Exploring the Forbidden City, Beijing China - Photo: David Delagarza

Exploring the Forbidden City in Beijing – Photo: David Delagarza | AirlineReporter

Back in April, I wrote about taking my nine-month-old on a series of long-haul flights to New Zealand.  I concluded that piece with the rather ominous sentence, “Toddlerhood is just around the corner, and I know that won’t be the same experience.” As it turns out, truer words were never spoken.

The genesis of this trip was a Twitter post from one of the airfare alert websites: Denver to Beijing on United Airlines.  Cheap.  Very Cheap.  Heck, the miles alone were worth a substantial portion of the ticket – not to mention this trip would push me up to elite status with United.  My wife and I had been considering visiting China to see some friends, but we hadn’t seriously thought about going this year.  The availability of cheap tickets over Labor Day made us reconsider.  Some quick discussions and a few clicks later it was settled – we were going to China for a week at the end of August.  Does anyone else get that pit of the stomach feeling when buying plane tickets for a big trip?

A United Boeing 777 - Photo: Al@fh | Flickr CC

A United Boeing 777 – Photo: [email protected] | Flickr CC

The next decision to be made was whether to bring our fifteen-month-old son with us.  Conventional wisdom seems to be that fifteen months is just about the worst possible age to fly – they are too old to sit still, but too young to pacify with electronics.  AirlineReporter Associate Editor and fellow father Blaine Nickeson’s exact words were, “It would be AWFUL. I’d strongly recommend against it.”  Other friends told me horror stories of their young toddlers on much shorter domestic flights.  No one that I talked to had ever even considered taking their children of that age on long-haul international flights.  I myself was firmly set against taking my son along.   I’m still not sure how she did it, but my wife talked me into taking him with us.  Here we go.  Again.

Before we could travel to China, we needed to secure visas for all of us – my son included.  Although the visa process was straightforward, I should note that it was very expensive.  Further complicating matters was that unless you happen to be in a city with a Chinese consulate,  you cannot send visa paperwork directly to the consulate. A visa agent must be hired to handle the paperwork on your behalf.  Between the $140 per person visa, the visa agent fee, and FedEx shipping both ways, we paid nearly as much to get our visas as one of our tickets. China offers a free 72-hour visa for people transiting the country enroute to another country.  This was not an option for us, but may be a good option for those who do not need to spend much time in China.

Wide Awake, 4:30am, at DEN Photo: David Delagarza

Wide Awake, 4:30am, at DEN Photo: David Delagarza

Off to Beijing

The alarm went off at 3:00 am the morning of our flight – I always end up wanting to go back in time and kick myself for booking 6:00 am flights.  We had hoped after being woken up our son would quickly go back to sleep in his car seat – that didn’t happen.  Instead, we were dealing with a wide-awake toddler at 3:45 am.  Definitely not the way I had hoped to start what would be a very long day.

We got to the airport and were quickly checked in, but got stopped at TSA because of the milk we had brought for our son to drink.  After doing some research, we had chosen not to buy any milk in China, relying instead on shelf-stable ultra-high-temperature (UHT) milk along with powder formula that we brought with us from home.  Because UHT milk comes in opaque, non-reclosable containers, the TSA inspectors did not want to let us take it through security.  After numerous explosive trace detection swabs and getting the checkpoint supervisor involved, we were eventually allowed to take it with us.  However, a week later on our way home, we ended up having to throw the milk away at the the SFO TSA checkpoint.

Happy Family Headed to China - Photo: David Delagarza

Happy family headed to China – Photo: David Delagarza

The first leg of our journey was a two-and-a-half-hour flight from Denver to Washington Dulles airport.  This flight was rough.  Flying with a toddler is indeed very different than flying with a baby.  My son was not too happy about flying at a time when he would normally be asleep and took every opportunity to let us know that.  Milk cups were tossed, toys were thrown, and he refused to sit still.  He finally fell asleep – 10 minutes before we landed at Dulles airport.

