Our 1st Experience Flying With Our Child Born With Down Syndrome

We’ve posted pictures of Noah’s trip to see his great grandma before we wrote today’s post on Noah’s Dad Facebook Page, and we got asked several questions along these lines:

“How did Noah do on the plane?” “Do you have to do anything special traveling with Noah on a plane since he has Down syndrome?” “Is there any difference taking a child with Down syndrome on a plane than a typical child?”

Long story short, there is no difference taking a child with Down syndrome on an airplane than there would be taking any other child on a plane. I wanted to share a little bit about our first experience flying with our 11 month old son (who just happens to have been born with Down syndrome) for those of you curious or about to take your first airplane trip with a baby.

Over The River And Through The Air, To Great GrandMother’s House We Fly….

Noah’s going on his first plane ride today. We’re going to Missouri to meet his Great Grandma. I was pretty nervous to travel with Noah, mainly because I was concerned that he was going to be the screaming child that everyone gets annoyed at on the plane.

I had a realization though…this is not a movie, people aren’t guaranteed a nice comfy ride to their destination. The true purpose of the plane is to get you from A to B quicker than a car. Every person has the right to do that, even crying babies. 🙂

(Sorry everyone.)

baby boy with down syndrome looking through airplane window

He really likes a window seat!

Packing (and a travel bargain for parents)

You have to bring a lot of stuff when you are traveling with a child. Gone are the days of carrying on all our baggage. This is only a weekend trip but I had to bust out my big suitcase. We packed diapers, food, bottles, and toys. Hopefully the trip back will be a bit lighter thanks to Noah using up some things. One nice thing is that they check your car seat for free so we were only paying for the one bag. They will also check your strollers at the gate for free. It’s great (and really helpful for traveling parents) that the airlines provide these services for free!


first airplane ride trip down syndrome child

His very first airplane ride!

Getting a child on the plane is also a fun adventure. We have our stroller plus the diaper bag and my purse. I think the smartest thing I did was bring a carrier as well so that way my hands were free when walking onto the plane. We switched Noah from the stroller to the carrier and checked the stroller at that gate. So being in the carrier made it much easier to get on (and off) the plane.

Now, I know that the safest way for my child to travel is in a car seat. However, I do not know too many people who shell out the 200+ dollars to get that extra seat for their child including ourselves. Who can resist free travel for their child? What was really funny is that the flight attendants told me that I couldn’t leave him in the carrier either. I hadn’t planned on that, however I would think it a bit safer for him to be connected to me than to nothing.

The Flight

father and son with down syndrome on airplane

He still likes that window seat!


Noah did great on the flight. Take off and landing can be the most irritating parts for children as their ears are popping and it can be painful, especially if your child is prone to having fluid in their ears like children with Down syndrome. Some ways to get through this are to have them drink a bottle or suck on a pacifier during these times which helps the ears pop. It is the same theory as adults chewing on gum. Noah made it through take off with no problems. In fact he was quickly asleep and slept through the entire flight. We were flying later at night so it was close to Noah’s bedtime, but flying during sleep times for your children can make your flight a little better. This was a big sigh of relief. Now on to meet Noah’s great grandma.

baby wearing snowman hat in carrier mom down syndrome

We finally made it!

Have your traveled with your child? How did it go? Any tips for travel?

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  1. The first plane ride is always an adventure! My husband took Paul to Virginia when he was 8 weeks old for medical treatment – by himself! (I had to stay home with Paul’s twin) I have always been so proud of him for that! You’ve got good advice. The only caveat I would add is you don’t have to pack a bazillion diapers, food, etc. They have stores where you are going 😀 Just get enough to get you through travel and maybe 1 day. Or if there are brands you absolutely need because of issues and not sure they have them there, ship them in advance.

