Traveling with 17 Months Old on Lap on International Trip - Advise Needed Pls!

Updated on September 03, 2009
H.H. asks from Beaverton, OR
11 answers

Me and My husband is going to China with our then 17-month-old son this Nov. We are going to be on two flight, one for like 3 hours and the other one for about 15 hours. We didn't buy a separate seat for him(the airline does not offer any infant discount, frustrating). Anyhow, now I am very nervous about this. My son is getting more active now, and I am afraid he won't be willing to sit on our lap the whole time. I am planning on renting one of those CARES harness on ebay and hoping in case the flight has some empty seats. But what if they don't? If anybody here has similar experience and don't mind sharing some tips, I would really appreciate it. Thanks in advance!

Thanks so much for all the suggestions I got so far. A little more details. We are flying United. They are not very customer friendly. I asked about the bassinet hoping that would get me in the bulk head area automatically, but they want to charge me like $500 for me and my husband round trip. They also told me that the bassinet is for 6 months and under.

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answers from Seattle on

Most airlines won't let you use the harnesses, so check with your airline before you buy or rent!


answers from Eugene on

Dear H.

I am a frequent flyer about 12 roundtrips a year to Europe and Asia for work. I like children and so I don't mind their crawling around on me and so on. I talk to them and play with them. Many passengers don't seem to like children.
Too bad you did not get him a seat as it is a really long flight. You might want to put him down.

Airlines often let you walk around with the child while food or duty free carts are not using the aisle. There is also a spot in the back often in the galley where he can stand up with you.

Most flights today are overbooked. You can get stuck in the airport for hours while your connecting flight leaves. See if they'll let you keep him in his stroller and check it as you get on and get it back as soon as you get off.

Take more diapers than you'll need I have never seen them for sale in the airport. One of your carry ons needs to have a complete change of clothes for you and your husband and many for your son.

Take a few toys he loves on board with you. Crayons, paper, a couple of his favorite books and most of all I hope you are travelling at night since nothing will keep him from sleeping.

Take offs and landings will hurt his ears. If he does not chew gum teach him how to now unless you are still nursing him so you can do so during take off and landing.



answers from Anchorage on

First up, relax! They are actually easier at that age then say, 4 or 5. I am an Air Force wife and have been over seas for 10 years, so my boys have had many long international flights. Call 24 hours in advance, let the airline know you are traveling with a lap infant and would like a bulk head seat if any are available. That is the seat in the front where you will have much more room for your little one to sit on your lap. Do you know which airline you are flying on? British air has what is called a sky cot. If you sit at the bulk head a cot folds out from the wall in front of you so the baby does not have to be on you the whole trip. Have a wonderful trip!



answers from Portland on

If you have the option to check/change your seating online, the best way to get an extra seat is to be near the back of the plane (center seats fill front to back) and put you and your husband in a window and aisle (or down the middle in 2 aisles on international) leaving a blank seat between you 2. This would be taking a chance it won't fill. You can continue to check and change your seating up until departure looking for 3 seats free and leaving the middle blank.



answers from Seattle on


I did this one year...when I was 32. We took a trip to Vietnam and I didn't buy a seat for my 14 months (she was small too) and regretted it immensely. It's a LONG and TIRING flight and I wish I'd bought a seat so we BOTH could sleep in it. It was almost impossible to sleep with my baby on my lap. Unfortunatley, the flight was full (as it usually is on flights to Asia) and I couldn't "buy" another seat even if I wanted to...which I was wiling to pay ANY price for at that time! I was unfortunate on the way back too because they didn't have another seat for me to buy.

I've sworn to myself that I will NEVER...EVER do that again. It's NOT worth the savings. I'd rather NOT go then do have only ONE seat for me and a toddler.

If you can afford to PLEASE DO buy a seat for your child. If it's going to bankrupt you, do what you got to do but....I would rather not go if that's the case. Anyway, not only will an extra seat do you good, it will also be good for him as he can put his head on your lap to stretch out and sleep. If anything, do this for your son...he will be MUCH more comfortable, which mean he'll get good naps, which means you won't have an unhappy child on the LONG flight.

Bottom line...I STRONGLY advise you to BUY A SEAT for your child! You can NOT sleep with that big of a child on your lap on the's HARD, UNCOMFORTABLE and IMPOSSIBLE to sleep.

BTW...I have sisters that wen thru the same thing and we're all in agreement....BUY A SEAT.

Hope this helps.



answers from Eugene on

Dear H., I so know what you are about to embark upon. I have made the trip over the pond with a 18 month oldboy on my lap and being 5 months pregnant plus 2 other older girls. I was so worried that my son would be all over the place or worse yet throw a fit because I had to keep him restrained. I talked to my doctor and he prescribed a syrup that was given to small kids to calm them for certain tests that were for A.D.D children. It worked pretty well. I think benedryl could work well too as well as cause the ears to be free from pressure and congestion. I do not envy you. I really hope your plane is big and the seats are not so close to each other. That is a tough trip. We went to Macedonia and by the time we experinced planes ,trains, and auto mobiles literly I felt like I had been through a meat grinder.

Hope this helps. Blessings to you and your family




answers from Seattle on

When my daughter was 9 months old we flew to Asia. Talk about a flight!