I had a sense of dread as we rushed through the Dulles airport to our next flight.  The very short 45 minute connection did not help my mindset.  We had just experienced what was probably the most challenging flight of my son’s life and we were in for 14 more hours of it.  By the time we made the very long walk to the opposite end of concourse C/D, the flight to Beijing was already boarding.  We rushed onto the plane – a United 777-200ER – and took our seats in row 25.

I had made a bit of a gamble in choosing our seats for this flight.  Although my son was booked as a lap infant – a “luxury” we’ll only be able to take advantage of until he is 2 – we would much prefer him to have in his own seat.  After watching the seating charts for our flight on other days, I realized that while regular economy almost always flies full, the Economy Plus section typically flies with a number of empty seats.  I paid for Economy Plus window and aisle seats at the back of the section next to the lavatories, hoping the seat in the middle wouldn’t get filled.  Fortunately, the gamble paid off, and we indeed had a empty seat in our row, easily justifying the price for the premium seats.

Enroute to Beijing on a United 777-200ER Photo: David Delagarza

Happy to have the extra space on the flight to Beijing – Photo: David Delagarza | AirlineReporter

All things considered, the flight to Beijing went pretty well.  On the flight, we got our first taste of something we would experience throughout the trip – in Chinese culture, people have a very different relationship with children in public than we, as Americans, are used to.  Throughout the flight, lots of people wanted to interact with our son.  When he was fussy and we were walking the aisles, strangers would pick him up and play with him.  The older woman sitting behind us held him a couple of times and kept him entertained.  It was a bit disconcerting for me to have strangers interacting with my child in this way, but at least I knew no one was going anywhere.

The flight was not without its challenges.  Toddlers are toddlers after all.  One of my son’s favorite games on the flight was, “throw everything within arm’s reach into the aisle so that daddy can fetch them.”  I spent a fair amount of time pacing the aisles and lavatory areas trying to keep him calm.  At one point, my son decided that he was hellbent on getting through the curtain and into the business class cabin – you and me both kid.

PEK is a beautiful airport.  Photo: David Delagarza

PEK is a beautiful airport – Photo: David Delagarza | AirlineReporter

We arrived at the Beijing airport tired, but generally in good spirits.  That quickly changed when I realized I had left my wallet on the plane.  I wrote about my (positive!) experience getting it back last month.  Still, the missing wallet was not the end of the world – my passport was safely tucked away elsewhere and my wife had other credit and ATM cards that we could use.

Our time in China was amazing, albeit a bit of a whirlwind.  We saw the major sights in Beijing – the Forbidden City, Tienanmen Square, the Summer Palace and, of course, the Great Wall of China.  We took the bullet train out to Shijiazhuang, a small-by-Chinese-standards city of 10 million where our friends live. We got to experience Chinese bureaucracy first-hand, waiting four hours to complete our mandatory foreigner registration.

Why Its Worth It Photo: David Delagarza

Why it’s worth it – Photo: David Delagarza | AirlineReporter

Heading Home

The night before our flight home, we stayed at the Hilton Beijing Capital airport hotel, a five-minute shuttle ride from the airport.   The morning of our flight, we decided to take the shuttle over to the terminal and get checked in so that we could avoid the long lines and go back and relax at the hotel prior to our flight.

Unfortunately when we got to the airport, we were told that United does not open their check-in counters until three hours prior to the flight.  So we went back to the hotel and returned to the airport once the check-in counters had opened.  Of course, by the time we got there, the line check in was 45 minutes long.  After standing in that line, and the long security line (babies have to go through a special, longer line at this airport) we made it to the gate just in time for boarding.

United 747-400 Photo: David Delagarza

Our United 747-400 – Photo: David Delagarza | AirlineReporter

Our flight back home routed through San Francisco on a United 747-400.  We were in seats 59 B and C, which are in one of six rows without a middle seat at the very back of United’s 747.  If you are flying with a lap infant, these are great seats to be in.  It’s always nice not to have to force a stranger to sit next to your cantankerous child on a flight.  We’ve also found that close proximity to the lavatories is helpful considering the many trips to the bathroom, the need to get up and walk around, and the continuous stream of people coming by to keep our kid entertained.  These particular seats also have a gap between the window seat and the side of the fuselage which is a great place to store all the various things kids need during flights.

