How to Survive an Airplane With Kids

My first flight alone with my then eight month old son went something like this:

1. I hand him a “brain-stimulating” toy that I had bought for the flight….he chucks the toy three aisles down with an accuracy that has yet to be seen again by this same child.

2. I snuggle him into me to sleep….and somehow forget how hard we worked on sleep training him so that he would only fall asleep…by himself…in his crib. He caterwauls and pinwheels like I am trying to suffocate him with his blanket.

3. I discover what that awful smell is….and decide that I am a diaper-changing magician and thus will be able to change his diaper while he is sitting on my lap. I am wrong.

After enduring airplane-travel for almost seven years with my two kids to visit our far-flung relatives, I have some tips for surviving an airplane with kids. Here goes…

1. DO try this: If you are traveling with a toddler, try to convince them through subliminal messaging that they will be very tired once they get on the plane. I once did this with amazing results. I started whispering to her early that morning, “You will be very sleepy when you get on the plane, your eyes will feel heavy and you will be cozy and warm.” I think I might have accidentally hypnotized her or something. We got on the plane and she immediately fell asleep, which was the complete opposite experience of our previous trip where I wrestled her like she was a spider monkey on crack for the entire flight.

2. DO bring a crap-ton of familiar food, milk and diapers. Things often go awry when traveling by plane and you never know when you might accidentally get stranded in a random backwoods airport and these items will save your life. After getting stranded once, my toddler refused three different meals that I had bought for her in the airport. She decided that she would only eat the disgusting warm cheese that I had packed about 10 hours before and I was so desperate to see her eat anything, that I let her.

3. DON’T let crabby men get to you. They may not understand why your baby is crying hysterically during take off and they may feel that you aren’t disciplining your 8-month-old enough, and thus blame you because their crabby old man nap is being interrupted. And then they might yell at you to quiet your baby down. Take heart. Karma is a powerful thing, and that man has just guaranteed that he will sit by a crying baby on an airplane for the rest of his existence.

4. DON’T give your kid Benadryl to make them drowsy on the plane. I had a friend who once tried this….with her three-year-old twins…..on a four hour flight. This technique can horribly backfire since, in some children, Benadryl can actually WAKE THEM UP MORE. I can’t really imagine a more horrible scenario than being stuck on a plane for hours with small children who are MORE awake than small children usually are.

5. DO bring copious amounts of hand sanitizer. It helps your peace of mind, if nothing else. The only down side is that you can’t actually squirt it into your kids’ mouths. Once, while on a plane with my son, I looked over at him and he was actually sliding his seatbelt inside his mouth. Inside. His. Mouth. Like to make sure he could get every single germ available. And then when he licked the hand rails on the train between terminals I pretty much gave him up as a lost cause for sickness and fevers to come, and seriously started questioning his intelligence. We had to start telling him that there is actual poop on everything in the airport (which there probably is) and that mental image finally slowed down the licking…a bit.

6. DON’T bring a million toys or waste your money on buying “new” toys. Kids don’t give a shit about toys when they are busy trying to make your life a living nightmare. The best toys on a plane? Ask your flight attendant for a couple of plastic cups and some straws . And you won’t even care when they fall on the ground and you never see them again.

7. DO bring dum dum suckers for that rare occurrence I call; a complete and total freak-o-rama. The kid is pissed. So pissed that they are screaming at their max capacity for long enough that you start to get feral looks from your neighbors and you also begin to fear and admire the child’s commitment to being pissed. During one such episode, I had a lady who claimed to be a pediatrician give me a dum dum sucker (or she might have been a dum dum saleswoman? I should have probably checked her credentials), and the sugar and the sucking kinda jolted my toddler out of whatever crazy space she was in. And while I would never encourage taking candy from a stranger, that woman may have saved our life that day.

8. DO let your older kid watch whatever junk and play whatever game on whatever electronic device available. Survival is survival, and as you are already wrestling the aforementioned spider monkey on crack, you probably won’t have the mental space to answer 5 billion questions about how planes get into the air or why farts stink or listen to how hot the pink power ranger is, and what does hot mean anyway?

