The more I read online about family travel, the more often I come across tirades from travelers wanting to ban kids from air travel. I've been on both sides of the equation: Prior to having a child, I had been on plenty of flights where babies have cried for hours on end; I've had a child behind me pull my hair; I've sat next to a woman who had a very big and squirmy toddler on her lap for a long overseas flight. Now that I am a Mom myself, I have flown many times with my now 3 year old and I know first-hand the challenges of traveling with a baby and toddler.
Air travel can be tiring and aggravating to all travelers, whether they are traveling with children or not. But there are things all of us can do to make the experience a little less unpleasant for our fellow passengers.
Dear travelers WITHOUT kids:
- Parents of crying babies would like nothing more than for their babies to stop crying - probably even more than you do
- Glaring at parents and making snide comments will not make a child stop crying, and will more likely aggrevate the situation
- FAA regulations require children under the age of 2 (who have their own seats) to be seated in an approved car seat. Logistically, this raises the child's feet up - if they are seated behind you, they will probably kick your seat. Sometimes you may not even be able to recline your seat. It sucks, but flights don't last forever. Despite what you may think, the child's parents are NOT doing this to you on purpose.
- No matter how much you paid for your ticket, the fact is air travel is public transportation, just like a bus. No airline can afford to institute a no-child policy. If you don't like flying with kids, it's probably best to charter your own plane.
Dear travelers WITH kids:
- Be prepared with lots of activities and snacks to keep your kids entertained. Many airlines don't have individual seat back entertainment systems, and even those sometimes don't work. And we all know what airline food is like. Pack your own!
- It is not always possible to select your ideal seat, but if you are able, try to select seats which will work best for your brood. Are Bulkhead Seats Worth It? Because the plane is bowed out at the window seat, this often gives you and your child(ren) a little extra space if they are seated there.
- Similarly, it is not always possible to pick your ideal flight time, but if you can, book flights during your child's typical sleep times.
- Most planes have at least one washroom with a baby change table. Use it. Please don't use the seat or tray table.
- If your kids are watching movies or playing games on an iPod or other personal device, make sure they wear earphones so they don't disturb other passengers
- An airplane poses many dangers to children if they are wandering along the aisle or playing at your feet - hot drinks, heavy carts and the possibility of turbulence. Children are safest buckled in their seats.
- Keep your kids off the seat in front of them. It is not always possible, but it is your responsibility to try to keep your kids from kicking the seat, leaning on the tray table and grabbing onto the head rest. I know from experience this is not always possible, but at least try! The day you fly is NOT the day to use the word 'no' for the first time.