Traveling Cross-Country with a One-Year-Old

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Nancy Solomon, writer for travel blog Ciao Bambino!, answers listener questions about flying across the country with a toddler. 


Nancy Solomon

Comments [31]


I'm glad to see some posts addressing the concerns of those without small children. Your guest's blithe disrespect was disconcerting. I am sympathetic toward an uncomfortable child and this occasionally extends to the parents who put them in that situation, but I'm dismayed that there exists no social norm in which the annoyance of others is frowned upon. Perhaps children under 7 should be restricted to, say, Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Jul. 13 2011 12:29 PM
Sylvia Mendel from NYC Chelsea

Have any callers thought of not travelling with young children? I notice a sense of entitlement about children being okay in more venues where it's not appropriate for young children to be e.g. restaurants where other diners expect to have a quiet dinner.
I dread the time when children will not consider anyone else in public environments for their parents set the example of being on the phone at all times. And how about changing diapers in public places - though facilities exist in rest-rooms - even where people eat.

Jul. 13 2011 12:15 PM

This is one I would never admit to, unless I was anonymous.

if you are NOT THE PARENT, but traveling near someone else's kid, and that kid starts screaming or crying, here is what works:

close your eyes and imagine that you are angry at that kid and CAUSING the baby's screams. this puts you in the "drivers seat" and you no longer have a problem of having no control over some other person's noisy kid.

Jul. 13 2011 12:04 PM
sandy from New Brunswick, Canada

I have flown several times with my 2 small sons from Asia to the East Coast. We always try to get seats in the first row - this gives us the floor for the kids to stretch out in when they're sleeping. We never took car seats because they're too cumbersome and we didn't want to buy an extra ticket. We try to fly over night, snacks, drinks, motrin, crayons and paper they've never seen. Now that the kids are a little older - hand-held computer games.

Jul. 13 2011 12:03 PM
katie from Brooklyn

My mother had a rule that her children could not fly until they were five and people came to visit us that lived very far away. People should ideally avoid traveling with a young child to begin with, and if you truly need to take the baby or toddler on an airplane, buy an extra seat.

Jul. 13 2011 12:03 PM
ann from nyc

Absolutely essential to nurse or bottle fed on take off and landing.
Also, a favorite entertainment for young kids is a variety of small toys tied together so they don't drop out of reach. There are many fun, light weight things that will entertain and not disappear under the seat!

Jul. 13 2011 12:02 PM
Vinny_G from Upper West Side NYC

1. Appropriate dosage of anesthetic.
2. Ship child ahead of time as cargo
3. most importantly, DON'T DO IT!!!(stay home)

Jul. 13 2011 12:02 PM
Jane from Short HIlls NJ

Offer to buy drinks for the passengers around you. Masking tape is a great toy and a pack of post its!

Jul. 13 2011 12:02 PM
Mary from Montclair from Montclair

pipe cleaners can provide fun for an unusually long period of time

Jul. 13 2011 12:02 PM
Chaz from Portland OR

I like the blue painter's tape suggestion. It's also useful for keeping them still and in their seat.

Also NyQuil. Not NyQuil for children -- the real stuff with alcohol in it. No more screaming.

Jul. 13 2011 12:02 PM
Dana from New York

I recommended shopping the kid ahead of the trip..... you will enjoy the flight too. :)

Jul. 13 2011 12:01 PM
Raul from Prospect Heights

PS: My daughter freaked out when she had to take her shoes for security. We had the nicest TSA agent in the world who said "We're taking a picture of your shoes!" It made the security process fun.

Jul. 13 2011 11:58 AM
Ben from Park Slope

Changes in the air pressure are very painful for babies' ears and they DO NOT YET understand how to pop them.

But drinking opens their ears.

So the MOST VALUABLE TRICK -- keep them hungry just before the takeoff and descent. Then make sure they are on the bottle or boob as they are taking off or descending. This opens their ears and saves TONS of screaming.

Jul. 13 2011 11:58 AM
Raul from Prospect Heights

I flew with my daughter on my lap in coach just before my daughter turned two. She was much happier than in her own seat at that age with her personality.

As a Brooklynite, she is not used to car seats as much as being close to her parents.

Jul. 13 2011 11:57 AM

As with a lot of situations, *singing* to a baby or child can often work wonders. Any old song, and they don't care if you sing off-key!

Oh -- for the parents who are uneasy with bringing a DVD player, you can bring DVDs of family events instead of Dora the Explorer. Kids love looking at themselves and family members on video.

Jul. 13 2011 11:57 AM
Jacob from Brooklyn

A screaming baby really ruins a flight. I had one behind me on a redeye a few weeks ago and the baby kept me awake all night!

Please think about alternatives (especially to an overnight flight) if possible.

Jul. 13 2011 11:56 AM
Evan from New York, NY

This may be impolitic, but Triaminic or Benadryl.

Jul. 13 2011 11:56 AM
Edward from NJ

Pay for a seat for the car seat. Have bottles and snacks. Don't expect special help from the flight crew. If your kid is crying, try to calm them down for their own sake, but don't worry about other passengers. The other passengers can be annoyed, and they can suck it up.