9. DO let people help you, even if that help appears in a condescending form. I once had to get myself and the kids from the plane to a (very) remote parking lot to pick up our car. I had a towering pile of suitcases, a pack ‘n’ play, two carseats, a reluctant six-year-old helper and a completely useless toddler. I was obviously struggling and a woman asked me if I needed assistance. The way she said it, though, was like, “I really do not want to help you, but human decency is requiring me to offer you help even though I think you are a complete idiot for getting yourself into this situation.” But perhaps I’m paraphrasing her expression. Whatever. I stubbornly refused her help. But after walking for what seemed to be a pot-induced length of time, after our suitcases continued to tip and the carseats kept trying to commit Hara-kari, I began to wish that I would have taken her up on her non-genuine offer. Take help when it is offered, swallow your pride, and save your sanity.

10. DON’T be too envious of that older woman sitting across the aisle from you who is reading People magazine with her perfectly manicured nails, smugly sipping a cocktail. You too, will travel in style someday, kid-free, with hair that doesn’t spend its entire existence rolled in a ball on top of your head, and with clothes on that haven’t recently had crusty warm cheese scraped off of them, and you will reminisce and begin to miss those days when your kids were small.Yeah not really. Actually, the next time I get to fly kid-free, I plan on buying two martinis and toasting myself for getting to the other side.

About the writer


Joelle Wisler is a writer and mom living in the mountains who believes in sarcasm, winging it, and raising children who won't ever live in her basement. She writes regularly for Scary Mommy and can also be found at The Huffington Post, Mamalode, Babble, and on her blog. She has made The Today Show's List of Funniest Parents on Facebook and contributed to the anthology, Scary Mommy's Guide To Surviving The Holidays. You can find her on Facebook and Instagram and Twitter.


Yolly 7 months ago

I can’t stop laughing. I will be travelling with my 3 year old boy in 2 months, for a 19 hour flight with 2 stops (1hour+16hours+2hours). I definitely need these advice.

Tracy 12 months ago

I just feel we all deserve to go see other places. Exposure to the world is important. I am travelling to Hawaii with my special needs, autistic, non verbal son. He is a blessing but gets excited. I am just going to take it in stride because you know, I have a harder job than the man or woman having to listen to his behavior. I have to physically deal with it for the flight and the rest of my life, so go enjoy your mai tai on the beach and hope we’re not on your return flight:) wink wink

Kathy 1 year ago

Still laughing with tears! About to fly from NZ to USA with two kids. Toddler and 7 year old. I will try all of these. Have to see my ageing parents, so am willing to suffer! My favourite is the, willing them to sleep! It has to work, right?

Charlotte 1 year ago

The funniest post about plane travel with kids I have read in a long time. Thanks for that!

I have travelled extensively with my kids and have found a way to have a peaceful flight, check it out here:

I also find that people are not as mean as we expect them to be, actually most of the time they are quite nice and even helpful.

Mimi 1 year ago

Ha! Loved the ” spider monkey on crack” comparison!
I just came back from a trip with my 20-month-old son – we flew from Australia to NY ( and returned too). The trip there was AWFUL. He screamed and flung himself on the floor, on me, just went nuts for 6 HOURS! It wasnt his ears, as this happed 2.5 hours into the flight. At the lowest point, he wedged himself under his seat ( still screaming) in the datkness…the stewardess came by and shone a flashlight in his direction, and it was like ia scene from a horror movie – a tiny twisted up screaming baby face highlighted in the darkness! At this point i was crying too.
The only thing that worked was the airplane bathroom – after all the screaming, he totallly stopped and br ame fascinated with the sink, etc. the bathroom was the last place I wanted to be, but desparate times call for desparate measures. I can totally relate to your experience with the seatbelt licking – at some point you just have to give up!
The trip home was better, but i still had to get him into the magical bathroom a few times. I must have been NUTS to attempt this trip alone!
When i arrived in Australia, immigration asked me, ” where is the rest of your family?” I wanted to punch her in the face. Where indeed…

Kimberly 1 year ago

About #4 – I am one of those people that Benadryl makes hyper. I can’t imagine being trapped in a plane while my nerve endings are raw and crawling up and down my spine. One time when I was given that in the ER – I tried to fly off a 3rd story balcony. I also become combative on other sedatives.

