36 hours of delayed flights, no sleep, and wet pants – the joys of airplane travel with a toddler

I watched with a vague sense of unease as one of the bags I’d packed to carry on the flight disappeared down the checked baggage belt. There’s nothing we’ll need in there, right? I thought to myself.

Two hours later, my husband and I had boarded the flight from Mumbai, India, to Paris, France, with our 15-month-old son. As we got settled in for the first leg of our US-bound trip, I changed my son’s diaper and thought I’d give him a final bit of diaper-free time. (We had been doing this ever since he was little and had rashes. He was well on his way to being potty trained).

He promptly peed in his pants.

His only pair of pants.

As I searched the carryon bag that made it onboard with us, I realized I had packed all his extra clothes in the bag that we decided to check at the last minute.


We started the 36-hour trip with our son wearing nothing but a diaper and a blanket on his lower half.

I never thought I’d be thankful for the moisture-sucking air in airplanes, but I hung his pants up and within an hour they were dry. He wore those peed-on pants all the way home.

We actually had a bit of fun with him in the freezing Paris airport (it was December) since there was a little kids’ play area next to our gate.

Then, despite delays for the next flight, Paris to Atlanta, things were going well. By then I was getting the hang of nursing a toddler in a tiny airplane seat. The key: ignore other passengers who might be trying to get a peek. This may bother your husband more than you, anyway.

Our little boy snoozed in his Britax throne in between meals and marching up and down the aisles. That giant, unwieldy car seat earned its hefty price tag on that flight, in my opinion.

He was doing great. Us, not so much. The lack of sleep was taking its toll.

When we finally got to Atlanta, we were only a one-hour flight from Gainesville, Florida, our final destination.

Unfortunately, that flight was cancelled. The next available flight was in 7 hours.

It had sounded like a good idea at the time, choosing to fly directly from the small Gainesville airport rather than driving the two hours each way for the larger Orlando airport. But we hadn’t factored in the hazard of cancelled flights.

By this point, we hadn’t slept in nearly 30 hours. And there were no comfortable spots in that airport where we could rest. Renting a car and making the 5-hour drive just didn’t sound feasible.

Finally, after my complaints, the airline let us into the first class lounge.

But to our complete horror, we discovered you’re not allowed to stretch out and sleep there. I even tried to sneak a nap in the bathroom in my desperation. I am not proud to say I was kicked out of the ladies powder room after falling asleep between some potted orchids on an overly inviting leather bench.

An attendant took pity on us and put us in an unused conference room where we could lay on the floor. I remember my sweet son crawling over and placing his cheek on top of mine as I lay on the floor. He slept that way for over an hour.

After that trip, we decided it would be a long time before we visited India again. But now we’ve got two kids. I am trying to block it out, but I know in a year or two we’ll be going back.

Now it’s your turn. Tell us your stories about flying with your kids!

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Comments (1)

  1. Leslie Guenther

    Oh lord there are so many. My husband was stationed in Germany and of course I never seem to travel with my husband. Most of the time they have been awesome. Only problem we really have is my oldest son moans when he is trying to go to sleep. It is his way of making himself sleepy. At a five hour delay he just could not sleep and kept making the noise. I will say a plane flight is when a sling or carrier comes in handy. My son loved being held so close for so long.

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