Oh, and Benadryl!

Jul. 13 2011 11:55 AM
Anne from Seattle

Agree with splurging for an extra seat and bringing the car seat - this is critical for wiggly toddlers. I also pack a backpack full of new goodies:
Before each trip, I fill backpacks for each child with age-appropriate snacks, toys, activities, books and games related to our destination. For toddlers: it is all about the art of distraction: books, stickers, Baby Einstein movies, blocks, cars. Don't forget the favorite blanket or stuffed animal. The #1 rule: They are not allowed to open it up until we get past security so its all new and exciting.

Jul. 13 2011 11:55 AM

For a young toddler, consider the connecting flights rather than direct -- the break and movement actually provides a welcome change of events and scenery for a child.

Jul. 13 2011 11:54 AM
Cindy from Queens, NY

traveling with 3 kids...I try to get seats for all kids in the last row, that way if the baby is crying...I know there is no one behind me that can complain.

Jul. 13 2011 11:50 AM

Whatever you can do to not bring them on the plane is the advice I'd like to hear.

Jul. 13 2011 11:50 AM

Spend the money for an extra seat, take the car seat - you need it anyway when you to where you are going.

Jul. 13 2011 11:33 AM
Chaz from Portland OR

As a child-free frequent flyer, my advice to parents of small children is to PLEASE not bring them on airplanes. It's unkind to them, and even worse for your fellow passengers.

Jul. 13 2011 11:31 AM
Ana from Brooklyn

Breastfeeding, a good cover, hopefully your partner, window seat and God's speed.

Jul. 13 2011 11:30 AM

I lived in Asia for about 10 years with my husband and daughter and becamed expert at travelling long distances with a baby. My best advice for long trips is to keep your child comfortable which in turn keeps your travelling neighbors comfortable and ultimately reduces your stress levels. As long as you are trying to keep your child engaged and calm those around you will cut you some slack when the moment arises...and it will. Always bring an extra change of clothing for you and your child for the unfortunate occasions when sickness occurs. If affordable purchase a seat for your child. And always bring a ton of books to read to your child. Be well rested because for the entire journey you could possibly be entertaining you child.

Jul. 13 2011 11:22 AM
Jennyfer from Prospect Heights, Brooklyn

Every summer my husband and I travel to a National Park and camp for 2 weeks. These are trips that usually require both a long plane ride across country and a long car ride. And when our son was born, we kept up the tradition: traveling and camping with first a 6 month old, then an 18 month old and this year, a 2.5 year old. Our challenge has always been to bring the bare minimum number of items with us, as we are also hauling all our camp gear. Last year we loaded up our iphones with apps like Alpha Baby, Peekaboo Barn, Audio Zoo, Eric Carle's My First App, etc. Couple that with a small number of crayons and 2-3 small cars and we were all set. No joke. The truth was that between what we brought and the experience of being on the plane he was entertained the whole time. This year we got an iPad so we've got all the apps, and an e-reader, a video player and a drawing pad all in one small device. And when the son falls asleep, I get to use it too!

Jul. 13 2011 11:22 AM
Nancy from Wharton NJ

I traveled by air many times with my 3 children from the time they were about 3 months old. The best thing I found to keep wiggly toddlers as pleasant as they can be on a long flight is to buy a seat and use their car seat. The car seat was familiar, and they knew they couldn't get out of it. Then I could read or entertain them - and have a free hand for the other children. It's certainly more expensive and not an option for everyone. I would encourage people to check out how full flights are ahead of time, and if there are open seats sometimes the flight attendants will let you use them for a car seat without charging extra.

Jul. 13 2011 11:19 AM
Sheila from Connecticut

Buy a seat for the child. Use a car seat on the plane so they have a safe, secure spot to sleep and you hav free hands. Bring bottle, pacifier, sippy cup to help with ears. DVD player or IPad, don't even need headphones. Stickers or bandaids can keep them occupied for quite a while. MagnaDoodle or etch-a-sketch. Change of clothes (for child AND you), in case of accidents. Make sure diapers and wipes are easily accessible. You can use your stroller right to the door of the plane and then it will be waiting for you outside the door when you disembark. Have no illusion that you will actually read your own book or watch a movie yourself.

Jul. 13 2011 11:17 AM
Judith from NYC

changes in air pressure are very painful for babies' ears. take something to suck on to help relieve the pain especially on take off and landing or altitude changes.
Also plenty of new toys to produce as boredom sets in - one at a time.
And obviously snacks/drinks
and don't expect your fellow passengers to be tolerant if your child misbehaves - it is your responsibility not a community problem.

Jul. 13 2011 11:13 AM

A flight attendant recommended (when I was flying with a two-month old), "if she starts crying during take-off or landing, just let her scream, because it will relieve the pressure in her ears." Something I never would have thought of, but it liberated me from anxiety about it. (Nursing or bottle-feeding also helps.)

Jul. 13 2011 11:12 AM

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