That said if a family member has sinus problems consult with their doctor about the right medication for the flight. For the last decade I’ve taken my sinus medication 24 hours before my flight to 24 hours after my flight. I used to get horrible airplane headaches followed by sinus infections. It hasn’t happened since I started taking my medication for flights.

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Elena 2 years ago

I have a 17 month old and a 5 year old, and due to both work and family obligations, we all travel frequently — both domestically and out of the country.
My top advice for smaller kids: plan meals in advance. Bring foods and snacks they like to eat and that hold well. Airplanes are not a good place for a mealtime battle. And bring crayons. Lots and lots of crayons.
Don’t overpack — you probably don’t need 17 diapers, 6 outfits and a library of books. Know what your kids like and need and cater to that. Dragging 4 bags through the airport makes travel harder, not easier.
For older kids, it really worked for us to have a special toy/pastime. My 5 year old is not permitted to watch movies/cartoons on an ipad unless we are on the plane or on a long 2+ hour car-trip. It works amazingly well. He’s so excited about the prospect of watching a movie (or two … or on one transatlantic flight, three — not my best moment of parenting, but, hey, we got like 5 hours of calm and silence) that he can hardly wait to get on the plane.

jo 2 years ago

Traveling tomorrow for four hours of flying (one stop, one layover) with my seven month old, while im recovering from a stomach bug. SM’s, please send good ju-ju my way, no idea how this is going to pan out!

Map Destinations 2 years ago

Great advice! Thank you! Buy a few new sticker books. Buy a portable video game or a portable DVD player that you only use for special occasions (like a plane ride). Bring along some Polly Pockets or Pet Shops or whatever your daughter likes. You cannot expect a 4-year-old child to sit still and be quiet on a plane for 4 1/2 hours when she has absolutely nothing to do. (You can’t really expect an adult to do that either.)

Amanda Matheny 2 years ago

Wow, it sounds like you’ve had some pretty harrowing airplane rides! I should count myself lucky. My son has only been on an airplane once so far, well twice since It was a round trip but whatever, and he was 17 months old. He did not sleep, but he actually didn’t fuss either. In fact, he was fascinated by looking out the tiny little window by our seat, and by opening and closing the plastic cover, lol. It was a much smoother flight than I would’ve expected.

Cleo Shahateet 2 years ago

This article is great! We are flying with our kids (4,6 & 8) for the first time. Well, first time with 3 from DC to Cyprus next week. I am not really looking forward to the flights since they are overnight AND my wife is terrified of flying to top it off! Looks like I will have my hands full. Lollipops are going to be bought tomorrow!! Thanks for the tip and reassurance that you all make it out sane!

Dena 2 years ago

Hi Scary Momma,
your posts make me laugh so hard that i almost pee… (ok so i did pee a little but i don’t even notice it anymore…!!!!) awesome blog, thanks so much for sharing your practical hilarity. if that’s a word. Love it.

sm41 2 years ago

Some people shouldn’t have kids. Tom is one of them.. good for him for realizing it and making that decision. your mother.
I am nervous to fly this fall with a then 1yr old because of the potential for a stressful kid meltdown and the wrath of the “cbc” fliers.. and really everyone -kid or kidless. No one wants to be that person. I too, have been annoyed by those people and i too,have felt empathy for them as well. I will be flying “just to see grandma”
Because my kid needs to see her grandmother. I will do my best and so will my kid.. to make the trip smooth for all involved. .but no..I am not going to wait til my kid is old enough to not bother u before she learns how to behave on a plane..or see her relatives.
we all need tolerance. . For tom who no doubt gets the aisle seat for leg room with laptop spread out so u feel bad needing to get out to pee and for parents who are just trying to be part of the world despite their need to procreate.

