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ItalianPrincess1217's avatar

What vacation travel method is best for my 18 month old?

Asked by ItalianPrincess1217 (10534points) February 20th, 2013 from iPhone

We want to plan a family vacation but this is the first time including the little one. He’s 18 months old and has a hard time sitting through a 30 minute car ride, let alone a 6 hour road trip. So driving is probably out of the question. I was considering a plane but I’m even nervous about that. Has anyone had experience with a toddler on an airplane? I worry about the pressure in his ears during take off, how I’ll be able to keep him calm for a few hours during the flight, and how to keep him in his seat for the that amount of time. Is this too much, too soon? Should I hold off on the long distance trips for a few years? Or maybe try a different travel method?

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24 Answers

Seek's avatar

Is he still nursing? I know many a mom who has nursed through take-off and landing. The sucking and swallowing motions help with the ear pressure. If not, I’m not above chocolate milk in a sippy cup. Anything to keep him swallowing through the takeoff.

Angry Birds. Seriously. Or whatever his favourite show is. Colouring books, toys, whatever.

Sit him next to the window. Make it a science lesson: Check out all the clouds! How many birds do you see? Is that Grandma’s house all the way down there?

janbb's avatar

My then one year old son learned to walk while I was on a trip alone with him to England. On the way home, he walked the aisles of the plane for 6 hours. It can be done. And on the way there, we sat on the ground for three hours before departing. And yes, I nursed him that whole time. You bring stuff, you plan and then you don’t expect that it will go perfectly.

bkcunningham's avatar

If you don’t want to fly and would rather drive, drive at night when he is asleep. If it is only a six hour trip, that shouldn’t be an issue at all, @ItalianPrincess1217. Let him sleep in his carseat for the six hours he would normally be in his bed. He is such a beautiful child.

jca's avatar

I would say driving. At least with driving you have the option of pulling over to a rest stop or restaurant, or a park, and letting him run around or play for a while and then back into the car. Make sure he’s fed well which will help him rest.

Aethelwine's avatar

I’ve never flown with my children when they were really young, but I have taken them on long road trips. We took our daughter on a 9 hour trip when she was 8 months old and it wasn’t that bad of a trip. Most children will settle down after a bit once you are on the road. If you are in your own car you can stop and stretch and get a change of scenery whenever you want to. You can’t do that on a plane. You also won’t be annoying other passengers like you would on an airplane.

JLeslie's avatar

I have many friends and family who fly with infants and toddlers. I see them on flights all the time. The majority of the time there is no problem. But, you know your toddler best. If he can barely sit still in general it might be very difficult. If you choose to foy try to get a non-stop flight if possible. Pick a time of day that he is most likely to not be cranky. Bring with you toys and books that will occupy him. Remember you have an hour and a half before the flight, possibly hours if you get delayed. Call before you leave for the airport and see if the flight is on time.

If he tends to be congested you can give him an antihistamine to help protect his ears, but if you know the drugs cause him to be in a bad mood you might want to reconsider. The worst time for cabin pressure is when the plane is decending, it starts about 20 minutes before landing.

One question about car trips, is he fussy the second you put him into his car seat? I saw a show where a baby would cry and fight to not be locked into his car seat and it wound up the seat was causing him pain. They bought a new seat and the baby never complained again. @bkcunningham made a good suggestion about doing at least part ofte drive while he sleeps.

But, I vote for the plane ride if he has a lot of trouble in a car. 6 hour drive is probably a 50 minute plane ride, scheduled flight time just over an hour I am guessing. As soon as they let you get up from your seat let him walk around a little if the plane is a decent size jet, because he will only be allowed out of his seat at the most 30 minutes on such a short flight.

Is train travel an option?

gailcalled's avatar

Thinking about my kids at that age, I would vote also for a car trip at night. Given the huge amounts of time getting to an airport, hanging around in the waiting room, sitting on a plane waiting for take-off, the narrowness of aisles these days making it difficult for a toddler to toddle, and the reverse at the other end, I say choose the car.

Plus the nasty surprises that airlines can spring on you after you are trapped in the airport.

wundayatta's avatar

You never know until you do it. I think you will over prepare, which is fine. Better over prepared than not ready for something.

We went on a many hour plane trip with our daughter when she was 18 months. It involved a 3 hour ride, a plane change, and another 3 hour ride. I think we brought our car seat. It went fine. I think we brought stories. This was in the days before you could easily bring dvd players. We didn’t have any, anyway. We were both sitting next to her. No problem.

