Many airplane passengers can’t stand flying within the same fuselage as children. In a survey of nearly 2,500 individuals by Travelzoo Australia, screaming children were named as the worst aspect of air travel by nearly 68 percent of respondents. Last year, Europe’s budget airline Ryanair introduced child-free flights and Malaysia Airlines banned babies from its first-class cabin on some flights.
Apparently travelers think airplanes should be Zen zones free from the noise, exuberance, and annoyance of children. But what’s a traveling parent to do? Rather than staying grounded until the kids go off to college, try these tips from family travel bloggers for handling kid-hating curmudgeons on airplanes:
Jessica Bowers, author of SuitcasesandSippycups.com, suggests asking those seated nearby to tell you if your children are bothering them. She says, “I think just giving (other passengers) the freedom to complain makes them less cranky.”
Debbie Dubrow of DeliciousBaby.com says, “Once someone actually said ‘Just my luck’ as he sat down next to me, and I answered with a polite and friendly, ‘I'm sorry, I didn't hear you?’ which sent him back-peddling. He was actually quite polite for the rest of the trip.”
Some parents even recommend purchasing a round of drinks for neighboring passengers or passing out ear plugs to drown out any child-induced noisiness.
Keep kicking to a minimum
Avoid jostling your neighbors by removing children’s shoes; there will be less kicking if tootsies get sore from this unwanted behavior. Keep the tray table steady by choosing mellow activities and explaining to children how their behavior could disturb those seated in front of them.
To avoid mid-flight meltdowns, pack toy sets, arts-and-crafts projects, and travel-sized games and puzzles. Bring along soft-covered books or download children’s stories to your smartphone or tablet. Even if you don’t allow television or video games at home, you may want to consider bending the rules to allow a bit of screen time, especially on a very long flight.
Pack a wide variety of healthy snacks, all in their own small containers. Dole out goodies one at a time to keep mouths happily munching (and silent). You might want to bring a few special treats to hand out for good behavior toward the end of your journey. Sandra Foyt of AlbanyKid.com always keeps a few lollipops handy on flights, “for emergency purposes.”
Make an obvious effort
Parental involvement is key in keeping your offspring content in the close confines of an airplane cabin. Many travelers complain that it is not the children on planes that upset them, but their inattentive parents. Make an obvious display of your efforts to show you’re doing your best to soothe the wails of your crying baby or to diffuse your child’s tantrum.
Lisa Goodmurphy of GoneWithTheFamily.com says, “I think the most important thing when flying with kids is that your attention needs to be 100 percent focused on them. (Children) can’t be expected to know how to behave on a plane unless you teach them how.”
Ignore the haters
Other passengers may inwardly (or less often, outwardly) groan when you board with your offspring. Despite all of the negative polls and articles, not everyone on the plane will hate you. Many will be sympathetic to the sometimes stressful task of flying with children.
If all else fails, silently repeat this mantra, “This too shall pass.” Soon enough, your family will land safely at your destination. And remember, you will likely never have to see your fellow passengers ever again!
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Colleen Lanin is the founder/editor of TravelMamas.com, a site for anyone who wants to travel with children…and stay sane!