Sara 2 years ago

I’ve been a flight attendant for 20 years and actually love flying/traveling with my now 7 year old! Of course she’s a travel pro now! :) I offer loads of advice & helpful tips for flying with little ones on my web site: (no benadryl required;-)

Jennifer Saranow Schultz 2 years ago

I couldn’t agree with number 6 more. In fact, I call apple juice in a cup with a lid and a cocktail straw “a kid-friendly cocktail” and the drink (and cup, ice and straw) keeps my toddler entertained for at least 20 minutes on an airplane. More on that, and a link to your post, here:)

Fintan Corrigan 2 years ago

Loads of great tips in this article. It’s not easy especially with a baby or toddler. Plenty of patience and planning ahead. And for the parent to be calm and in good form is also important. Children pick up emotions from their parents.

chill 2 years ago

I’ve done many a long flight with babies/toddlers/children. My husband is from Spain, so we go over there about once a year to visit, which is a 8-9 hour flight. The first time was when my oldest was 9 months old, we did it again when she was almost 2 (and that was in first class – boy did that make people nervous), and then again when the second dh was a year old. Can’t imagine worse than that. Needless to say, I barely rested, but my kids were quiet (without Benadryl), were not running up and down the aisle and didn’t throw tantrums. Sure, they probably cried some before take off because I was saving their drinks until the plane started to rise, and they were probably restless, but it was fine.

You know what works for your kid. Mine are fine with reading books and having new toys to check out, but maybe yours wants a familiar favorite. All I can say is please try to do your best with your kid and I will understand. It’s the parents who let their kids kick and scream, and then argue with the flight attendant when she tries to help out, that I have ZERO sympathy for. In fact, I know that you deserve every minute of torture that your child gives you outside of the plane. Plus a little extra.

    Mom of 2 Blessings 2 years ago

    “All I can say is please try to do your best with your kid and I will understand. It’s the parents who let their kids kick and scream, and then argue with the flight attendant when she tries to help out, that I have ZERO sympathy for. In fact, I know that you deserve every minute of torture that your child gives you outside of the plane. Plus a little extra.”

    AMEN! best comment ever. I’ve also travelled with kids, and while I cant guarantee you a peaceful experience (sorry Tom!) I promise to do all within my power to ensure that I minimise any disruptions to fellow passengers. So… I will let my kids stroll the aisles, but I will not let them kick the seats. I cannot stop them from crying, but I will cuddle them (perhaps drug them) and distract them.

sydney 2 years ago

One thing that people don’t realize is that the cabin pressure, especially during take off and landing is uncomfortable. Bring something crunchy for older kids and perhaps a binkie for your baby since the chewing and sucking helps relieve the discomfort. Also, if you are one of those people who are bothered by a child crying, perhaps you should try not focusing on it. Airplanes emit a lot of white noise which makes it difficult to hear the person right next to you, let alone the toddler crying from across the aisle.

Helena Lake 2 years ago

BTW…they smell great, are ANTI Bacterial (so chuck the hand sanitizer) and at least 600 have been proven to be anti viral as well. I put it on the vents if I am on a plane, boat, train or hotel room! THEY ARE THE BOMB!

    Carolina Elena 2 years ago

    My son is allergic for peanuts. Reacts sometimes with the breath of someone that ate them. peanut oil is used in maaaany products these days. You can imagine how dangerous it can be if soemone puts the in the vents of a plane!! An allergy attack where no ambulance can be called, no hospital…

Helena Lake 2 years ago

That is fantastic and to let you know after traveling internationally for a long time, I often see moms struggling just like you. I always carry enough calming essential oils for not only myself but for all those moms trying to get their children to sleep. I use chamomile or lavender and both have worked miracles more times than I can count. Makes mommy relax too!

    Banner 2 years ago

    Except planes are a public area and therefore you have to consider what effects your actions have on others, such as those of use with allergies to things like lavender. Putting essential oils on plane air vents is NOT a good idea.

      Carolina Elena 2 years ago

      Well said!!!

Killian Whelan 3 years ago

Me too, about the kid licking everything lmao!