Every child is different, though. And I think you are single, which makes it harder. You can’t trade off taking care of the child. That makes it harder to drive, too, since you are driving and caring for your child. Under that circumstance, I think it would be easier to fly. Then you can focus on your child.

Of course, if you are picking up a car at the end, carrying a kid and luggage is tough, but it is doable. It’s easier if you have the child in the stroller, but if you can keep them close, they can walk through airports, too. It all depends on the kid.

So in your case, I’d opt for flying. It will be easier than the car. Unless you have another adult in the car with you.

janbb's avatar

I think the first question is where do you want to go and what will you do when you get there. Then you can figure out the best way to go and how to accomodate your child’s needs but realizing there will be some frustration involved. Certainly picking a destination where there is a lot of free play space and time and not that many behavioral constraints is important.

gailcalled's avatar

Are you, indeed, traveling alone with the baby? You did say, “We.” Having another responsible adult makes everything easier, obviously.

ItalianPrincess1217's avatar

@gailcalled No, thankfully I’m not traveling alone! My boyfriend is coming along. He’s been part of my son’s life for awhile now (his father left when he was too young to remember). Ironically the baby listens to him better than me at times so this trip might not be so difficult after all!

@bkcunningham After thinking more about the driving idea I’m leaning towards it. We could always travel at night when he would normally be asleep…

gailcalled's avatar

With a nice boy friend as support, I vote more strongly for driving.

You can stop for food and let the baby toddle around the restaurant to run off some energy…harder to do in a plane or crowded airport.

janbb's avatar

Yes – if you have the choice, I think going by car would be much less stressful.

rojo's avatar

My experience with toddlers and airplanes is generally negative.

There are several cold medication that will make him drowsy enough for longer car rides. I know this will irritate some but I am throwing it out there for consideration anyway

Seek's avatar

@rojo Ha ha, I considered saying something similar, but at 18 months old that’s not advisable. For my four year old, though… a little of the $5 babysitter could help out a lot. ^_^

bkcunningham's avatar

Please, don’t joke about drugging a young child or toddler. That is very dangerous and not funny.

Seek's avatar

Ah, lighten up.

My son does have allergies, and his daily, doctor prescribed medicine does tend to make him drowsy. Sometimes, if we’re going on a road trip, I’ll wait until about a half hour before we leave to give him his medicine. Sue me.

burntbonez's avatar

Hire a chauffeur and a limo. Or better yet, your own private tour bus. Bring all the kids toys and stuff from home and food. Stock the fridge. Have a road party!

You can dream, can’t you? Maybe you’ll win the lottery!

Aethelwine's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr I’m sure Casey Anthony was hoping everyone would lighten up.~ (I’m joking, but @bkcunningham makes a good point. It could be dangerous to suggest giving medicine.)

Seek's avatar

Had the question been asked by Jane RandomMom, I wouldn’t even consider making the jab. But these are regulars who clearly are not interested in drugging their children. And the joke was, clearly, a joke. (and even in the joke I mentioned that it’s not acceptable to give medication to toddlers) So again, lighten up.

nofurbelowsbatgirl's avatar

Sometimes you don’t actually have to go a real long distance to go on a vacation. Go a few hours away, get a hotel go to a family friendly place. That is if you dont feel comfortable going the long distance. You could make stops along the way. Most kids are good if they are not stuck in one spot for more than a couple of hours and keep him occupied in the car, sing songs, maybe you have a portable dvd player, bring some of his toys.

Good luck. :)

Sunny2's avatar

Do NOT fly overnight thinking he’ll sleep all the way. We did that on the way back from Hawaii. He slept until about 5 in the morning when the plane came down into a lower level for a long landing approach. Then our kid started screaming and could NOT be comforted. Probably the change in altitude made his ears hurt, nevertheless, everyone on the plane woke up and his screaming continued until we landed at about 8:30 AM. Don’t do it.

jca's avatar

@ItalianPrincess1217: Please provide an update as to what you end up doing and how it goes. I think I speak for everyone when I say we wish you happy, peaceful and safe travels!

The Update Lady

Cupcake's avatar

Eh, everyone has different advice. Everyone’s parenting is different, the circumstances are different and the kids are different.

Try it! Be patient and enjoy the journey. He’s so cute and he’ll have so much fun. Even if it’s awful, you’ll probably get some great pictures and stories out of it.

But seriously, if you do fly, spring the extra bucks for little man to have his own seat. I know he can fly for free on your lap for a few more months, but it’s totally worth the extra expense.

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