I think I speak for most parents when I say that flying with young children was seriously overlooked as a circle of hell. Being strapped down inside a claustrophobic steel tube hurling though the sky for hours with kids who inevitably want to play, pee, eat, make a mess, and otherwise be kids is not fun. To make matters worse, you have the sanity of airport staff, flight crew, and fellow passengers to worry about, too.
Here are some tips on airline etiquette to make it easier on those around you when you travel. In return, you’ll avoid any side-eye or snide remarks that might spoil your trip.
Travel to the airport
If you’re taking a taxi, make sure the taxi dispatch knows in advance that you have kids, car seats, and several bags so they factor in time when scheduling other pick ups. The last thing you need at 5 a.m. is a grumbly cabbie. And though it should go without saying, tip him.
Check in before you arrive at the airport to save time. Make sure everything you need on the plane is already in the appropriate carry-on so you’re not digging through bags while others wait. You can choose to check car seats and strollers free of charge or you can gate-check them.
I know it’s next to impossible, but try to be prepared when you come to the front of the line. Families notoriously have a ton of stuff to unload and carry, so it’s only polite if you see a rushed business person or seasoned traveler behind you tapping his foot to let him go ahead while you wrestle your toddler out of his jacket. No time lost.
Tips: You are allowed to go through the metal detector with baby carrier (Bjorn, Ergo, Moby) but not a stroller. Plan accordingly if you don’t want to wake a sleeping little one. Also, your kids can keep their shoes on. Thanks to the TSA for throwing us that bone.
Board first as “passengers traveling with kids” so you can get situated without holding everyone else up. Or board last so that, again, you’re not making people wait. The perk of boarding last is that the kids have to spend a little less time sitting down on the plane.
The ten commandments of in-flight kid behavior:
- Thou shalt not kick the seat in front of you
- Thou shalt not color on or otherwise mar the tray table
- Thou shalt not stand in your seat
- Thou shalt not hang in the aisle lest the beverage cart smite your limbs
- Thou shalt not throw the ice you’re given in your beverage cup
- Thou shalt not scream
- Thou shalt not pull the hair in front of you
- Thou shalt not bang the tray table
- Thou shalt inform an adult of the need to pee, poo, or throw up before it happens
- Thou shalt nap, please, for God’s sake
Tip: Stock up on inexpensive, small-space playthings like short books, play dough, scratch-off coloring books, and sticker books. When my kids see the new stuff, they get so excited that they forget to act up.
Wait for rushed passengers to get off first, especially anyone with a connecting flight.
Mostly, it’s about planning ahead and being aware of the needs of those around you. Which are good rules to live by generally. And if you happen to be alone and you see a family struggling during travel, offer to help or at least give them a smile or gesture of solidarity. We all know it sucks.
Let’s just rejoice that we survived the holiday season and be grateful that we have some time to brace ourselves for summer travel.