8 tips for holiday airplane travel with toddlers in tow

airplaneMy family travels with me despite the fact that I am a traveling liability for them. It’s our family joke.

I am the one in the security line that gets selected for the mystery line or pulled aside to be double-checked by scanners. We’re not sure if I just look shady (my kids’ guess) or if I look like I’ve kidnapped my kids. We just expect it.

It turns out that I have a magnet implant that activates when I travel by air. It attracts less than desirable seatmate situations and more often loud and sticky toddlers. As soon as we spot a cranky toddler or belligerent traveler in our terminal, my family starts betting money that they will sit next to me on the plane.

So, on our recent pilgrimage to our home state for the Thanksgiving holiday, my usual air travel magnetism did not disappoint.

En-route to our turkey destination, there was a belligerent man sitting next to me in the terminal who was bragging loudly about how many shots he’d been getting from the airlines all day. After a full fifteen minutes of this, I exchanged rolled-eye glances with another woman nearby who was also witnessing his glory.  I joked after he left his seat that I would end up next to him on my flight. She knew I was heading to the same place that he was (and she wasn’t) and she wished me Godspeed.  And yes, he ended up two rows directly behind me where I could hear him offering to buy his entire row discounted shots.

On this flight there was a very upset, crying baby directly behind me.  This I could handle because the poor baby wasn’t kicking my seat and I was able to listen to music and tune him out. Also I realize that babies are hard to travel with.  I’ve been there. And mainly, I could tell that the dad with him was trying as hard as he could to comfort him.

On the way home however (after waiting in the airport for a couple of hours due to weather and air traffic delays), I had a yelling, grabbing, kicking, sticky toddler creature directly behind me on our tiny, claustrophobic plane.   He sat next to a man who appeared to be his Grandfather who had no awareness or control of the situation.   This scenario is the expected result of my air travel magnetism.

So, in light of my plethora of experience in this area, here are a few issues with related requests to parents traveling with kids.  I know it’s upsetting that passengers are bothered by your angelic children, but please read the following while imagining that you are in our seat:

Disclaimer: I have two kids and I love them dearly. I realize that they were young once and they certainly weren’t perfect.  I also know that often when kids on airplanes act out, the blame usually falls squarely in the clueless or exhausted parent’s lap, rather than the poor kiddo.

1. Males in charge.  Letting a male adult (dad, grandpa, brother, uncle) be in charge of the baby or toddler on the plane is not a good idea (most of the time).  Moms, I know you are trying to catch a break by getting someone else to be in charge and I also know that this is rather sexist of me to say, but most guys don’t seem to notice when a child in their charge is losing it.  They for sure don’t seem to know how to exhaust the fumes once the tantrum has begun. Save us all some brain cells please and hold the baby.  Maybe a glass of chardonnay will help.

2. Games and movies on Ipads. We’re thrilled you’ve got them busy.  Really we are. But when the volume on those things is on high and the voice of Dora the Explorer is almost as loud as your child’s voice, we want to hurt them both.

3. Baby talk.  We realize you don’t want to miss any opportunity to squeeze in a vocabulary lesson, Mommy.  I bet you have teaching experience.  You’re good at it.  But please save the incredibly loud drawn out baby-talk lessons that point out each plane and cloud in grave detail for a road trip in your car when we don’t all have to take the lesson too. Maybe try talking quietly in your toddler’s ear.  Or get creative with that Chardonnay.

4.  Flying objects.  On my way to Thanksgiving the other day a pacifier from the row behind me landed in my lap out of no where.  I was listening to music with my headphones and trying to doze off, so it scared the heck out of me.  The event did make me laugh a little because of the randomness as I passed it through the seats and handed it to the Dad (who was really working to comfort the little guy).  But in general, try to keep flying objects at a minimum.

5. Space invaders of the toddler kind. Sorry Moms and Dads but unless I am in a particularly good mood, I don’t think your kid is darling as she peers over my seat, drools on my tray and blows snot bubbles at me.  And no, we don’t all want to play peekaboo with your little angel. Please, please, please get them to sit down or to at least try to contain their bodily fluids in your seat area.

6. Seat kicking. Surely you notice that your child is kicking my seat.  Are you just tuning it out?  Or does it not cross your mind that in the same way that it bothers you when people kick your seat, we feel your child kicking our seat at about 13 kicks per minute?  Please try to be aware. Even with my music and earphones, I can’t tune this out.  And my Chardonnay isn’t nearly strong enough to help either.

7. Sticky, grasping hands.  Even if your kid’s hands aren’t that sticky, we don’t really want them to reach out and touch someone, especially us.  The toddler creature behind me on the way home the other day was able to fit his entire head and arm between my seat and the window as he literally grasped my arm.  Once again I was trying to doze off, to no avail.  Grandpa, you can’t tell me you didn’t notice this happening. You seemed awake.  Honestly, the thought of grabbing this little toddler’s arm back did cross my mind — just to mess with him. However, I realized this might cause more screaming or seat kicking.  It was a no-win situation.

8. Kids running loose up and down the aisle.  I’m concerned for you if you think that this is okay because it seems so very obvious.  Even if the seat belt sign is off, please don’t let your kid roam up and down the aisles skipping and yelling.  Not only is it dangerous due to the fact that YOU ARE IN AN AIRPLANE, but it’s also dangerous because I’m guessing I’m not the only one imagining what it would be like if someone tripped them after the thirteenth time they pass our seat .  Plus, it sure doesn’t help the poor flight attendants trying to do their job of serving all of us. Lock ’em up, people.  It’s your job to bring games or snacks to occupy them, not our job or the flight attendant’s job to entertain them.

All snot bubbles and sticky hands aside, if parents and grandparents could just exercise the teensiest bit of common sense and courtesy, and try to be a little  aware of the fellow travelers around the kiddos in their charge, we can definitely all peacefully coexist on an any airplane.  And I’m guessing your kiddo could even develop some wonderful courtesy skills of their own.

You just might even catch me playing peekaboo with your toddler to help you out.

2 thoughts on “8 tips for holiday airplane travel with toddlers in tow

  1. Ah, the pleasures of traveling with young children. Excellent post. I don’t know why more parents don’t give their kids “sleepy juice” to keep them quiet on the flights. Good enough for our parents to use, good enough for our kids as well! Thanks for your observations and food post.

  2. I flew over the Thanksgiving holiday and saw plenty of families with small kids. I admit it–I prayed that they wouldn’t be sitting anywhere near me. Whoever I prayed to did not always hear me over the constant airport announcements about not leaving your baggage unattended. Your tips/observations are all spot on. One guy next to me was buying an awful lot of those small liqueur bottles to go with his Coke…

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