Flying With a Child 101

Tomorrow I take "the test" for the first time, and/or I join the mile-high-club (the non-sexual, more nerve-wracking one.)

And as someone who has never taken a child on an airplane I have several questions for you, my superiors:

1. What is your secret to a fulfilled flight? (If there even is such a thing.)

2. How do you occupy your child (at 18 months.) DVD's? Firecrackers? Beer?

3. What about the ear-popping? Does Wrigleys make Baby gum?

4. How does one watch a DVD on a tray-table WITH a baby on her lap. Isn't that squishy?

5. How much money does one bring to pay off the grouch baby-hater that I am assuming will be sitting right next to me?

6. Does Alaskan Airlines boycott breastfeeding and if so, should I fake like I'm nursing Archer to get a rise?

7. Am I freaking out for nothing or is flying-with-child as scary as it sounds?

8. Please don't answer the above question honestly. Lie, people. Tell me I have nothing to worry about.

Thank you in advance,

The Momagement



Anonymous | 1:59 PM

Listen to all the great advice that I'm sure you're going to get, Becs. It will all come in handy. However, the truth of the matter is that when you're flying with an 18-month old child, there are good flights and there are bad flights. Unfortunately, you never know which one you're going to have until you're up in the air. But don't sweat it too much. The anticipation is usually worse than the actual flight.

Travel safely and have a great Thanksgiving!

Anonymous | 2:03 PM

MD is right, it is the luck of the draw. As for the ears, does archer ever still use his binkey? That is what a friend of mine recomended for the flight for earpopping, I think the sucking action helps. As for keeping him distracted, I am sure a few DVD's would be good. Also stickers, or a new toy with lots of little moving parts. My kid is crazy for books that have flaps to play with. I hope that helps, Arch is such a good baby I am sure you will be fine.

Karen | 2:05 PM

I flew with my kids starting when Liz was three weeks old. Ted made his maiden voyage at five weeks. My dad was sick, and we were away, so we flew every four to six weeks. The truth - the absolute truth - is that flying is an activity of extremes. It is either a wonderful or a miserable experience. He will either not utter a peep, or cry from take-off until landing. Thankfully, my great trips far out-number the bad.

Your DVD player will get banged on by the baby in your lap. If that makles him happy and isn't hurting it, let him bang away. If hubby is with you, have him hold it or Archer.

Do bring snacks - good ones. Like forbidden ones for which everyone would promise to be quiet. M&Ms or Doritos. Do not be afraid to bribe him to maintain your sanity. Bring along a surprise toy and/or book (although I know that you can't shower on the plane...). Try a mini-magnadoodle or mini aqua pen sheets.


And one more diaper than you think that you'll need.

And if people throw you dirty looks, stay zen. Them there baby-haters? Once upon a time they had a mommy who wiped their poop. Once upon a time they cried in a public place. If they roll their eyes at you, stare 'em down until they look away and are afraid to look back.

moe berg | 2:12 PM

dvds, candy, play-do and all the other stuff you tend to ration out on the ground? pile it on!

ear popping? break out the pacifier/bottle/food. the chewier the better, but i've had success w/m&ms, one 'm' at a time.

as for #5, if there's someone on the plane who doesn't understand that kids a)need to travel and b)can occasionally get cranky...fuck 'em.

i was panicked before my first flight with my twins. they performaed admirably and now, a few dozen flights later, they're totally jaded.


Man, I love you guys. And Karen? You rock for the pep-talk. (Believe it or not I am the least confrontational person and have a hard time giving anyone a dirty look but I'm going to practice being bad-ass in the mirror tonight.)

And yes! Archer still has his Nu-nu (pacifier) and we will be bringing that too. And dude! They still make Etch a Sketch? Maybe I should hit up the local Bullzeye Boutique.

Anonymous | 2:30 PM

Totally agree that it's a crapshoot. Snacks, stickers, magnadoodle - all highly recommended. I've brought the laptop for DVD viewing - hardly used it on the plane, but it was wonderful when we got stuck in Chicago. You never know. Most of our flights have been quite uneventful, especially as the girls have gotten older (like toddlers vs. babies).

Ignore anyone who even thinks of giving you a dirty look. Really, it's not your objective to annoy the shit out of your fellow passengers - you're all just trying to get from point A to point B. If they don't realize that and persist in being jerks, then they're just hopeless.

But when in doubt, keep a spare $5 in your pocket for an adult beverage.

You'll do "goodd". That was my word verification, so it must be so.

Anonymous | 2:31 PM

I love all the advice that everyone gave you.
I wanted to add that I just noticed you'll be heading to Boulder. Be forewarned, that it can be (not always) a bit turbulent at take-off and landing. I just want you to be prepared.