All things considered, the flight went really well, however when we arrived in San Francisco everyone was tired and cranky – parents included. We spent another brief layover rushing through immigration, customs, and security.  We made it onto our flight back to Denver just in time for boarding.  This flight was rough.  In Beijing, it was now 1am, our son wanted to be asleep, and a lot of fussing and crying ensued.  Others on our flight seemed horrified at the thought that we had just gotten off a 12-hour flight with this child.  Yet again, he fell asleep 10 minutes before we landed in Denver.

Home at Last.  Photo: David Delagarza

Home at last – Photo: David Delagarza | AirlineReporter

Our Experience Flying With A Young Toddler

After flying nearly 50,000 miles with our son in the last fifteen months, we’ve gotten pretty used to flying with him. The best flights have been those that are daytime flights on whatever time zone he is currently adjusted to.  Things can get pretty difficult when he needs to sleep.  We have found that we really need to be scheduling flights with longer layovers – everything takes longer with a baby, and toddlers are actually even slower.

We always bring lots of entertainment options – toys, books, and videos are all good options at keeping him entertained, but ultimately nothing is as good as us interacting with him one-on-one.   We also bring a lot of different kinds of snacks on board with us.  Good snacks are themselves an activity that keeps him busy, and God help us all if he ever gets both tired and hungry at the same time on a flight.

My son definitely seems happier on widebodies over narrowbodies – the most difficult flights on this trip were our domestic connections.  I suspect it’s because it’s easier to get up and walk around with him, more people are coming by and interacting with him, and it just feels less cramped. Either that or he is just a natural AvGeek by birth and just likes the big planes.

Making friends in China -  Photo: David Delagarza

Making friends in China – Photo: David Delagarza | AirlineReporter

I have also realized that children are a universal language.  I really feel that people are kinder, more friendly, and more accepting when kids are a common interest.  As I mentioned before, people in China are incredibly excited to interact with children in public places.  We had no real means of communication with most people we met, yet our interactions were universally happy and positive – a lot can be said with a just a smile. Our trip would not have been the same experience had my son not been present.

I’m also excited to raise my child as a world citizen.  Although he will not remember the trips we have gone on this year, he will grow up knowing that he has been to all these places. If I have my way, my son will grow up traveling and will have a solid worldview to go with it – at least that’s my hope.

So, flying with a 15-month old?  It’s not always a walk in the park.  Is it worth it?  I think so.  Am I looking forward to the day I can put a video on and let him entertain himself for a few hours at at time?  Definitely.

ASSOCIATE EDITOR - DENVER, CO. David is a civil engineer by training and trade, but his head is in the clouds. A licensed private pilot and skydiver, he grew up around airplanes and airports. He calls Colorado home, but travel is in his blood. You can find him sitting in coach with his wife and toddler on the way to their next great adventure. Email me at [email protected]

http://www.airlinereporter.com/author/davedlg/
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26 Comments

Let me start by saying that I have three children. I’ve been through the toddler years three different times (just wait…teen years are a lot worse). And no, it wasn’t that long ago. My youngest is 12.

Now you aren’t going to like me a bit for this…what you did was selfish. You say “and a lot of fussing and crying ensued”. You also say that “It’s always nice not to have to force a stranger to sit next to your cantankerous child on a flight.”. You think?

You were lucky in that you got the extra seat both ways. You would have wound up carrying a lap child for 14 hours or 12 hours. I’m sorry, but the person sitting next to you paid at least a thousand dollars for that seat. To pay that and be trapped next to an unhappy toddler? Sir, that is selfish on your part.

Reality: a long trip with a baby is stressful on the baby, and thus on everyone around him. It’s not fair to inflict that on others. And no, he won’t remember a thing about this trip. It didn’t widen his horizons. You just couldn’t wait til he was bigger.

There are ways to travel with an infant, to enjoy going places, without ruining the trip for others. All those thrown items and fussing? Every time that happens it disturbs the people around you. Ah, they’ll get over it? Hmmm. Keep the flights short…use LOOOONG connections to allow the child to run around and use up some energy…have plenty to time to eat. Your entire itinerary was a disaster waiting to happen.