Killian Whelan 3 years ago

Most babies cry from the terrible pain in their ears from the pressure inside the cabin, and most toddlers scream just because they can. I understand it is annoying in a supermarket or restaurant when the parent should have child in hand (or at home) but travel is sometimes necessary to life, even to those with children. Oh and NO one here is trying not to sound judgmental- you must be missing the fact that EVERY mommy here IS judging you, and finding you lacking. YOUR judgmental attitude and unintelligent comebacks (bitches be triflin??) are pathetic. This post is for other moms (and understanding dads) out there that have been through this and know what the hell they are talking about. You have no clue, and no reason to be criticizing/ harassing the other readers of scary MOMMY.

Killian Whelan 3 years ago

Talia Gamble Apparently Lane ^ is a man, lol I know, I wouldn't have guessed from the name either. To me that is his first problem- reading scary Mommy and having no friggin clue what it is i guess. And obviously he doesn't have children or he wouldn't be such an ass to say things like "your child is trying to get away from you." He is a freaking idiot who has no business criticizing someone who has a job harder and more enriching than anything he will ever experience. Please no one hand a child to THIS guy… but I hope to god though that this jerk has his own little hellraiser someday, and that he, OH NO!, has to take it with him somewhere!!!

Sarah Pascoe 3 years ago

Lane Topletz: and if the trip is the last chance to see a dying family member? Your annoyance for the couple of hours that a plane trip lasts is not worth depriving a child of a last chance to be with a loved one. If the trip is because the family is moving? Perhaps due to the loss of the other spouse in a combat zone and they can't live in military housing anymore? Not all plane rides are to go to a vaccation destination. Try to remember you know nothing of the other person's life next time, and have some compassion.

Carol 3 years ago

Don’t assume that people are just being condescending when offering to help. I always offer help when I see people struggling through airports…most recently, a family was racing for a flight…the mom was pushing the baby in a stroller and the dad was struggling with a giant car seat and three large carry on bags. I raced up to him, grabbed the car seat and we ran on together quite happily. Until we caught up to the mom and she freaked out and forced him to take the car seat back.

Robin Goretsky Monti 3 years ago

2) barf bag puppets!

Robin Goretsky Monti 3 years ago

My airplane tips: wrap a few little presents and give to kid every 45 minutes or so

Yvette Cendes 3 years ago

Flew to Europe when I was a kid every summer. It was the only time my mom found bribery acceptable. (Funny thing tho is I am still conditioned to do this for myself. "Yay time for a new magazine!")

Nicole Mischler 3 years ago

Robin Goretsky Monti oh yeah, that is supposed to be a good one too although I haven't done that one yet.

Nicole Mischler 3 years ago

good article, especially the tip about kids making their own toys out of cups, straws, etc. Mine spent many happy hours lifting the armrest up and down.

Jillian Byrd 3 years ago

Lane Topletz Yeah, because a 3 month old has a concept of "crappy parents" and "hoping someone will help". I don't have kids of my own, in fact I seriously dislike 99% of the children in this world. But even *I* understand that a newborn can't be reasoned with, and will cry until whatever is bothering them is gone or taken care of. Now, the 5 year old running around screaming like a maniac for no reason … yeah, that one needs to be taken to the bathroom and spanked.

Lane Topletz 3 years ago

For people trying not to sound judgmental and trying to get the world to sympathize with you, it would help to not use sarcastic, derogatory terms like "yuppie" or "panties in a twist". Maybe people could take you seriously. I've a pretty solid basis for why your children cry so much: they're trying to get away from you and by crying they hope strangers will intervene. But we won't, because we dislike you, the terrible parent, more than we dislike your crying baby, and the fact you were ignorant enough to bring him along for a flight or family trip he/she won't even remember. I swear to god Jennifer Kunofsky, bitches be triflin'!

    Eva 2 years ago

    What are you doing reading this article you wierdo? You obviously don’t have kids. Just feel like being negative? I’m about to travel with my kids and found this article very helpful as well the productive comments by other mums. You can piss off. I hope you’re on my flight just so I can annoy you haha!

