Kids on flights: 5 tips to avoid and 5 tips for parents

Reading Corrine McDermott’s “5 Tips to Avoid Flying With Kids” had me shaking my head.

It got me thinking about tips that focus on the parents—ways they can show consideration and respect for their fellow passengers. First, Ms. McDermott’s 5 tips, and then 5 of mine:

Here’s a summary of her tips:

1. Don’t book the bulkhead. There is extra leg room in that row, and parents might want it so they can let their toddler free or have more room for kid accoutrement.

2. Choose airlines with the biggest baggage fees. Why? Because parents will more than likely not book with these airlines. The problem: it’s up to those who don’t want to fly with kids to pay more?

3. Avoid “typical” family vacation destinations.  For example, if you want to go to Florida and want to avoid Disney World passengers, we’re supposed to fly in to smaller airports in that state, or better yet, go to other sunny but more expensive places, like the Virgin Islands.  In other words, be willing to deal with more expensive (and potentially more limited) itineraries.

4. Avoid eye contact. Better yet, get noise cancelling headphones and shut your eyes all together, and it’ll be like “the children are not even there at all.”  Unlikely!

5. Work harder.  “The child-free, or DINKS, or however they prefer to be referred to as, have no such drains on their wallets, so they should have no trouble paying for the privilege of a child-free flight”…so we “need to work hard enough to afford to travel by private jet.”  I don’t think I need to explain why this is a ludicrous tip!

Here are mine. The caveat: they are based on what I have observed and positive experiences I’ve had with kids on planes.

1. Don’t fly with your kids until they are at least five years old.  It is just too big of an ordeal before then. This also substantially lessens the possibility of what drives fellow passengers crazy, including incessant crying, squealing, kicking, and peek a booing.

2. Before you fly with your kids, make sure they have demonstrated the ability to stay quietly occupied for the length of the duration of the flight. I have seen small dvd movie players work like a charm here.

3. Book your seats so you are not sitting next to a stranger; if it means the parents need to split up, do it. Now, seat configurations don’t always make this possible, but it sure works better if the family has their own row, or splits up so say one parent is with one kids, the other with the other in 2-seat rows.

4. Don’t fly if your kid is sick!

5. Hold a pre-parent mindset, before and during the flight. Before you had kids, what would you have considered respectful behavior from parents and their kids on planes?  Do what you wanted others to do when you were the one without kids.

My view: ultimately, it should not be up to those traveling without kids to find ways to have a positive flight experience; it should start with those traveling with the kids, not those without.

What do you think?

What tips for parents can you come up with?

15 thoughts on “Kids on flights: 5 tips to avoid and 5 tips for parents

  1. I flew just yesterday and sat beside a lady who was taking her 2-year-old and 4-year-old grandchildren home to Florida from Pennsylvania. I really tried to be understanding because the lady was very nice and talked to me a lot during the flight. I have to admit, though, that the children did get on my nerves. Without going into a lot of detail, both kids cried more than once. There was also some kicking and screaming. The lady ended up apologizing to me and the people around us, and told me that I was very nice and she was glad she got to sit next to me. She also asked if I had children, and said, “Well, this can be free birth control for you!” and told me about her niece who doesn’t want to have children (and I didn’t get bingoed by her, which was LOVELY, and I told her so!). All in all, it wasn’t a terrible experience, but it wasn’t fun either; however, I just reminded myself that the kids were young and probably very tired (they had gotten up at 3 a.m.) and they were just being kids. I am sad to say that these kids were much better behaved than a 9-year-old girl on a bus trip I took last week. The girl sat behind me and pulled my hair and took my earbud out of my ear, as well as kicked my seat and was a general nuisance to all around her. (And yes, I said something about it, and the girl changed seats, and actually cried because I said something, but that’s another story.)

    I think there should be a family section on airplanes so that people with young kids can all sit in the same vicinity. Better yet, childfree flights would be great. I’d pay extra for a flight with no kids.

    I agree about not flying with kids who are younger than five. You just can’t get them to understand what is going on. The two-year-old child from yesterday was sitting in his grandma’s lap, which wasn’t fun for him.

    1. Elizabeth, sounds like parents of 9 year olds need some tips too~I don’t think we will see childfree flights in the near future, but kid sections, now that I might predict has possibilities… will still be heard if they are waling, and seen when they are running down the aisles but it is better to have them all in one area. If that was the case, I would nix my suggestion about not sitting next to strangers…

  2. “They should have no problem paying for the privilege of a childfree flight…”

    I suggest the author of those “tips” read your column on DINKS and Money. Wow, that was quite a condescending tip. And If I was to be equally condescending, I’ll just say that with children becoming the newest accessory for the upper class, THEY can pay for the privilege of their own jet and leave us childfree in peace on the 747s.