It is a lot less selfish to keep your travels short when you are traveling with a toddler. It’s not a very long time to wait…by the time he’s 3, he can be entertained for hours with an iPad. Plus when he is 3, he might actually keep a memory of where he’s been. And as you’ve noted, a tiny baby flies well because they sleep all the time.

Do us all a favor if you travel again with a toddler on a long flight. Post it here so we can avoid that flight like the plague.

John – I understand your point of view, although I respectfully disagree. We wouldn’t have embarked on the trip if we didn’t know our kid and expect things to go well for the most part. I think there are definitely kids out there that you would never want to attempt this with, but I believe most children can minimize their disturbance to others on long flights – with some major help from their parents, of course. The fact of the matter is that, although there was some fussing and crying, he was calm for the majority of both long haul flights.

I don’t know how better to phrase this but, when you fly coach you are not paying $1000 for the experience of being crammed into a 30-inch pitch seat eating crappy food for ten hours. You are paying for transportation from point A to point B on public transportation. Sitting near a young child goes along with the territory.

Last weekend, I was seated in a row in front of a baby who cried for most of a four hour flight. (I know, karma, right?) But you know what? The baby in the row behind me was much less of a issue to me than the guy in front of me who reclined his seat into my knees (let’s not open that can of worms again). Mostly, I felt bad for the parents who were pretty much at their wits end.

While I cannot state that he was not at all a bother to others, as long as we took on the responsibility of minimizing the disruption it really wasn’t a huge problem. This included walking around with him when he was fussy, preventing him from throwing things where they bothered others, and continuously going through our bag of tricks to keep him entertained. At the end of both flights we apologized to the people around us for any disruption, but they all said that he really was not a problem for them – “I barely knew he was there.”

Having flown – a lot – with my child, I can definitively say that the longer flights are less stressful for him than the shorter flights. Our hardest flights with him have been domestic flights. Once he gets into the routine of being on a flight, he calms down, relaxes, and does his thing. I feel like this is a huge “your mileage may vary” issue, but it’s true for our kid.

As far as forcing someone else to sit in the row with us – this is the biggest deal for me. I would hate to inflict him on someone else that way. Prior to switching to the seats we did – a gamble I know – I had paid for Economy + seats so that we could sit in the only row of two on that plane – that’s $200+ I paid to keep some stranger happy. If I weren’t pretty confident that we’d have a good shot at having an empty seat, I wouldn’t have switched our seats. On the way back he was on our laps (in a row of two), and he did fine for the most part.

I respect your opinion – and I am damn sensitive to it when we are flying, believe me – but I think that as long as us parents are sensitive to the impact we are having on others, it’s usually not that big of a deal. Of course we’ve all been on flights where a screaming baby was problematic, but we never remember the vast majority of flights where the babies (look around – there’s several on most flights) did just fine. The only time I really get frustrated with misbehaving children and crying babies is when the parents’ are ignoring them and not trying at all to minimize the disruption – we might agree a bit better on that point.

Mr. David, Ur being too nice to John G. I got to appreciate you for that. He needs to be kicked out of the planet.

John,

I almost see it as a pay-it-forward sort of situation with kids on planes. I was a kid once. I probably cried on planes. But I am happy that my parents were willing to open my horizons to new experiences.

I think it has A LOT to do with how the parents handle their children. Even a short flight can be pretty hellish with kids and bad parenting (ie http://www.airlinereporter.com/2014/07/flying-on-sun-country-air-surrounded-by-children/).

I remember a recent Southwest flight I took (where you can pick your seat on the plane). There was this young mom with probably a 1 year old in her lap and she already look so guilty. I decided, what the hell, I sat next to her, gave her a big smile and asked her kid’s name.

That poor child did quite a bit of crying, but sometimes that is how it goes and part of the risk of flying or just being a part of society!