Lane Topletz 3 years ago

For people trying not to sound judgmental and trying to get the world to sympathize with you, it would help to not use sarcastic, derogatory terms like "yuppie" or "panties in a twist". Maybe people could take you seriously. I've a pretty solid basis for why your children cry so much: they're trying to get away from you and by crying they hope strangers will intervene. But we won't, because we dislike you, the terrible parent, more than we dislike your crying baby, and the fact you were ignorant enough to bring him along for a flight or family trip he/she won't even remember. I swear to god Jennifer Kunofsky, bitches be triflin'!

Jennifer Kunofsky 3 years ago

Yes they are panda! God love them all but jesus it gets to much sometimes lol

Jennifer Kunofsky 3 years ago

Yes they are panda! God love them all but jesus it gets to much sometimes lol

Cathi Peterson-White 3 years ago

First of all, what's some kidless guy doing posting on Scary Mommy??? I just love these people that are so enlightened and tolerant except where children are concerned. Because you were never a child I guess?! We'd hate for a random kid to ruin your completely cliche, yuppie vacation. Imagine the horror, it's not all about you. Gasp!

Talia Gamble 3 years ago

Wow Lane, your panties must be in a twist. You must not have children yet. Sometimes it is IMPOSSIBLE to quiet a kid down on a plane, especially a bored and whiny toddler. Develop some empathy and maybe distract the kid for the poor harried mother or offer your assitance instead of being a grade A sanctibitch.

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Joyanna Jenkins James 3 years ago

Ditto on the breast-feeding Rebecca . . . until they seat an inebriated sailor (in uniform!) next to you and he asks if he can "have some of that." True story!!

Jen O’Neal Batmanian 3 years ago

perhaps you should get a clue. for starters, your comment was rude and unnecessary. secondly, your attitude is what is wrong with the world. do you think we enjoy having a kid that is acting up on a plane? especially a baby with whom rationalizing is impossible? lemme guess- you don't have kids? when my son was 14 months old and just had started walking (he was 5 weeks premature so he was late starting), there was no stopping him. he wanted up. he cried, he fussed, he struggled to get free. we flew from NJ to los angeles, and he was a monster the whole way. i cried the entire flight. and not just little puddles of tears, i sobbed. the lady next to me was sweet enough to hold him for a bit while i tried to pull myself together. she told me to ignore the stares- that they most likely didn't have kids and didn't get it, but one day when they had their own, they would. the parents of the offending child are most likely hating what is going on more than you do. so cut people some slack. one day you may need the compassion yourself.

Beth 3 years ago

Thanks for the tips! We are traveling across country pretty soon (with a three year old and a six month old), and I am pretty anxious about it. We had people recommend Benadryl, but I didn’t realize it might backfire. Definitely going to have Dum-Dums and hand sanitizer readily available.

Duncan Faber 3 years ago

For me, the secret to traveling with my little girl is to always pack an extra pair of leggings in my carry on. That way if she spills something on her pants, or gets cold, it’s easy for her to slip them on. My daughter’s favorite brand is but obviously there are lots of places to get them.

Avasmom 3 years ago

One more thing- those dum dums can pop right off the stick when a toddler is twisting around and could be a choking hazard- sorry to be a buzzkill

Avasmom 3 years ago

Can I just say, what is the deal with parents giving their child Benadryl for any reason that is is not intended? My friends do this- I don’t get it. You are literally drugging your child. Shakin my damn head

Lane Topletz 3 years ago

"DON’T let crabby men get to you".
If by "crabby old men" you mean every single passenger on the plane, then yes, blame the other people on the plane for getting mad that your baby is shrieking inside a closed metal box with 140 other people in it.

get a clue..

Jeannette 3 years ago

These are so true. Emphasis on don’t bring toys that make noise! I haven’t worked up the courage to right my memoir of the first flight with two under two. I still have nightmares about it.

Jessica Smock 3 years ago

This is really useful actually! I flew with my son when he was a baby and it was much easier than the nightmare scenario that I had been fearing. Be very nice to the flight attendants and they will help you during the whole flight! He just mostly slept. I dread the day (very soon) that I will have to fly with my toddler.

Rebecca Greene 3 years ago

Some kids react badly to that so you need to test it out before hand. The easiest thing is traveling with a breast feeding infant…any sound they make just plug it up and then they sleep…amazing….then they wean and the fun times begin….