Anonymous | 2:42 PM

no lie- flying is not that bad, usually. How do you feel about Dimetapp? no, really? my children's pediatrician said that it helps with the ears so I rationalized that it was medically necessary and the peaceful slumber it induced was just a pleasant side- effect! in addition to the magna-doodles and play-do, you can make those fortune teller oragami things made out of paper (pick a number, pick a color etc...) draw or glue pics of his favorite animals (muskrats?) under the flaps.
good luck and have fun!!!!

oh and if someone tells you that his screaming is bothering them just say "that's funny because I LOVE IT! In fact I was hoping he'd cry all the way there!" then you can tell them how he didn't cry as much when he got his tattoos!

Anonymous | 2:43 PM

I did a heck of a lot of flying with my under-two-year-old. My number one tip is to buy a seat if you can. Or bring the car seat along and see if the flight's not full and you can buckle it into an empty seat for free (some airlines allow this, some don't). The only flights on which Nate didn't sleep from takeoff until landing were the ones on which he had to sit in my lap.

Let's see... make sure he has the paci, or a bottle or sippy cup, for takeoff and landing both. I recommend washable markers for in-flight entertainment, as long as you don't mind a replay of Archer's Halloween costume, since drawing on one's skin is way more entertaining than paper.

If he has a special blanket or stuffed animal, bring that. Definitely bring snacks, because you can't count on the airline having anything he'll eat.

Anonymous | 2:46 PM

i always forget to sign-
JJlibra (tattoo comment)
oh yeah, and can you please post some pics of your bad-ass face practice???

Binky | 2:50 PM

I am following this closely, as we are probably going abroad in July. As in, 8 hours up in the air with my two year old. I like the way Anonymous of the Dimetapp persuasion thinks. I'm pretty sure I'm going to end up going that route.

toyfoto | 2:50 PM

DVDs, beer ... all good, solid ideas.

1.)Art project: Requires Glue stick and People magazine (March 2004 edition) ... rip up pictures from Sky Mall, paste them onto People magazine. Worth at least 20 minutes of fun.

2. tiny box of sculpting clay in various colors. Worked for about 20-30 minutes.

3. Watch DVD

Repete # 1 and 2.

I also recommend bringing a car seat and buying an extra seat for the kidlet. I found that Annabel understands the whole "must sit in the car seat" rule but not the unteathered sitting on my mommy's lap business.

Unknown | 3:14 PM

Lots of great advice already. I traveled on a short flight (1 hr) with Lydia when she was 22 mo. and to my surprise, my active kiddo was pretty intrigued by all of the plane/flying things/looking out the window going around around her. I must also rat myself out and say that there were lots of extra seats and I let her sit in an empty seat next to me. She thought she was badass and was very happy.

You'll both be fine. Happy flying!

Anonymous | 4:17 PM

Lots of snacks.

And alcohol for you.

And this:


Kristen (MU)

Anonymous | 4:18 PM

my daughter has flown many times, and i would say that about 80% of the time she sleeps through the whole flight. we try to book the flights for nap time if we can.

travel sized magna doodle is great, also color wonder markers and books.

we used a sippy cup at takeoffs and landings. i agree about taking along your carseat on the off chance that there's an empty seat. if there isn't, you can just check it planeside.

i really haven't seen too many kids act up on flights, and the ones who do are the older ones who should know better.

motherbumper | 4:48 PM

People have already given you great advice so I won't repeat, but I wanted you to know I've flown six times now with Bumper and never had a problem (didn't I just curse myself). Just stay relaxed and it will go well (you know they can smell fear).

Wendy | 5:40 PM

We flew with my daughter when she was 5 months old and when she was 2 years old. Toddler was more difficult than baby. I strongly recommend the carseat. We made the mistake of checking ours on our return flight and it was hell. You have recieved great advice.

Have a safe trip and it will be great. No worries.

me | 6:45 PM

it's not so bad. one backpack full of easy to pick up toys, and a LOT of snacks. usually they really just want to see the bathroom...234756 times. Have a great trip.

Leslie Kauffman | 6:51 PM

I've done it with my twins nine times in their 2 1/2 years ... as it happens, I just posted my tips here:

You'll be fine. Really.

Anonymous | 7:08 PM

Please keep me posted on how it goes. I'm taking in all the helpful hints. We're going to take our little guy on his first flight in Feb.; taking advantage of a last three-some vacation before baby #2 comes along. IEEEEE!

I hear that any candy or snack (like raisins) and juice boxes are a good idea for take off and landing. Anything to keep them swallowing to clear their ears.

Good luck and happy travels.