    I agree with your tips completely. I’ve flown many a times with children on flights, and usually all it takes are parents who are strict on the law and order. Your screaming kids just don’t annoy the childfree, they may very well annoy other parents and even other children! With the age of inexpensive ipods and other mini electronic devices, keeping everyone occupied on a flight should be easy. I don’t expect childfree flights, but I do expect a little courtesy. I’d give the same to any parent.

    1. Manos! Ha – love your comment about kids being the newest accessory for the upper class so they should pay for the private jet!

  3. The #1 thing parents can do when traveling with children is to bring something for them to do. The only horrible experiences I’ve had with young children on flights are those when the parents plopped the kids down in a seat and expected them to sit there for 3-4 hours. No toys for them, no book to read, nothing to do but sit in the seat and kick the chair, whine, cry, and be a pain in the ass. Rule #2.1: If you want your child to be quietly occupied, Bring toys, games, or a book so that your child has something with which to be occupied.

  4. If you MUST travel with a child under 5 PLEASE for your sake and mine, ask your pediatrician for a safe mild depressent to knock your kid out during the flight. I am not asking you to do this daily just is the extreme circumstance of traveling with a very small child.

  5. Oh, we had a true trip from hell a few years ago. While waiting for the flight, the MAMA kicked over her soda. She looked at it, started to get up, then shrugged and left the mess. When they asked for volunteers for a later flight, i nearly begged my hubby to do it. But we didn’t

    That mama and the 3 kids sat right behind us on the flight. The 3 year old daughter kicked the back of my seat the whole way. The 1 year old cried almost all of the way, and when he stopped, the 6 year old boy pinched him until he started again. There were other children on that flight, but we weren’t even aware of them. They were quiet and well behaved.

    Someone finally told the mama she needed to have a better grasp on disciplining her kids (no, not me, tho i know i should have). The whole section applauded when this person spoke to her directly. Dad? A few rows back enjoying his quiet.

    I don’t think it is flying so much as so many parents seem to be clueless about how to raise nice kids. Then everything is a problem, even if just sitting in a movie theater (of course, there, they can get kicked out. While in flight it isn’t possible).

    1. Hi Spinsterlicious~Add that one to the list of tips for sure–and don’t look at us like we are the ones who are Rude for saying something!

  6. One tip for the childfree is to choose exit row seats. They are usually off-limits to anyone under 15. That will at least guarantee no youngsters in your row. If you sit in the first of two exit rows, that means no kids right behind you either. The seats in the exit rows don’t recline, but as a tall person I’ve never found the recline all that useful anyway.

    1. Scott, you nailed one of my regular strategies to be sure. I have found however, if you are not a “MVP” or the like you can’t book that seat on line. You can if you call, but now they charge you to call an make your reservation-at least that had been my experience–L

  7. Frankly, I don’t get some of these parents!

    First, they are more than happy to say “if you don’t like kids screaming, pay more to book a child free flight”.

    Now that Malasya Airlines has turned their first class cabin baby free, the same parents are screaming “Discrimation! If you don’t like kids screaming put up with it”

    Seriously, What the….?????

    It is the parents that are the problem, not the kids. The overentitled “the world ows me because I breed” type of bingo who thinks everyone should cater to their needs.

    Kids learn from their parents. If it were up to the kids, every kid would be a bratty nightmare, but that’s not case.

    I remain a child-free awesome uncle!

  8. If you are a parent, ‘fess up when your kid messes up. This applies to planes and anyplace else.

    I was in first class, enjoying a double bloody mary when a father sat with a lap baby next to me. She was about 6-7 months old, and promptly put her hand in my beverage. He apologized and buzzed the flight attendant to get me another. I advised him that he may want to clean her hand because if she puts it in her mouth, she won’t wake up for about a month.

    Baby sacked out shortly after takeoff so she was not unruly. But I had respect for the dad…even though she did not know better, he did. And rather than make excuses (she’s a BABYYYYYY) he fixed the problem.

    1. Here’s to taking responsibility to where it was due–Me… I would have probably ket the kid put a bloody mary hand in its mouth so it would sack out ; )!
      Just kidding.

  9. Trust me, those of us who have children and fly regularly find the people who can’t control their kids on planes just as annoying as childfree people do. I cannot imagine why you would ever bring a child of ANY age onto an airplane without a backpack full of activities for him or her. Being on an airplane is difficult for everyone–nothing like being stuck for several hours in an enclosed space with strangers. Both parents and those traveling without children could exercise a little more courtesy–for example, it’s hard for my son to watch his portable DVD player or eat his snack when you recline your seat in front of him so far back that he can’t open his tray table! If you’ll quit doing that, I’ll make sure he doesn’t kick your seat.

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