One Long Flight vs. Two Short Ones
Berkeley Parents Network >
Going Places >
One Long Flight vs. Two Short Ones
We are off on a long flight to visit relatives -- and face a
dilemma. Is it better to take one long flight (about 14 hours)
and get it over and done with, or have a layover (two flights)
and have a chance to walk around, stretch, etc., and take a
break from flying? It would be me, my wife, and our daughter
who would be 11 mos. when we want to fly.
One long flight would be my vote. When my kids were little I
flew cross country with them alone a lot. Granted it is not the
same but the thinking still holds. More flights, more
disruption, more moving your stuff around, more chances for
flight delays and other problems. Unless your child sleeps a
good portion of it it won't be super easy regardless but the
overall time will be shorter and less disruptive. Good luck.
I've done both types and for me the ''two step'' one worked best,
especially with older babies. A couple of reasons:
1. Far more easy to change diapers in a BIG bathroom in an
airport than in the airplane
2. Babies that have started to (at least want to) ''walk'' will
want to do that and sometimes you can't because you've got a
rocky flight - a break in flight will give your baby (and you)
ability to do some ''walking''
I did think that it worked well flying (one) long leg if the baby
still was small enough to fit in a ''Bassinet'' - my children slept
well in these and if you can get them too sleep comfortable for X
numbers of hours that will give you some rest to :-)
Good Luck and have fun on your trip!
We have taken our now 2-year old on many airplane trips since
her birth, including a couple to Australia (14-16 hours). If the
long flight is over the normal bedtime, then I think a direct
flight is the hands-down winner since there's a good chance the
baby will sleep through it (it can happen!) and a layover would
only be disruptive. If not though, it's more open to debate.
Personally I find the whole ordeal of air travel tiring whether
you're physically on the plane or not, and the sooner it is over
the better. Your 11-month old probably isn't walking yet anyway,
so wouldn't really benefit from being able to stretch her legs
in an airport. And even when they are walking, I think it
depends upon temperament. If they're the type that just can't
sit still, then I can see why a break might work. For us,
though, I'll always opt for direct. I've added a portable DVD
player to my ''must bring'' list (works wonders as long as the
battery holds out), and (for the truly desperate) there's always
Benadryl (did I say that??)
I have flown cross-country a bunch with my child, both by
myself and with my husband. If you are taking a carseat (and I
highly recommend you do) then taking one long trip is better. I
also think it's better because it makes the whole trip shorter.
i would say, definitely take two flights. we traveled cross-
country with our then 8-month-old last october and the brief
stopover really helped. she actually was really good on the
first flight, but i could tell she was about to get fussy after
about the fourth hour or so. during the layover, the baby got
some stimuli and floor time, my husband and i both got to
stretch and get some decent food, and we were all happy and
content when we got on the next flight, on which the baby slept
almost the entire 3 hours! we just booked another trip for
april and i made sure to split it up even though there were
direct flights available.
hope that helps and happy trails!
With one flight you're just THERE until its over... with two there's the process of
boarding and stowing to go through. Neither one is great. Maybe it depends on your
child. My preference would probably be for the long flight, because my kids always
fell asleep as the plane was landing... and it was so awful to wake them up to go
wait in the airport.
One thing that mattered, more, for us was flying in the morning instead of taking
the Red Eye. Despite the logic that ''kids will sleep on a night flight...'' mine did
MUCH better starting their day bright and early and being awake while everyone else
was rested and cheerful (and more tolerant!) and then falling asleep around their
regular nap time. The one or two times we did a red-eye we ended up with a kid so
excited s/he couldn't sleep... and neither could anyone else.
At that age definitely the straight one. I found that my son
was way more difficult when we switched planes...too much
happening, too much excitement and no chance to sleep.
Two short ones- I did a trip to Greece with my 11 month old. 14
hours is a long time for a child but it is a very long for you.
You will have to entertain, feed, try to get him/her to sleep,
deal with crying etc., I am so happy that my kid had a chance to
get out of the plane, crawl around, see new sites, eat a meal and
move around. I am happy that I was able to do the same and to
have a break. It's hard either way and it's great to get it done
in one swoop but I think it is harder. Just my two cents. Good
luck in whatever you choose.
We have been on over 15 flights with our 1.5 year old, and I
would recommend taking a single direct flight if you have the
option. If you need to walk around, you can walk up and down
the aisles during the flight. The travel time will be
significantly longer with multiple legs, and I believe getting
to your destination to unwind, sleep, and enjoy yourselves is
more important than taking a break from flying. Your baby will
go through less in terms of take-off and landing, and again,
the time you save is significant!
TWO SHORT ONES!!! HANDS DOWN!
I would go for the one long flight. With two flights, there is a
higher chance of something going wrong; ie delays, cancellations,
and it does make the trip longer. With a 14 hour flight, there
is bound to be a lights out period, where the entire plane
sleeps. Get your child into his pajamas, and make a bed for him
on the floor at your feet.