MrsFortune | 7:38 PM

Omg, Girl! I and the 6 month old are taking our maiden voyage on Thursday, as well. Nothing like doing it on the busiest travel days of the year, huh? Trial by fire as it were. I've soaked up everybody's comments here. Luck to you and luck to me!


I love you people. Thank you, I'm not worthy.

Anonymous | 7:47 PM

too funny! Great advice already. Having flown alot with my hyper active children here's some stuff I've learned:
1) TONS of snacks and drinks
2) Not only change of clothes fro them but also one for you when they spill their food or drink all over YOU.
3)magna doodles water pens are awesome
4) with a little help from a crayon, the air sickness paper bag in front of your seat makes the coolest puppet out there and will keep your kid laughing his/her head off for a good hour or so while you make it talk in funny voices... trust me on this.
5) run him ragged all over the terminal before you board and if you have an assigned seat DO NOT preboard. wait til the last freakin' minute...
6)binky's and food are great to help the ears for take off and landing
7) i totally agree with the mom who said to stare down anyone who gives you a nasty look. i've actually even gone up to the offending "eye" and asked them if they quite possibilty had something they really wanted to ask me since they couldn't seem to stop looking at me...usually makes them feel at the very least too embarrassed to keep staring at you and shooting you dirty looks...
on the other hand, i've also packed chocolate boxes and given them to the passenger who sat next to me and was super great interacting with my kids and not making me feel like a lousy mother.
I hope some of this helps. bottom line it totally is a crapshoot, you just never know how it's gonna go and much of that is totally out of your control! so don't sweat it, just go with the flow! :)

Jill | 9:00 PM

Total cakewalk. Seriously, don't sweat it. Changing a poopy diaper in the airplane bathroom is soooo easy. Really, those things are baby palaces. And the crying, ear popping and endless peek-a-booing with the people in the seat behind you - it's all good.

(You're looking for lies - I'm looking for lies. I'm taking my 14-month-old from Mpls to Atlanta tomorrow.)

Kacey | 9:02 PM

A travel Magna-Doodle is perfect-the make them with a clip on the end so you can just hook it to whatever so it's handy. I also recommend "hooking" anything that you can with those linka-doo things. It's never fun to try and chase a dropped toy down the aisle under the feet of everyone in front of you. I second (or third) the notion of a brand-new, superfun and exciting toy that he's never seen before. That usually gets you at least 45 minutes of intrigue. Carry everything in a backpack - you'll need both of your hands at all times!
And what is that that I hear, Archer has a slight if not undetectable cough due to drainage? A little Benadryl would clear that right up!
Have a great trip!

foodiemama | 9:06 PM

good luck! we have yet to try it with gus. next x-mas we are thinking of going to hawaii w/some friends but by then he'll be 3...still sounds scary though! have a great thanksgiving anyway!!!!

Anonymous | 9:09 PM

I take Alaska/Horizon all of the time and have never had a problem (although I think they are affiliated with Delta, maybe?) In fact when Jack was two I breastfed him through a whole flight while his feet hung in the aisle and the flight attendants said nothing but how sweet he was.
As for earpopping without the boob, sippy cups work well, any sort of sucking helps (I guess bring an empty one and fill it up on the plane?) The DVD/lap/tray table situation is squishy, but not horribly uncomfortable. Just bring enough diapers/wipes/New or favorite snacks/one new cool little toy for each way. Jack also loved stacking the little plastic beverage cups.
Good luck! And if your coming my way get ready for some heavy duty rain!

Bobita | 12:16 AM

You have some really great suggestions, I would only add one thing...

When I flew with my first son (he was 11 months at the time) I ended up singing all of the songs from his favorite CD, my last resort...and the only thing that worked.

I wanted to also highlight another helpful suggestion that was mentioned zen. Deep breaths... and alcohol.

Anonymous | 5:47 AM

i fly A LOT, and there is always some cranky baby on the flight. i have asked the mothers of calm babies on many occasions what makes their baby so mellow. almost always they tell me in a whisper of confided secret- "baby robitussin." sure it is no different than giving your kid a rufie, but hey, at least it is grape flavored. half a teaspoon the hour before you head up and then, he's waking up in colorado...

Unknown | 6:04 AM

Xanax and a bloody mary. Works like magic.

Anonymous | 6:10 AM

You'll be great. Everything above is pretty on target. Beck's g-ma always gives us special pre-trip "Surprise presents" which we pack in case of emergency. New and engaging is always a good thing to deter meltdowns. Last trip he started to get bored and wriggly and the on-flight magazine provided 20 minutes of amusement as he opened and closed little recipe doors on an ad for Alaskan Cod.