David

John, you are the one who is self centered. Do you really expect the world to cater to you? Guess what man. When you buy a ticket on a commercial jet you do NOT get it your way. You are flying on public transportation. The airline is not there to serve you. They are there to get you from point a to point b. The other paying passengers are certainly not there to serve you or cate to our wishes. They bought a ticket just like you. Would you have the same demands if you were riding on a public bus? I would think not, unless you are even more self centered than I imagine you are. Guess what man? A commercial jet is still public transportation, same as a public bus. The only difference is that you fly on a plane rather than drive on a road and the tickets are more than a bus fare. It’s still public transportation though and you don’t get it your way. Not even in 1st class. If you want it your way then buy or charter a private jet and only let who you want onboard onboard. If you can’t afford a to buy or charter a private jet or are too cheap to do so then get over yourself and deal with your lot in life.

I am a frequent globe trotter and I have been stuck next to people that are sick and sneezing and coughing and spreading their germs all over the place, people that stink and fat people that overlap into the seat I purchased. I have never once been rude to those people or felt that they were not just as entitled to fly on the commercial jet that we both paid money to fly on. It’s the sick people that irritate me the most since they could actually be harming others by spreading their germs but hey, that’s just the way it goes with public transportation.

I have a teen and a 1 year old. The teen has been globe trotting since babyhood and the 1 year is going on his first international trip this summer. he general travels well but if he gets fussy people can suck it up and deal. They chose to fly on a commercial jet. That’s life. I am not going to sit at home until my youngest is a teen because self entitled narcissists like you don’t want to hear a baby fuss.

I do think it was a little insane for the blogger to not buy his kid a seat, especially when flying from the US to China, but that’s just my opinion. I always bought my kids their own seat, even under the age of 2, for safety. Sure the kid won’t sit in their car seat the entire time and if we hit clear air turbulence then things would turn ugly with no warning but with most turbulence the pilot lets you know it’s coming and there would be time to strap your kid into their seat even if it made them scream. Also having the extra seat and room is nice when flying with a baby. The blogger was certainly not obligated to buy his less than 2 year old child a seat though so kudos to him for flying with a lap kid all the way from the US to China and back. He has more patience than me.

MR. John G, I am glad you handled all your 3 toddlers very well. But your stupid advice is a total trash…and pls keep it to yourself. an attitude like yours itself is a plague that needs to avoided by all humans. what a selfish arrogant creep you are. Too bad, ur a father of 3 kids (well, i wonder if you really are) you must be one hell of a parent. Pity your kids !! If you have nothing nice to say, just shut up kindly and save some peace…

Mom of the toddler in question here – I have family overseas so my brother and I (and everyone we knew) grew up regularly taking international flights to the opposite end of the world. I’m sorry that you feel that children don’t benefit from international travel. I disagree. The first long haul international trip that I actually remember taking was when I was 3 years old, though I had flown plenty prior to that. I remember having the sense that the routines of the trip were familiar. I was a better traveler at 3 (and 5, and 7, etc…) because of the trips that I took previously, or so my mom reports.

You made your choice to avoid long haul travel with your children at a young age. I am choosing to raise my child the way I was raised. My goal is that it will make him more tolerant and adaptable. He is an obliging and easy child to manage so I can only conclude it’s working.

A remarkable thing to me about international flights is the number of children of all ages on them. One of the wonderful things about traveling with our toddler China is we never felt like we had to apologize for our child existing in the public sphere. And yes, the public sphere includes transportation.

G J Galik

We happily packed up our kids from 0+ years to teens on trips that were resort, beach and exploring fun. We actually found them more of a pain as teens traveling than toddlers! But, in this case I have mixed feelings about taking a toddler to China – on a lark for a week – and expose them to all that infectious, dangerous, and noxious. To each his own, and I’d rather be reading articles about rivets on a Boeing 787 (or lack thereof) rather than stuff like this…this more a Mothers Day magazine type deal.

GJ

We provide a wide range of aviation-related stories. Not everyone is going to like everything. I don’t have kids myself (nor am I a huge fan or other people’s kids), but I really enjoyed reading this perspective!