Mercy 3 years ago

We are planning a move from India to Canada soon, and of course that means long flights, layovers, etc. with 3 little kids. I’m gonna need all the sanity savers I can get.

Melanie Ferris 3 years ago

Bahahah!!! Spider monkey on crack!! 3 years ago

Ha very interestingly written post love the one about the older woman with manicured hands reading people magazine. We too recently shared a similar post on tips for travelling with babies on long haul flights, mostly for Indians flying back home from USA would love to get your insights on it. We would love to share your post with our followers!

KRB89 3 years ago

This is awesome, and all of it is so very true. I’m going to print and pass out on our next flight-LOL! I hope Tom is flying is with us.

Jo Layne De Yong 3 years ago

hahahah, that is super funny!

Andrea, Passports And Pushchairs 3 years ago

There will always be the cranky ‘person (ahem, Tom) who complains that they need peace so they can work on a flight, and that they too paid for their seat. Hmm, I would bet their work pays for all those flights those ever so important business people take. Guess what? I am not taking my kids across the ocean to just ‘see grandma’. I am doing it because ‘grandma’ has just as much right to see her grandkids as anyone and, well, life happens, and living far apart happens. Thank God for airplanes when relatives get too old/sick/whatever to travel to you. I wouldn’t begrudge anyone the right to see family – or even just see the world – because it may inconvenience someone working on a $2 million contract (psst – if you are still working on it during the flight? Well, good luck there). Invest in some good headphones, I hear Bose makes ones that block all sound, drink some wine, and settle in. Until a child-free airline is created we ALL have the same right to fly the friendly skies. Don’t presume every child will be loud, or noisy, or ill behaved. And I can promise you, with everything in me, that flying with kids is WAY more stressful for the parents than for their fellow passengers. Truth.

Lollipops, m&ms, ipads and stickers save our sanity on every flight we go on, and we go on a lot of long flights.

Tracy 3 years ago

I know airlines want to pack as many people in as they can but I have always thought they need to make the last row of seats on one side of the plane a changing table with a curtain that can be pulled around. I know that wouldn’t cut he smell, but would be much easier than trying to change a childs diaper in your lap. Or maybe a pull-down changing table behind the toilet in the restroom.

Sabrina 3 years ago

I am with you on the Benadryl. Not quite the same but I tried Benadryl on my dog once when he had to fly, under my vets advisement. Yeah. Never again. Speaking of cracked out spider monkey’s…

More often than not, I’m that person who sympathizes with the parents on the plane. Is it painful to listen to a baby screaming? Sure. Do I want to feel them kicking my seat? No. Do I enjoy the smell of a poopy diaper? Hell, no. But most times mom and dad are doing the best they can. A little patience goes a looooong way.

And, I’d rather that than some adults I deal with on planes. I despise listening to some random adults half hour long extremely personal conversation at the top of thier lungs in my ear through the entire boarding process. That same person is almost always inevitably someone who:
1) will refuse to turn off their phone once instructed.
2) will usually end up being very high-maintencance for the flight crew.
3) falls asleep and ends up on top of you.
4) will try to talk to YOU once you’re in the air.
5) always has WAY too much carry-on crap and ends up bleeding into your already cramped space.
6) Turns the phone back on the SECOND the plane touches ground and continues their extremely personal conversation.

Yeah. Bring on the crying baby.

Tanya 3 years ago

Love this, My kindle has been a lifesaver while traveling with my 4 year old. I let him pick out a few tv shows and games beforehand and I wont let him watch or play them until we are on the plane. It worked like a charm my last flight.

Laura 3 years ago

I’ve had enough nightmare experiences flying with kids that I try hard not to remember that I cannot endorse your advice heartily enough!

Of course, it’s even more fun when your child is the only person on the plane not afraid during a bad flight. Like when you’re flying through a massive thunderstorm, the plane suddenly drops 1000 feet in an air pocket, drinks go flying everywhere and the flight attendant has to hang onto her cart (that also lifts off the floor) to keep from hitting the ceiling of the plane, and everyone is panicking — and your 5-year-old son cries out, “Whee! This is like a roller coaster! Do it again!” I think I got nastier looks that time that any time a child of mine was crying!

