Giving him his bottle or Binky when the plane goes up or down will prevent his ear blockage. Plus there is a great chance that he will fell asleep right after that. Buy few new small toys for the plane to keep him busy when he is awake. Let me know if you need more tips. Good luck!



answers from Seattle on

Your son will be more tired if you change planes in Los Angeles, I would only take a flight with a change of planes if I were going to spend the night at the stopover, not for a 2 or 3 hour layover (you spend so much time going through costumes, checking your luggage, etc). It's not worth it, airports are stressing and you end up more tired. I have a 17 and a 14 year old, and we took flights with stopovers for them when we had to travel 13 hours, and spend the night at the intermediate city. Please do yourself a favor and take the non stop flight.



answers from Seattle on

We just got back from a trip that meant the first flight for our toddler. She's VERY active and I was dreading it, but the actual flight went really well. I bought her lots of activity toys that she had never seen and put them in her backpack. They kept her pretty busy in the airport and on the plane. We also took a portable DVD player which was great for the flight. If you do do that, I would recommend taking videos he's seen before - as it will keep his attention better. I made the mistake of letting her watch new movies (we only started letting her watch movies often a few weeks ago) and she didn't like them as much as the ones she knows well.

As for planning your trip... definitely, definitely get the NON-STOP flight. The parts of the trip that were an absolute NIGHTMARE (and I'm not kidding) was getting on and off the flight and trying to deal with one carry-on, a car seat (which you might not be dealing with) her back-pack, my purse, and her through-out the airport. We flew to LAX and it's even worse there and more spread out. Plus, you might think a 5 hour straight flight might sound worse, BUT other wise you're adding hour(s) of wait time to the day. A 13-month old won't care that it's not on a plane, it's just more time of boredom and messing up his day. You're right that you can't plan for his nap schedule/activity level at that age. But, most kids are less cranky in the earlier part of the day so I would aim for earlier flights verses night ones if at all possible.

Oh, and just a side note... I wanted to mention that most flights require passports for travel to Mexico anymore. You'll want to double check if this is true for kids under 2 with your airline. If so, you'll want to get his application in right away because it can take a few months to get it. Good luck!! :-)



answers from Seattle on

Hi L.

Sounds like a tricky decision. Every child is different and changing as he gets older so it's hard to project what your son will be like 5 months from now!

I'd probably go with the Non-Stop if the prices are about the same or if price isn't a big consideration. Over the holidays the airports are crowded and if you have flight delays it could be a nightmare if you get stuck in LAX.

If the price of the airfare is a consideration here are a few ideas for getting the best fare:

Usually it is best to actually purchase your ticket in the middle of the week. (Tuesday-Thursday) Airline fares typically are higher on the weekends

Try to schedule your flights for days in the middle of the week, too if you can - usually they are cheaper (Tues-Thurs) Of course over the holidays all bets are off!

Search the fares on the search engines that shows the prices for most of the airlines so you can compare fares and if your schedule has some flexibility use the +/- 3 days feature to see if booking your flight on a nearby date can save you a significant amount

Feel free to check my 2 booking engines to compare prices at: (uses Travelocity)

Also try Orbitz, Expedia, etc.

Then go directly to the website of the airline who appears to have the best fare on the search websites above to see if you can beat the price - Surprisingly sometimes you can't beat what's on one of the other booking engines!

If you want to visit Mexico every year, consider signing up for an Alaska Airlines Credit card. (if you haven't already). I think it costs about $75 per year but each year you get a voucher for a $50 companion ticket for 2 people flying together. Check to make sure there aren't black-out dates over the holidays, but if you visit at other times of the year as well it might work out for you. You can also earn enough miles to get a free ticket fairly quickly - but you usually won't be able to use it over the holidays because of black-out dates.

The companion ticket usually works out to more than $50 with taxes and fuel surcharges, etc. but it's still a good bargain. Even with the $75 annual fee you'll still get the second ticket to Mexico for about $150 instead of $500.

Feel free to contact me if you'd like more information.

Have a great trip!




answers from Seattle on

Hi L.,

It looks like you've gotten some great suggestions, and I'll just add my experience to the list too! I travelled to Mexico in April alone with my son when he was 14 months. He wasn't walking yet, and I didn't purchase him a seat since they were so expensive.

We took a non-stop flight, and I'm really glad that we did. The hassle of getting him on and off the plane with all the gear, extra take-offs and landings, would have been much worse than a solid 5 hours on the plane. I was really nervous about flying with an active baby, and I bought special, new toys for the trip, but it turned out that he was really interested in the flight magazine, safety card, water bottles, etc. He barely even played with the new toys!

The one thing that I brought that was helpful was lots of his favorite snacks. Popping goldfish crackers into his mouth so that he'd chew and swallow also helped during take-off when he didn't want to nurse or drink from his sippy cup. Sometimes you just can't make them, you know?

The other thing I can offer is that we were traveling during Spring Break--so like you, the planes were packed. This also made me nervous, but it turned out that traveling during the peak time meant there were a lot of other families traveling. Our flight down had a family with a two and a four year old sitting next to us, and a family with a four and a six year old in front of us. When I apologized for my son's screaming when he got so tired but wouldn't settle into my arms and nap, the mom next to me just said, "it's OK, we've all been there." She was so kind. Yes, we did get the nasty, annoyed looks from people on the flight, but there were also some very sweet people who offered to help me with carrying the diaper bag, or complimented me about how efficiently I got through security with the baby and stroller. I like to remember those positive people over the ones who seemed irritated with us.

And I guess the best piece of advice I can offer is to let your son be as active as he can be when he can be. My son hates being confined, and at the age where they're crawling or just starting to walk--they want to move. For me, this meant letting my son be on the floor of the plane for periods during the flight. I was completely disgusted at how dirty it must be, but it kept him happy, and I just wiped his hands with antibacterial wipes when I picked him back up. He was curious about how the seats bolted down, and he just wanted to pull up on the seat instead of sitting on my lap the entire time. Also, while waiting for our flight, I took him out of the stroller, so that he could look out the windows or at the gift shop stuff.

Flying with a baby is hard. You probably won't be able to match flight times with nap schedules, so your child will become a little "off". But just remember it's just a period of time. It might be a nightmare of a day, but it's just a day, and you'll get through it! Thinking in terms of "just a day" helped me get through traveling by myself with my baby. Good luck and have a great trip!



answers from Seattle on

Having flown several times back-and-forth to Chicago from Seattle (4 hour flight) with infants and toddlers, I vote for the non-stop flight. Once you're on the plane, whether it's 2 hours or 4 hours doesn't really make a difference to the baby--either way it's long! And if you have a layover, it just adds that much extra time to an already stressful, long day of travel.

For Updates and Special Promotions
Follow Us

Related Questions

Related Searches