David, AirlineReporter

Most parents don’t understand the pain a baby/toddler suffers on flights due to blocked or restricted Eustacian tubes in the ears and that they scream and cry in pain because they don’t know how to yawn on purpose or are too young to chew gum. This FACT needs to be taken into account BEFORE you embark on ruining everyone else’s trip for cute little Johnny to go along. I can guarantee that most pax will not consider little johnny cute when he screams and is disruptive most of the time. Wouldn’t you have been able to enjoy the sights better on your own? Otherwise what alterior motive is useful in dragging an explosive little anchor along? If he wouldn’t remember the trips, what’s the point? I’m in agreement that it is a selfish manouevre on your part.

Thats why our pediatrician gave us a RX for medication that will numb their ears and alleviate this issue. This is the 21st century. Join it. Medication has come a long way. What’s your next excuse, narcissist?

The only selfish person here is you since you think that your experience while on public transportation should be tailored to suit you. Guess what, commercial jets are public transportation. If you don’t want to hear babies cry on a flight then buy or charter a private jet. If you can’t afford to do that then shut up and deal with your lot in life.

Well said, Rene….Thanks

Isn’t it actually pretty selfish for someone to expect all people with children to refrain from flying or traveling so that – god forbid – they don’t inconvenience others with the horrendous presence of their child? I mean, the parents DID pay like $1000 for EACH TICKET and it’s their right to not be glared at and criticized the entire flight, right?

But if flying with kids is selfish, than selfish is what I’ll be. I’m selfish for nursing my children, which meant they pretty much had to come with me places. And I’m obviously selfish for wanting to spend vacation time WITH my children instead of spending weeks without them – because in an effort to NOT be selfish, I refrained from asking someone to babysit them so I could go visit my family. And it’s clearly selfish of me to want my children to grow up visiting their relatives, but their grandparents find so much joy in it that it’s worth the harsh looks and comments from people that are inconvenienced for a few hours. And I could’ve just stayed home with my kids when my husband was deployed to Spain, but instead I got on an airplane with my kids so that he could spend a little more time with them while he was working month after month away from home. Selfish? I guess I am.

What happened to the idea that children are humans, and their parents aren’t out to piss everyone off by bringing them on airplanes? Travel is a HUGE part of people’s lives and today’s society, and kids should be accepted there, too.

First, the window where travel is a problem is not large, probly 1 to 3. Younger and they sleep…older and electronics distract them.

Second, I’m not saying NEVER travel with them. I’m saying use sense. A trip where you have a four hour flight, a one hour layover, and then a 14 hour flight is NOT a good idea. Had there been no seats that would have been a disaster.

I have a news flash…every parent thinks their kid is just fine. The ones whose kids are screaming and totally ruining the trip of others are totally oblivious to this fact. Often, what you write off as a “little fussing” is driving everyone around you nuts.

To the idea that traveling is good for them, one word. Bull. Does anyone here remember being two? No. Wait til they are a little older and they can remember where you went.

John,

I will agree with you that most parents think that their children are little angels :).

But with your theory of not doing anything via travel with them until they can remember could be said about everything else? Hell, I am 34 and I don’t remember everything I did a few years ago, but it is all part of who I am. Even at a young age these experiences can have a positive impact on children.

David, AirlineReporter

I just have to respond – the idea that there is no value in taking young ones on a trip aboard a plane, train, whatever is not one that holds up well, in my book. OK, you may not remember taking that trip to Colorado or China when you were 2, but your parents definitely do, and they’ll make sure you know you’ve been to those places when you get older. So even if you don’t remember going, you’ll at least feel pretty good that you can say you’ve been somewhere, even as a toddler. I feel sorry for those children whose parents seem so concerned for others’ temporary discomfort (come on, crying kids are a part of the package with flying, wouldn’t you say?) that they have to stay home.

Flying with kids ain’t selfish – might as well leave baby in a corner, or just not have any kids at all. The act of traveling with your family is significant for all involved regardless of age.

Would you pass up visiting an elderly parent or relative in a nursing home simply because they wouldn’t remember you visited? No; there’s still an intrinsic value in doing the act even if it doesn’t “go remembered.”

Crying kids should NOT be part of the package on an airplane, or in a decent restaurant. Your right to travel with your kids should not interfere with my ability to reasonably enjoy my flight or my dinner.