  2. When flying with older children who don’t nap on a plane I found it helpful to pack a ‘surprise’ backpack for the plane. I hit the dollar store before the trip and buy fun little items, one for every hour of the ride. Then I gift wrap them and store them in their individual travel bag. I even wrap snacks so they have some fun guessing what’s in it. They get one every hour based on behavior. It’s been nice, they like the free movies and I’ve had extra to hand out to other parents on the plane who are struggling. After all, who can resist something wrapped?!

    • That is great advice that I am definitely going to use in the future!!! Thanks for sharing that. And how nice of you to share with other parents. Wouldn’t it be great if everyone were like you and willing to help out other parents rather than judge them for their crying child 🙂 Thanks again.

  3. I took my son (who also has Down syndrome) to NYC when he was 19 months old. He wasn’t walking on his own, but he did walk if he held onto my hands. He needed a diaper change, so we walked down the aisle of the plane to the bathroom. He would take a step or two, then let go of my right hand, and wave to the person sitting by him. Then he’d grab on again, take another step or two, let go of my left hand, and wave. He did that, alternating sides, all the way down the plane aisle! It was a great moment!

    • Awwww. That sounds super cute. I wish I was on that plane ride!

      How did your little one like New York? We took Noah there in Jan and he had a ton of fun. (He was 13 months old.)

      We’ll posting about that trip and sharing a ton of photos in a few posts.

      What all did you guys do there?

  4. I have no experience in flying with children but I was on the flight with crying babies and little kids and I just wanted to tell you guys that it didn’t bother me at all. I think people on the plane (even those who never had kids) understand 🙂 I once sat next to one little boy who kept throwing his teddy bear at me for 2 hours straight and cried in between and he was restless and half the time I had his foot kicking my side but I didn’t care. seriously.
    there might be someone on the plane who is nervous and makes stupid comments but the rest of the people will think that he’s much more annoying than your crying kid 🙂

    • Awwww. You are great! 🙂

      I have to be honest, I’ve have some flight where I was annoyed by the crying baby on the plane, but most flights I understood and didn’t mind all.

      We’ve taken Noah on several flights now and he is a talker instead of a cryer on planes. He likes to make fun noises and laughs. 🙂

  5. Stephanie Widler says

    Warren and I flew from Northern CA to Colorado to see my Grandparents when he was 4 (or so). His favorite part of the flying was the taking off and the landing, so it was ok that we flew from the small airport by our house to LA, from LA to Salt Lake City and from Salt Lake to Denver. I didn’t know about the stroller thing until our second connection (next time I would bring one!). Warren is very sensitive to texture and so at that point was still eating only mashed foods, so I packed a bunch of baby food for our flights. It’s completely ok to bring baby food as long as it is factory sealed, and at security they will randomly open 2 of them to make sure they aren’t bombs. They wave this little paper over it and if it changes color, I guess you’re in trouble. I also had to pack an empty sippy cup and then we were able to get water on the plane.

    The hardest part for Warren was taking his shoes off and walking through the security scanner alone. First of all, he’s funny about his feet. When he first learned to walk, (http://youtu.be/_BQrGBxraeE the first day he would go barefoot, after that it was socks only) he would only do it with socks on. Second, he hadn’t been walking that long, and he doesn’t like to demo new skills with strangers watching. But we made it and he loved the plane. 🙂

    • I am so glad that it went well. We got our baby food checked too, it kind of cracked me up. Oh well, they need to do what they need to do. I have forgotten to empty a cup or two before going through security. 🙂

  6. We recently took 2 trips with Easton…and he traveled like a pro! Nursing and his paci helped, but he napped on each flight and was just his happy little self when he wasn’t napping. Can’t say the same for another little guy on our flight to LA. Poor thing cried almost the entire time.

  7. We haven’t flown with James, yet, but my brother is moving to San Fran (several days’ drive from here), so we’ll be boarding the plane sooner or later! Last time I flew, I was missing my boys, so I parked myself right next to a one-year-old on the plane. He was as cute as could be, and I think his mom appreciated the diversion for the flight.