Although I have not done as long a flight as you are talking
about (I maxed out at 6 hours) I would suggest one long flight--
adding a two hour layover is actually more like adding 4 hours
between getting on the plane taxi-ing around and then all the
same at the end of each flight. With an 11 month old, walking the
aisles and galleys is pretty much the same as walking the
airport, and then you only have 2 take-offs and landings as
opposed to four. As well, if things don't go well and you give
the baby benedryl (if you are contemplating that), one dose would
probably take them for most of the fight.
I have found people on planes really sympathetic recently...
I would say 1 long flight for sure - get it over with!!! She
will nap better on the plane than in the airport, and an 11-
month-old can do plenty of leg-stretching in the airplane aisle
over the course of a long flight. It's not the flying per se
that's going to exhaust you, it's the total amount of traveling
and departure from your (that is to say, your *daughter's*)
I know that a 14 hour flight can be grueling ... but it actually
will save a lot of time and some stress. Add up the time spent in a landing
pattern *plus* the time on the ground in the connecting
airport *plus* the time waiting to take off, *plus* the time
in the take-off pattern. You're talking about a delay of at
least 2 or 3 hours (during which you would have flown an
additional 1000-1500 miles on your nonstop). Add up the
time from takeoff to landing on your contemplated
connecting flights and see...
In addition, anytime you have a connecting flight, you
have a chance of missing your connection *and* a chance
of your luggage not making the connection with you.
Hi, I will fly from Oakland to Nashville, TN with my 16-month
old in May. Because the whole trip takes about 6 hour on plane,
I need advice on if non-stop 6-hour fly is better than 2 3-hour
fly with ~2 hours airport rest, or the other way around. I
checked the archives for traveling, I am convinced and will buy
a seat for my baby. Thanks.
I've tried it both ways and they each have a benefit. It depends
on how unpleasant being strapped in for long periods is, versus
how unpleasant getting on and off the plane is. When I have a lot
of gear to carry (stroller plus carseat plus diaper bag) or when
there is more than one child, then it's easier to not change
planes, and just bite the bullet for 5-6 hours. But if it's not
too much trouble debarking and embarking, then I like to have a
break in the middle, get off the plane, let the kids run around,
get something to eat. It's easier for me psychologically if I
have two short imprisonments with a break in between rather than
one long one. On a flight to the east coast, you're going to kill
a day for travel anyway, once you factor in waking up at 5am,
getting to and from the airport, and being tired on arrival. So
what's another 2 hours for the layover, that's what I always say.
Actually, the flying time from Oakland to Nashville nonstop is 4
hours, 10 minutes going and 4:50 returning. (I think the
difference is due the jet stream.) That seems to me like a much
better option than two approximately 3-hour flights.
David in Berkeley
On that long a flight, I've found it helpful to have a stop in order to get out
and run around. Shleping bags while changing planes can be a
problem, however. The best for us has been a one-stop flight using the
I would fly in two segments and take the layover time to run,
run, run around. That's what we do when we go back to the
midwest (fly Oakland to Denver, then Denver to St. Louis). It
breaks things up for everyone, and it's not that much of a
hassle. The kid will think the airport is a big playground
anyway, so ride the escalators and see the sights, buy a
smoothie, have snacks, etc.
We've flown Nashville-Oakland many times w/ baby (now 2 1/2).
Southwest has a 7 am non-stop there (3 1/2 hours) and around 6pm
non-stop back (4 hours+). It's not too bad, especially if the baby has a
seat to snooze in. I would definitely recommend NON-STOP and I do
like SW since we've never been delayed.
I fly quite often with 3 child under 5 to the East Coast. My
advice is:it depends on the time of day you are flying and how
long your child naps for. Sometimes it's better to break it out
sometimes not. If you do it in two segments, make sure you don't
break into nap time.
I travelled several times with my son as a toddler and I would
definitely go for the 2 flights with a stop in between of a
couple of hours. This will allow your son to run around a bit.
It's the physical activity that is the most important. Try to
find a gate that is relatively empty and let the kid run and
I'd say go non-stop! A 2-hour lay-over in a strange airport
will not be a break for you with your toddler. Every time you
have to change planes, there's another chance for delays, etc.
It also means you may have to wake him to get off or on a
plane, and schlepp the carseat off and on. I'm glad to hear
you've decided to buy a seat for your child, but that doesn't
mean every minute has to be spent in the carseat. If it's not
turbulent, let him go for a walk (with you) up and down the
aisles for a break now and then. Bring a few novel toys and
books to entertain (my son at that age really liked a little
plastic airplane that I zoomed around to show what the plane
was doing now), and maybe some ''treat'' snacks. Either way, be
prepared to spend most of your time entertaining him as
needed. If he's like most toddlers (though not mine), he'll
probably get a good nap in, too.
Oh goodness - I vote for non-stop. The idea of an extra take-
off and landing, and packing up all your stuff for a second leg
of the trip, and if you have a car seat to maneuver - yuck.
Can't wait to see what others suggest!
I always go nonstop. My first daughter was a hyper one, but
having her go up and down the aisle was far better than having
her run of in crowds inside airports. At least on the airplane
is was hard for her to "disappear".