The first thing i noticed is that the non-american airlines we flew tended to be really good for kids - they had baby food, toys for them, diapers, etc. (We flew Singapore Air, which is highly regarded, and which i would recommend if you can choose it.)

We asked for, and got, a bassinet. This is a little 'bed' that hooks on to the bulkhead of an airplane. Your kid can sleep in it, and play (to some extent) in it. I don't know what the weight limit is, though, so you'll have to ask to see if you can use one. Call the airline (for the long flight - they aren't offered on domestic flights) in advance to arrange for this. The bassinet was invaluable because it allowed my kid to sleep more peacefully, and for us to have break from having her in our laps.

Finally, regardless of whether you get the bassinet, see if you can get a bulk head seat. My daughter spent some time standing and playing on the floor in front of our seats, which would have been impossible if we had not had a bulk head seat. There is basically no way to keep a 17 month old sitting forever, so having a relatively safe place to play is really nice.

If you can squeeze a new book or new toy in your bag, as well as favorite drinks and snacks, that might help with distraction as well.

ps. I know some people use baby-benadryl to help their kid sleep on the flight. I haven't tried it, but, there is that, too.



answers from Seattle on

we flew to Israel this summer (6 hrs. then 11 hrs) with a 3.5 year old and a 4 month the ages aren't exactly what you have...but, on our flight, in the bulk head (front row) there was an option to get a bassinet installed on the wall in front of the was AMAZING! I imagine that at least part of your flight will involve your son sleeping! My daughter (the baby) actually slept for about 10 hours of the flight in it - yes, she is a baby, but I imagine your son sleeps about 10-12 hours at night...if he can sleep in the bassinet, you don't have to hold him...check with the airline to see if they have this option, and if you can reserve it!

Otherwise, bring a lot of activities for him. Most international flights have movie options (included in the fare) - we don't own a port. dvd as I am sure many people will suggest to you - I fly almost every month with both kids, never have taken a dvd player - always have had very well behaved kids! post it notes are great - no mess...playdough, stickers, snacks...also, you can stand for a while and let him sit - if you are taking your partner with...take turns doing this...



answers from Seattle on

I took my daughter to Europe a few months ago at the same age. I would call the airline about accomodations. We flew Lufthansa and had a bassinet seat w/bassinet installed in front of me in the bulkhead row. It was a tad small, but big enough for my daughter to nap in for several hours. The airline also provided and required that I use an infant belt that attached to my seatbelt during start and landing.
I have taken my baby on several trips, with and without car seat and with/ without extra seat and I have to say the bassinet seat and loop belt was the best arrangement yet. I am sad that they are not used/allowed on US airlines. It was a great experience, both the bassinet seat and the service level at Lufthansa.

Having an additional belt or harness is definitely better than no restraint at all, especially since airplane accidents are a lot different from car accidents and most incidents occur during in-flight turbulence.
I had an empty seat next to me for most legs of our last flight and just let her play on it with the regular seat belt around her lap - that worked fine.

Bring lots of small, cheap toys that you won't miss when lost, finger foods, drinks (they are allowed for children, I brought juice packs) basic medications (tylenol, saline nose spray), books anything that your child likes to pass time with. I pack everything in ziploc bags (quart and gallon sized) so I can just pull out a little activity or snack pack - it also really helps if TSA decides to take apart your hand luggage.

If you are taking along your car seat you can bring it to the gate with you and check it there - or decide to bring it on board if it is FAA approved and they happen to have an extra seat. I strap our car seat to a little dolly cart so I can easilt roll it though the airport. They make a special contraption for this purpose, but I found an inexpensive collapsible handtruck will work just fine.

Have a great trip!



answers from Portland on

When we flew 4 years ago, we went there via China Southern which had limited choices, poor quality monitors to watch. We flew back on Northwest, which had a lot of choices for kids and grownups to watch and overall a much nicer flight.

If using Benydryl, test it first, it knocks some kids out, hypes some kids up, and does neither for others.

If you're going to be in private cars or taxi's, I would consider taking carseat, traffic and drivers are crazy there.

Our daughter disliked being in a carseat (but nice when she finally fell asleep), so we had her in our lap anyway (this was not on the international trip). She loved walking up and down aisles (a lot!), so it depends on the temperment of your child.

Good luck and safe travels!



answers from Seattle on

I totally agree with the poster who advised that you buy a seat for him if you can swing it. A 17-month-old on your lap on a 2-hour domestic flight is one thing, but for 15 hours? That will be a very stressful experience for your whole family. When my little boy (now 5 1/2) was about that age, he was very large and active and we learned that it was much, much easier if we had him in a carseat. He is used to his carseat--and since he was buckled in, we didn't have to worry so much about keeping him still and could concentrate on keeping him entertained. Also, when he slept in the seat, we were free to read or sleep or whatever. Finally, having the carseat helps them to settle down a little during what is a very exciting and unfamiliar experience.

Are you sure about no discount? I just bought tix to Shanghai for myself and my kids (ages 3 and 5) for November, and the kids' tickets were about $100 cheaper than mine. Not a huge discount, but it definitely helped!

Good luck and enjoy your trip!

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