  8. Travel! My favourite topic! So glad Noah got to meet his Great Grandma x We are off on our next holiday in 2 weeks time, to Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand ( so an 8 hr+ 3 hr flight) the airlines have always been great with coopers wheelchair and our strollers and its such an adventure learning about new cultures x. First time though with three kids , but I am up for the challenge! 😉

  9. We are the parents that pay the extra money for Little Man to be in his seat. This is mostly due to the fact that he’s always been active and he would not want to be confined to Mama’s (or Daddy’s) arms and lap for the entire trip. So, we buy the seat. It works for us.

  10. Noah, it sounds like you were an excellent little flier! What part of Missouri did you all go to? I am originally from St. Louis 🙂 Ellie gets her own seat with her carseat installed and I check the stroller at the gate. iPad for during the flight. Donut holes when electronic devices cannot be turned on–trust me on this one. I have many more tips if you ever have to travel alone with a toddler. . . it would be the longest comment on a blog ever so it if you are interested http://ellietheurer.blogspot.com/2012/04/traveling-with-toddler-part-1.html

  11. We are going to see my parents in Australia at Christmas (from the uk!). All of your ideas will be very helpful! Any extra advice for a 24hour trip with a 16 month old? Haha

    • Buy him a seat 🙂 I can’t imagine holding them for that long. However if finances are tight I completely understand doing that 🙂 take advantage of free flying while you can 🙂

  12. Robin Sayers says

    We flew earlier this month, just Aiden (who is 2) and me…Most of the time he slept, but when he wasn’t sleeping he was kicking the seat in front of us, taking down the tray table then slamming it back up into the chair in front of us and whining because I think his ears were killing him…I was so embarrassed…nothing but potato chips helped the situation and obtaining chips at 30,000 feet is not possible…And I wish I had known you could check the stroller at the gate, carrying 2 bags and a squiggling 2 year old through the Dallas airport in a near sprint to get to the shuttle to make the connecting flight on time was enough to bring me to near tears!!

  13. He is so cute! I cannot not believe how utterly gorgeous those blue eyes are! You guys are amazing.

  14. Rick…what kind of carrier and car seat do you use for Noah? Your site has helped us so much. We have a beautiful 11 month son Jacob 🙂

    • We have the beco Gemini carrier which I love. It holds a high weight and you can carry in the front or back. Noah loves it as well and can take a good nap on it. It is very similar to the ergo only you can wear it with the baby facing out. We have the safety first air 35. It is very light weight however it is pretty big. Noah still fits in it fine at 19 months. The baby bargains book is what I used to figure out what to get. It was awesome!

  15. Edgar Aguilar says

    Guess you did not fly first class on American Airlines! LOL. Sorry I couldn’t resist.

  16. I loved checking out your sight- I am taking my donws child flying in a couple of weeks – it will be her first flight – she is 27!
    You are a beautiful family- enjoy your wonderful son- my daughter has richly blessed us. We wont worry about her crying – but she loves to talk and has great conversations with anyone around her- makes many friends.

  17. So happy your trip was smooth! We’ve taken our 2 kids to India twice. That’s a long haul for anyone, much less a 2yo and 6yo. We packed surprises, games, books, crayons, the usual. They were much more interested in the in-flight entertainment than I thought they’d be so we didn’t encounter any problems. If you’re as prepared as possible and can anticipate your kids’ needs (or can read their signals) I think it’s not too awful. They pick up on your nerves though, so if you’re anxious, they’ll be anxious as well.
    Incidentally, flying with my 25yo brother w/DS was a similar treat, really an adventure, and everyone was super nice. I can’t complain. 🙂

  18. On a flight from England to the U.S., my 5 year old chromosomally- enhanced daughter watched a movie and giggled and commentated with delight through it all. The curmudgeon behind us tapped me and asked what was wrong with my child. I replied, “She’s happy, you should try it.” He told me I should have better control over her. About 15 minutes later, karma popped in, and when I gently put my seat back to recline a bit, it somehow caused his unopened tomato juice can to open and spray all over him. When he was done making a scene he said, “this is a flight from hell!” I said, “We concur!”

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