Plus during layovers I was always rushing for a connecting flight,
worried that the luggage didn't make it too, or found myself delayed
and, yes, chasing a daughter into crowds, moving carts, masses of
Man, you bring back memories. She is 7 now and likes to sit and
read for the whole 4 hours!
Have you been on a plane with your baby before? Does your baby
like to nap in the car seat? Is your baby particularly
active/squirmy, or more able to be kept entertained with
snuggling and Cheerios and puppets and books? I think you and
the kid could be comfortable either way, and it's a judgment
call you can make best knowing your child's temperament. Where
would the layover be? Dallas/Fort Worth has a great little
shuttle between the terminals that makes a fun adventure between
flights, for example, but O'Hare is just a zoo. Also consider
the timing of the flights. We had great luck on a recent trip
where the second flight took off right at naptime--our girl fell
asleep in her car seat holding my hand, and slept for two hours.
We also did well on a non-stop flight that left very early in
the morning--we actually got two naps on that trip. Also
remember that due to the gulf stream, westbound flights take
longer than eastbound flights; it could amount to two extra
hours of travel on your way back. So even if you decide to do a
nonstop going to Nashville, you might want to break it up coming
back to Oakland.
ALWAYS choose a nonstop flight over one with a stop, any time
you can. Most accidents happen during takeoff or landing, not
when the plane is in the air, so by going nonstop rather than 1-
stop you cut that risk in half (half the number of takeoffs and
landings)! Also, when traveling with a baby, the biggest
hassle, and the time when baby usually gets fussiest, is usually
not the plane ride itself, but the stressful process of dealing
with tickets and luggage and boarding and installing the carseat
and so on. Best to avoid having to do it more than once.
Finally, the nonstop flight is going to take less time overall.
If it turns out your baby doesn't like traveling, it's better to
get it over with as fast as possible! A ''rest'' in the middle of
the trip isn't going to help.
Hi there -
As far as I'm concerned, stopovers are a waste of time and very
tiring. They also increase your chances of having a delay and
thus keeping you and your baby out longer than necessary. I
personally don't find airports to be rest places at all and if
you're going to be sitting around an airport, you might as well
be sitting on the plane and getting there. Also, kids are a lot
more resilient and adaptable than we credit them - if you expect
them to travel 6 hours, they will. We recent traveled with our 15
mth-old to Australia. We had a 15 hour non-stop flight to
Sydney. He did fine. One other thing that really helps is flying
an overnight flight. He'll sleep the entire way. The parents
network archives have some great suggestions on how to keep the
young one entertained on a long flight.
Good Luck and Enjoy.
We took our 15 month old to the east coast on a direct flight for Christmas. We
thought direct was best but, even though she had her own seat and she has
flown many times before it was hell. I think that is a long time to be strapped
in, confined to a seat or two. The next time we do it I think we will try the two
leg trip, yeh it is a longer day but at least on the break you can walk around in
the airport look at different thing and eat and use the bathroom comfortably.
The change of scenery would have helped our little one tremendously.
My advice with a 16-month old is to choose the cheapest option
(particularly if there is a large difference). I've done it
both ways coast-to-coast with a toddler (14-months to 2.5 yrs
old) and there are advantages and disadvantages to both. While
it might be nice to have a break from the flight and play in
the airport, you have no way of knowing (or at least, we had no
way) if your little one is going to sleep for 3 to 5 hours or
not (no matter what time of day!). It's a bummer to have to
lug a blissfully sleeping toddler off the plane for the layover
while you ponder how wonderful it would have been to just have
the plane keep heading to your destination! Moreover, flights
can be delayed, and while you planned to have a relaxing 2 to 3
hour layover, it might turn in to a mad dash to not miss the
next plane (and it's a pain getting a toddler on and off planes
with all your stuff in tow, too). Or you might wind up with a
6 hour layover if the second flight is delayed. So, while
chasing a non-sleeping toddler around a plane for 6 hours is
also no fun, I argue you really can't plan everything as well
as you would like so therefore it really doesn't matter what
you ''think'' might happen for the two scenarios. So do the
cheapest thing and at least you can count on saving some money!
Just a quick response to one poster's suggestion that you opt
for an overnight flight whenever possible, because ''he'll sleep
the entire way''. Unless you have a very calm chld who
consistently sleeps well, I'd think twice. I did it only once,
with my toddler son and 6-year-old daughter. My son slept all
the way TO the airport, then woke up. He didn't sleep much at
all, but cried and screamed for almost the whole flight. My
daughter fell asleep on board, but awoke after a couple of
hours and vomited. Not much fun for us, and quite a disruption
for other passengers, who were trying to sleep. Even if your
baby is calm, other crying babies can make it tough for
No red-eyes for us!
Non-stop!!! Fewer ear-pressure changes, time wasted waiting,
baggage more likely to be on the same plane, etc, etc. 6 hours
is long but not impossible, especially if you can get child to
nap a bit.
veteran traveler with children
this page was last updated: May 22, 2010
The opinions and statements expressed on this website
are those of parents who subscribe to the
Berkeley Parents Network.
Disclaimer & Usage for
information about using content on this website.
Copyright © 1996-2014 Berkeley Parents Network