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February 9, 2011

Tips for an overnight flight, with a 1 year old

I’m calling in a favor, experienced mamas out there. In a week, we’re heading to Costa Rica. It will be our first flight with Dashiell and it’s a red eye, that departs at 1:30 am. We chose this particular flight because it’s the only direct flight from LAX to San Jose, and I figured shorter would be better.

So now comes the favor. HELP! We need tips on getting through this with as little drama as possible. The way I see it, we have two options.

1. Put Dashiell to bed at home at his normal time (7pm) then wake him to get in the cab at 10/10:30 and proceed to the airport, security, etc. Once we’re through security, put him in his carseat (attached to the stroller) and hopefully lull him back to sleep before we board. Then hopefully transfer him in his carseat to his airplane seat and hope that he sleeps for the entire flight.

2. Stretch his bed time til, if at all possible, 8. Get him all ready and then get in the cab, check in, go through security, etc (with an over-tired baby) and then settle him into his carseat/stroller set up and proceed as mentioned above. This option will get us to the airport approx FIVE HOURS before our flight is scheduled to leave. But is it worth it to have him fall asleep once, instead of waking him in the middle of the night and jostling him around at the airport?

Or if there’s a third option, we’d love to hear it.

Need advice. Bad.


  1. suann | simplesong said on February 9, 2011

    i say option 1! the excitement may have him up for a bit but he should eventually fall asleep. for us, ike never does well when he’s overtired. good luck + have a wonderful trip! xoxo

  2. Meghan said on February 9, 2011

    As tempting as it is to keep the baby up longer in hopes of a deeper sleep, I often found that I ended up with an overly tired baby that fought off sleeping even more. I’d play it safe and go with option 1. Covering his carseat with a blanket to block out the light while walking through the airport should put him right to sleep before boarding.

  3. Katherine said on February 9, 2011

    I have a 20 month old and have flown with her 6 times starting when she was 3.5 weeks old. Just to put it out there, it gets harder as they get older. :( It just does. I think you are setting yourself up well with option 1. The carseat in the stroller is smart. Try to keep it dark and cozy for him. If you use a sound machine, I would try to find a travel one to stick in the stroller as you are getting through security and to your gate. If he wakes up during take off or landing, try to encourage him to eat or drink. Those are the worst times for their little ears.
    Good luck!

  4. Mica said on February 9, 2011

    Oh Sweetie…Ergo or use some sort of sling. The last thing you want is to drag a stroller and carseat through the airport. Especially if it’s LAX. (John Wayne might have been do-able.) Check that stroller and carseat as soon as possible and carry the boy. Put the toys and a change of clothing for both you and Dashiell in a backpack (no hands!) plus teething rings or anything else that may entertain or sooth him if he wakes up in the middle of the night.

  5. elizabeth antonia said on February 9, 2011

    i agree with katherine. option 1. then maybe he will fall asleep in car and you can put him in snap and go and get him through airport?

    if you don’t want to bring a car seat/stroller, (i was so sad when she graduated from the infant car seat/snap and go combo – it’s a piece of cake in the airport as you can gate check both pieces) then i also would recommend the ergo and have him sleep on you. you can also walk him in the aisles with this if he does wake up. having a lightweight blanket over the ergo (aden & anais, etc) was always super helpful. you will be fine! it will be a little confusing but he has you two wonderful parents to guide and comfort him. have a blast!

  6. Grace said on February 9, 2011

    Jordan over at Oh Happy Day recently wrote about traveling with kids on airplanes:
    Thought her post might be helpful for you! Best wishes for a safe and simple flight…

  7. Lisa said on February 9, 2011

    Our daughter, Kate, first flew at 9.5 months from Florida to Hawaii. We brought the stroller (checked it as we boarded the plane) and the ergo. I agree with the popular vote- option #1 and the ergo. The ergo was sooo nice to be able to board the plane without our little wiggleworm trying to get out of my arms (also kept strangers from reaching out to touch her). Plus she often falls asleep when she’s in it, so for us that helped. We also found the stroller to be helpful as a highchair, changing table, and to haul some of our carry-on luggage.
    I had read a tip somewhere to wrap up a few quiet toys to help prolong the in-flight entertainment, and it did entertain her, but she managed to get some of the wrapping paper in her mouth (and ate it) and ended up with mauve-colored poop for the rest of the trip, so just be watchful. My biggest concern was the time zone difference and getting her to sleep, but she had no problems there. Slept at night Hawaii time, and woke up in the morning. Within a week of being home, she was back to normal.

    I think option #1 is a safer bet too because he will have a little rest before getting to the airport, but don’t be too surprised if he doesn’t fall back asleep til you are on board. So much excitement, so much to see! If you can, take it easy for the first day in Costa Rica and kind of let him guide you–if he’s sleepy try to let him sleep. Also-when you take him to the airport keep him in his jammies til “morning time”–it helped us make the transition from sleeping in crib, waking at 3am, driving to airport, thru security, onto plane, and back asleep. Good luck and have a fun, safe trip!
    I would say the risk with option 2 is that he may not fall asleep at the airport and stay asleep anyway, so the more time you can give him in his crib, the better. Plus, too much time at the airport could drive you all insane.

  8. tina said on February 9, 2011

    i think option one is your best bet. we took our very active little boy on his first plane trip when he was 21 months. my husband mentioned getting on his first airplane when he woke up in the morning. he went to sleep at 6 and woke up at 10am and was too excited to go back to bed. we left for the airport at 5:30 and didn’t know what to expect since he was so tired :} everything went smoothly to my relief. i went with the ergo through the airport and checked everything but the car seat. after take-off he stayed awake for about an hour. when i saw him rub his eyes i put on the ergo, did two laps around the plane and he fell fast asleep for the rest of the flight :) plane tips, just make sure to bring a little bag with things he’s never seen and snacks. we got a travel magna doodle, a little $1 wind-up toy, a new sippy canteen, stamps, post-it’s etc. make sure everything is small to make it easier for you. unveil your arsenal as needed :) if things don’t go as well as expected just remember that many folks have been there before and you won’t be seeing them again anyhow. enjoy your trip!

