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Getting Along While Aloft
By Catherine | | 1 Comment

A recent decision by Southwest Airlines to eject a mother and toddler from a flight because the kid was being too noisy has reignited an age-old debate about traveling with children. How to deal with unruly kids, and who’s responsible for managing what can be a testy situation at the best of times?

Flying with a child in earshot can be a pleasant, indifferent or irritating experience, depending on how you choose to react to it. As a grown-up, you have to take responsibility for your part in the equation. Rather than throwing inflammatory and defensive rhetoric at each other, here are a few practical tips to help us all get along in the skies.

What parents can do to minimize their kids’ propensity to annoy fellow passengers:

  • Don’t board a plane without an arsenal of toys, activities, books and distractions to engage your child throughout the flight. Think small, quiet, mess-free, calming activities – and plenty of them, as young attention spans wane quickly. Lean on DVDs with headphones if it’ll tune them out for an hour or two. Don’t forget any special blankie or cuddly toy that might help them drift off to sleep.
  • Make sure you have a good supply of healthy snacks and drinks at the ready – nothing triggers a meltdown like a hungry tummy or thirsty palate. Avoid sugary juice and junky snacks, as a tight cabin is not the place for a manic energy burst.
  • Be friendly and apologetic to passengers around you if your kid is prone to acting up – pass out a few Starbucks gift cards to bribe some sympathy out of them. Just acknowledging that you’re aware and concerned about your family’s negative impact on their flight quality can help quell the seething fury. I believe most parents do their best to keep their kids calm and quiet on a plane, for their own sanity as much as anyone else’s. The handful of parents who let them run wild give the rest of us a bad rap.

What adult passengers can do to minimize their irritation of kids on planes:

  • Invest in some noise-canceling headphones and an eye mask to help you tune out of your surroundings and create your own pocket of serenity. If you’re the type to get easily irritated by the sight and sound of children (or people in general), these items can keep your rage from escalating into a full blown tantrum.
  • Pre-book the emergency exit row. Young kids aren’t permitted there so you won’t be right beside a potential troublemaker. Sitting just ahead of this row ensures you won’t have a young seat-kicker behind you (can’t guarantee a long-legged adult won’t do the same, though).
  • Try to muster up an ounce of compassion for the parent who is no doubt mortified by their offspring’s less-than-stellar behavior, and the child who is out of sorts in this unfamiliar, uncomfortable setting. A sympathetic smile or understanding glance will help cut the tension more than an icy glare will.



December 8th, 2009
Traci says:

Excellent advice for traveling with children on a plane. I have been going back & forth to Costa Rica for 4yrs w/ my girls and keeping them occupied and having “tricks up my sleeve” is definitely a must. :)

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