And again, flying with kids isn’t selfish. Over scheduling and having a very unhappy baby in a tight space with others is.

And like I said I have three of them so I know wherewith I say.

Charter or buy a private jet then. That is your right. It is NOT your right to dictate who may or may not fly on a flight with you when you are flying on a commercial jet though. Commercial jets are public transportation. Why is this so hard for your to understand?

Wow, chill out people. Cranky babies are part of the air travel experience, along with delayed flights, uncomfortable seats, expensive food, and snarky flight attendants. No, it’s not an exclusive restaurant, it’s public transportation.

OK…take the kids! And correct about memories as a kid traveling. Every time I open a jar of Grey Poupon I remember my first flight with my Dad flying PA B-707 to Hawaii. The steak snack had a little package of Grey Poupon Moutarde de Dijon. Every time I open a jar now, I remember that exact moment and think of the excitement that first jet flight gave me. Please don’t take toddler to Baroque concert – no one will appreciate the upset – let’s hold the line there.

John,

I understand the frustrating moments a crying child can give you, but you have to consider that you are in a public area (flights these days are similar to buses, just full of crammed people). So it’s not about banning children on flights, more of a parenting issue. And honestly, if taking a child on board makes the airline some more profits, it is the right thing to do. No other opinions should be considered.

Good to read this as we are planning on taking our 22-ish month old on a flight from Sydney to Beijing ourselves later this year. I found myself looking for any little details I might not have thought about as I read your post… are there any further tips you might have?

The reason for our trip is that my wife is Chinese and this will be the first time she has been back since we got married 3 years ago. All of her family is dying to meet our son for the first time, so I think it is definitely worth the rude stares we might get.

He went on a short 1.5 hour flight domestically Sydney to Melbourne and back 2 weeks ago and he was fine.. but it makes me quite anxious thinking about the 12 hour flight from Sydney to Beijing 🙂

My best advice – bring a lot of toys, books, snacks, tablet loaded with apps – everything you can do to keep your kid busy. You won’t know in advance what it is, but hopefully something in your bag of tricks will keep them occupied.

We really like having seats near the lavatories. It cuts in half the number of people potentially bothered by a screaming kid, it’s the best place to walk around with your kid when they are restless, and – like it or not – you’ll be going to the lavs a lot. If your kid is really into people like ours is, the constant stream of people will help keep him/her occupied.

The hardest thing for us has been getting our kid to sleep on long haul flights. Once he goes to sleep, it’s awesome and we can get some rest ourselves. But getting to sleep – don’t try to force it. The most frustrating times for us and for him were the times that we really thought he should be going to sleep and he wouldn’t. He always eventually fell asleep, but our expectation that he would sleep was the hardest thing to deal with. With the massive time zone change, sleep schedules get all messed up anyway – just go with the flow and you’ll be happier.

One thing that the flight crew on a Singapore flight did that was super helpful was to bring one of our meals first so that we were not both eating and trying to handle the baby at the same time. That is something that I never would have thought of myself, but was hugely helpful – just one of the ways SQ’s service goes above and beyond anything I’m used to. You might consider asking your FA if they are willing to bring out one of your meals early for this reason.

Going to China is great – Like I mentioned above, babies and children really seem to be much more accepted in public than in the US at least. If you’re lucky like we were, you’ll end up seated near someone who is more than happy to take the kid off your hands for a bit and give you a break.

If your whole entire trip is “ruined” simply because you sat next to a crying/fussy baby on a plane then you seriously have other issues going on!!!! I’ve sat next to crying babies on planes before and some times it does get uncomfortable or annoying but I forget all about that right when I get off the plane and get going on the real meat and potatoes of my trip. If your whole trip is defined by the “experience” you had on the plane then maybe you should not be traveling PERIOD because you obviously cannot see all the positives about the trip and are blinded by the few horrible hours on the plane. Those people are the selfish ones–not the parents of these kids!

Thank you so much for sharing this! We’re taking our 15 month old to China next week and it just helps to know someone else did it, survived, and doesn’t regret it

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