  9. Kristina said on February 9, 2011

    You guys, so helpful! We will most definitely be taking the Ergo and he has his own seat on the plane so the carseat/stroller combo is a must.

    Hoping we can get a last minute spot at the bulkhead with a skycot/bassinet for Dashiell, but I’m not counting on it. The flight is only 5hrs and 45min so if all goes well he should sleep the entire flight and wake up just in time for our descent/morning nursing which will hopefully help with the ear thing.

    Regardless of how the flight goes, it’s only 1 night. And totally worth it for a real vacation, right?

    Thank you!

  10. Lyn said on February 10, 2011

    Yes, option 1, let him follow his usual sleep pattern as much as possible. And Tina’s pastime suggestions are very useful…..a couple of favorite toys and new diversions that are engaging….especially quiet ones with wheels (age appropriate, of course).
    Our sons flew with us from when they were a few months old……back then they were “snugli” babies.
    One of the best ‘toys’ for a one year old when in-flight can be supplied by the flight attendant: a couple of ice cubes in a plastic cup (straw optional).
    (a damp facecloth in a ziplock bag is handy to have in your carry-on: it’s clean, absorbant, unscented)
    Travelling with a child is a responsibilty because you need to be engaged with them even when you are tired……..and remeber that many adults have difficulty sleeping on an overnight flight. So look forward to extra nap and snuggling time on the first day at your destination. You are opening the world to your son and that is a wonderful gift …… never know where that will lead them..
    My kids have gone far beyond their first flights to Bermuda and New York……one is teaching in France and another is an olympic athlete.
    Enjoy your journey !

  11. Noellen said on February 10, 2011

    Agree w/ Option 1. Our baby boy is only a few days younger than Dashiell and we traveled w/ him recently on a long flight. He is a v curious (& active!) baby and wanted to stay awake and watch everything. So he was UP until we got settled on the plane and put him in his carseat.

    Also recommend grabbing a roll of masking or painters tape. Something to occupy him when he’s awake or at other times during traveling – we ate out a lot and this helped. You just rip off pieces and stick them to everything, including you (esp on the plane if he’s up). He’ll spend lots of time, in 1 place, trying to get to them all. Fingers crossed you have a smooth travel experience!

  12. sara said on February 10, 2011

    option number one seems like a safe bet… and i totally agree with the ergo/carrier option too.
    my guy would for sure be lulled to sleep in a foreign environment in a carrier but not a chance in his stroller.

    here’s a thought, though forgive me if it’s been mentioned already – i just skimmed the comments.

    would it be feasible to give him a really late afternoon nap so he’s too rested for his normal bedtime and you could maybe get in the cab a smidge earlier but not so early that you’ll have buckets of time to kill? that way maybe he’d be really ready for sleep once you’re through security and he’d just go down the one time without having to be woken – and maybe even sleep through the flight?

    obviously trying to over coordinate naps/sleep can backfire but i just thought i’d throw out one other idea to the mix.

    happy travels… xo

  13. Melissa said on February 10, 2011

    okay, so since Gaia flew 28 times (3 international flights and almost all red-eyes), then I will say this: don’t worry, don’t fret, don’t wish for one thing because inevitably, you are going to get the opposite.

    Of the two options, one is definitely the most preferred. Over-tired babies will also become over-stimulated at the airport and all this together usually turns out bad. Let him have his normal routine, sleeping time, and then begin the process later.

    Mine was a total Ergo girl, so she slept most all flights on me until she became too big. So happy he still breastfeeds because this was my lifesaver on so many flights!

    And like you said, it’s only a very tiny amount of time compared to the big picture of things ~ once there, you will realize all the fretting was for nothing.

    Sending you lots of wishes for a sleepy, happy frequent flier!

  14. Tiffany said on February 10, 2011

    No third option but do bring some baby tylenol to help with the air pressure. His ear would hurt during taking off and landing. Took my baby on her first trip to Maui when she was 15 months. Have a great time!!

  15. Heather said on February 11, 2011

    I know some people don’t like to drug their baby, but a little dose of baby benedryl can work wonders too…

  16. Ros said on February 11, 2011

    Don’t go to the airport 5 hours early! I’ve done quite a bit of traveling with little ones, not sure how long a flight you have but make sure you bring something small and comfy you could change into in case you get puked on! I also wear a scarf (not too hot) that you can throw over the babe as he might want to sleep in your arms for the whole flight, and they turn the lights on just before landing, not a nice way to be woken up! If you are still breastfeed thats great for a snuggle and to help little ears too. oh and make sure you have some snacks and interesting things for him! I hope he sleeps the whole way for you…
    Good Luck, don’t stress, and enjoy yourselves x

  17. Michele said on February 11, 2011

    A tip to help with the cabin pressure issues ~ A recent flight was pretty rough on my girl’s ears when landing and a wise flight attendant came over and firmly massaged the back of my daughter’s head with her thumb, just in the hollow at the base of her skull. It was a miracle. I don’t know why it works, but eating and drinking was failing us and this helped her very quickly. Just have to keep massaging till you land.

    Also, someone mentioned the plastic cups and lids off the beverage cart for entertainment and for some reason this holds her attention for longer than most the toys I bring along! Have a great trip!

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