Anonymous | 8:49 AM

Things he has never seen before - a HUGE hit for us was the Crayola books with the markers that only work on the book - I bought a "kit" for like $7 - came with 6 markers and a big crayola book (you can buy them in Blues Clues, Dora, etc) - My pediatrician recommended Pediacare long lasting cough & cold 45 mins before the flight to open his ears - it doesn't make him drowsy, just opens the ears - lots of snacks and I also brought my laptop and a few DVDs he liked - the key is something he hasn't seen before - surprise will be workin in your favor ;-)

Webmaster Melody | 9:37 AM

I've done 10+ flights with Bug (I've lost count now!), starting when he was 8 weeks old. He is Archer's age, and I can't lie...this is probably the hardest age to handle on a plane.

My strategy? Exhaustion. It may sound like baby torture, but I deny him a nap before hand, then as the plane goes up, I feed him a ton of food to pop his ears, then he passes out from being tired and the white noise of the engine.

Also, find what I call the "Golden Girl". This is the flight attendent who is either A)Close to your age or B)Grandmotherly and C)Is instantly in love with toddlers. She is your best friend. Bat your eyes, compliment her jewelry, and feign moderate distress whenever necessary. She will do anything for you. Especially play with baby while you pee.

And, for the record, First Class is *definately* worth it!

Avalon | 9:46 AM

Why not put him in the Cockpit? All those buttons and knobs should keep him entertained for a while.

Anonymous | 11:30 AM

My oldest daughter flew with me for the first time at 23 months. I bought some Earplane disposable ear plugs (you can buy them online or at drugstores). They are supposed to help with the air pressure pain. She was still sucking away at her paci at that time, though, so I never used them.

Also, I filled a tote bag with all kinds of goodies from the dollar store...a sticker book, snacks, a plastic slinky, etc. She was remarkably good although I nearly had a nervous breakdown changing her diaper while we both stood up (well I was crouching and sweating like a mofo) in the airplane lavatory.

Good luck! By now I'm sure you've left. Here's to a happy Thanksgiving.

Anonymous | 11:31 AM

Dude I never use the word lavatory...sorry, lack of sleep. ;)


Lavatory is a GREAT word. When I was little I thought it was "laboratory" and doubled as a mad-scientist lair.

Anonymous | 3:01 PM

I have heard that for the ears thing, have them drinking from a bottle or sippy cup or sucking a pacifier. The swallowing helps open the ears.

Anonymous | 10:03 PM

This is too late to help for this trip, but I just asked our Dr. about this today, as we're planning a trip at Christmas... he said not to worry about them crying at take-off/landing, it actually helps clear their ears (bonus for the kid, not so nice for everyone else!). Also, if you're considering using Dimetapp or Benydril, make sure you've tested them with Archer before hand. Instead of making our Bean sleepy, Benydril kept her up all night, crying and needing to be held and rocked! Not exactly what you want on a flight :P

Scribbit | 12:24 AM

Hey, it'll work out. Just remember it's a temporary situation and will be over soon.

JChevais | 1:30 AM

I still remember that 10 hour flight from Houston to Paris I took with my daughter when she was 18 months old.

The plane was overbooked and packed to capacity so my daughter didn't get a seat. She squiggled and squirmed, refusing to stay on my lap. I got dirty looks from the flight crew and to top it all off, when she finally fell asleep, my daughter's diaper leaked. There is nothing so heartwarming like feeling that telltale seeping through your clothes while being pinned to a chair.

My eye is starting to twitch...

YOU will be fine. Nothing could be that bad.

Creative-Type Dad | 2:11 PM

Beer (or Vodka).

Actually, I don't know. We flew when my daughter was 7 months and took turns entertaining her with toys and stewardesses.

Anonymous | 7:39 PM

There are some great tips here. Ditto on the lots of snacks. Double ditto on the extra clothes. DVDs have kept us sane on 20 trips.

Best airplane toy: a brand new roll of tape. Seriously. He can tape everything together: magazines, peanuts, his finger, etc. If he is too little for the sharp edge, tear him pieces. It's a totally forbidden, yet manageable, activity. And clean-up is a breeze.

Anonymous | 12:59 AM

It's difficult trying to schedule a flight for sleeping time, so why not gradually re-schedule sleeping time to coincide with the flight. I wish we had tried to do this earlier but there are still many other tips suggested here in case it's too late. Here are some more tips for flying with babies and toddlers.

Anonymous | 5:38 PM

I am so glad I stumbled upon this post.

My hubby and I are going to Iceland/Norway from Minnesota when our spud is about 6 weeks old this June(I have nine weeks left until due date).

This has helped ease my mind some, though hormones abound, I'm laughing/crying in anticipation of what sorta adventure we're in for.