Drugging Children: Who Are You Really Drugging on a Plane?

 In Travel Tips

Once people get over the fact that you are going to travel now that you have kids, they start in on how you will do it. Too many people assume you will slip your infant or toddler a little Benadryl, or some other type of sleep inducing medication, just to keep them calm. My question is why? Why would anyone think drugging children is the answer?

I’ll admit it, when we went to China for the first time we went to our doctor for advice. She said she did not recommend a reduced dose of Benadryl for children, but she knows some families who do it. The problem with Benadryl, she went on to tell us, is that it can knock your kid out, or it can make them very hyper. She said that if we were considering it, we should test it out ahead of time.

I’m ashamed to say we did try it out. We gave Dek a 1/3 dose of Children’s Benadryl (allergy medicine) a few weeks before we left. I felt horrible doing it, but I was so worried that he may be in such distress that he would need it. I should have known better. Not only did the Benadryl do absolutely nothing, but also we were seasoned flyers. Dek had been on many 6-hour flights. Yes, the 14.5-hour flight from San Francisco to Hong Kong would be much longer, but why couldn’t some of our same tricks from the 6-hour flights work again? No reason at all.

So I’ll go back to my original question? Who are we really drugging when we slip our child Benadryl on a flight? Are we doing it to keep our kid more comfortable or to keep ourselves more comfortable? If you just put some effort into it, could you come up with a better solution? Personally, I’m of the opinion that there is always an alternative.

If you are at a loss, here are few tricks we try when Dek gets a little rambunctious on a long (or even short) flight.

  1. Start walking. It isn’t healthy for anyone to sit on a plane for too long. If your child is antsy in their seat, plop them in the aisle and start moving. Kids are small; they can squeeze through the tiniest of aisles. They won’t bug other people that much. They usually just want to run. Dek and I have met many lovely passengers and traveling families this way. Once other people see how happy and cute your kid can be, just maybe they will cut you a little slack if your kid cries later on.
  2. Pack Snacks. I travel with a small arsenal of food wherever we go. Goldfish and bunny crackers that can swim and hop their way through the plastic cups your drinks come in. Fruit Dek can munch on, pasta noodles and small sandwiches are always a good way to pass a few minutes.
  3. Break out the Toys. My carry on always has a small bag of “travel” toys. These may be special cars that only pop out when we hit the road or maybe even a new matchbox truck. We often do a toy swap with friend’s kids so everyone has something “new” when they travel. It saves us a ton of money.
  4. Laptop, DVD player, Kindle or iPhone. Yes, the days of you catching up on your favorite shows while on a plane or even getting work done may be over for a bit. You know what, you are on vacation, why are you working anyway? When in doubt, we pull out my laptop, pop in some Curious George, Cars or another PBS show (we pretend our TV watching is educational at least) and all take a little break in our seats. Mike and I get reading time in, Dek gets to chatter with a monkey or cat. Everyone is happy. We always take a break for a walk so his eyes don’t jump out of his head.
  5. Attempt a Nap but Know When to Call It Quits. There have been many trips when it is “nap time” and Dek has no interest in sleeping. Can you blame him? He’s on an airplane. That’s exciting stuff. My once sleeping anywhere baby boy has grown into a full-blown curiosity hound. I don’t really see this as a bad thing. We try to get him to sleep in the Ergo. I walk the aisles bouncing him. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. If he is perfectly happy doing other things, I just let it go. A missed nap or late bedtime is not the end of the world.
  6. Don’t Give Up. If you have one bad flight, but still dream of traveling with your family, please don’t give up. Every age comes with its ups and downs. You see this often enough at home. You will likely see it on a plane too. Come up with new strategies for each flight. Think about what worked last time, what works at home, what works when you go out to eat together? All the strategies you use at home can work on a flight too.

No matter how you decide to get you and your family through a flight, think before you medicate. Ask yourself why you are doing it? Is it for you or for your kid? Do they even need it? If you still have questions, check out Have Baby, Will Travel’s article Medicating Your Toddler Before A Flight? and for more ideas check out Flashpacker Family’s 10 Tips to Avoid Drugging Your Child on a Flight.

What you don’t want to do is try a new medication when you are in the air. Nothing is more dangerous or irresponsible. Your child going nuts on a plane is ten times better than a bad drug reaction when you are flying over an ocean.

What is your go-to trick when flying with your kids? 

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Showing 7 comments
  • cravesadventure

    Great Post & Great Advice. My parents made me and my brother portable at a very young age.

  • Jarrah

    My mother, International Chief Purser (Head Flight Attendent, the pilot may be in charge of the ship, but it’s the Chief Purser who’s in charge of everything inside & from cockpit door back.) Her advice was pack a carry on expecting to entertain your kids for the length if the trip, and then get them a new toy, game, madlibs, coloring book whatever so they get a something new every 3 hours. Her theory was that you give then something new the first time they’re restless. That should entertain them for about an hour-hour and a half, then time for a snack and then potty time. By the time you get back maybe 15-20 minutes have passed and by the time they get back they will either be interested in that last toy for a whole or an exisiting toy from their own bag. The next time they get bored again, it will be time for another 3 hour present.

    My mom would always order a ton of free tourist flyers from where ever we were going and told us to either pick out something fun for us to do or to make up stories about what the people who lived there were doing.

    Hours of entertainment…

  • We carry an arsenal of things to help our kids on planes so that they are busy and content and quiet, and we have been lucky that it has always worked. Of course it means we bring everything but the kitchen sink on our flights, but hey, you have to do what you have to do 🙂

    • The Educational Tourist

      You sure do! Love the can do attitude! Where there is a will, there is a way!

  • Elaine Schoch

    I think so many parents are so concerned with how their kids will behave on planes are just too worried about bothering other people it’s easier to slip them meds to sleep through the flight. I come equipped with snacks, iPads and coloring books – and a bag of ear plugs for passengers in case my kids do get out of hand. Happy to say in the five years we’ve been traveling with little ones we haven’t had to break out the ear plugs.

Cannon Beach