And then there’s the slightly older unaccompanied children. Last time I was on an airplane, I was by myself and trying to watch a video on my tablet by myself, and bless the flight attendant, she pulled out her iPad and gave it to the 8-year-old flying alone sitting next to me to keep him from trying to hijack mine. Never send a child under 12 flying alone without something electronic, people! That flight attendant seriously saved my sanity; it was a 5.5-hour flight.

As someone with grown children now, on long flights I’ll offer to walk a baby up and down the aisle for exhausted parents who are trying to keep their toddler spider monkey on crack occupied. That’s usually a very popular move because it’s not like you can make off with the kid! Plus it gives me a baby fix. :-)

As someone who no longer has to fly with small children, I realize it’s not my responsibility to take care of them. But having been there, the least I can do is give a frustrated and exhausted parent a sympathetic smile. A little gesture goes a long way; even just knowing there’s one single person on the plane who doesn’t hate your screaming child seems to help far more than it should.

But the key is survival. Whatever it takes, people. Electronics and junk food are your friends!

Travel with Bender 3 years ago

So funny. My kids are really good flyers and I've not had most of these problems. But the top picture just got me.. That she does to everyone. Just stares at them lol.

Kate Chalmers 3 years ago

Benadryl isn't a great idea for a lot of kids though. We have to carry it for emergency allergy reasons so wouldn't consider using it for anything else. It actually has the opposite effect on about 40% of kids according to our pediatrician. And I've seen it on a recent plane journey. Hyper toddler and parents wondering what happened.

meandmy243 3 years ago

Thank you I’m flying tonight with my 7yr old.

Alison Armstrong 3 years ago

I LOVED reading this. And #5 actually made me laugh out loud at my desk. I’m laminating this list and keeping it in my suitcase.

Christine DiSaia 3 years ago

Benadryl is my traveling friend.

Monkey’s Mama 3 years ago

We’ve flown just once with my son, who was 10 months old at the time and I think I spent about two months asking everyone I knew who’d flown with kids for advice. I packed three bags worth of food, toys, books, diapers and anything else I could think of and my son fell asleep during the taxi to take off and didn’t wake up until we’d gotten to our destination. My husband thought it was hilarious but I don’t think I’d ever been more anxious in my life. I did NOT want to be THAT FAMILY with the screaming baby because I was very worried about encountering someone like good old “Tom” up there.

I guess my only advice for parents who are going to take their kids on a plane for the first time is listen to Joelle and try not to worry too much about the possibilities of encountering the infamous “CBC douchecanoes” because surprisingly they are few and far between. It just seems like there are more of them because they like to announce themselves loudly and proudly everywhere.

Rebecca Greene 3 years ago

Licking everything….almost peed myself laughing….great…I am thankful my kids are now old enough to sit plugged in to the entertainment console in the seat back for the whole flight. As kids my parents managed to fly all over the world with three very small kids. How did they manage….pediatric sedative….lol….so that was what the spoonful of jelly in the terminal was all about.

Sara Thompson 3 years ago

I’ve never braved an airplane with my son (who is now 16) but we did a cross country trip by train and it was wonderful because he could run and play. The train wasn’t so crowded on the way there but really crowded on the way back – however they provided some entertainment and there was plenty of space to wiggle and escape.

Your post made me think of a time in a parenting group when we started talking about traveling with our kids. The leader said if you get on a plane with a child who is difficult then that child has a cold and Nyquil is your friend (my son gets hyper on Nyquil so I completely understand the backfire but it was the funniest thing I had ever heard).

Tom 3 years ago

As a CBC (Childless By Choice) who flies about 100k miles a year for my work, I appreciate the advice you are giving and even the implication that the whole plane is not there to assist you.
I do take issue with the assumption that anyone who reacts to your screaming child as they are throwing “chucking their toys three aisles down” with any amount of disdain is a “crabby old man”:
1) The lack of appreciation for the behavior your child is exhibiting and the impact it is having on our travel experience (we paid for our seat too) does not define us as crabby. Better that you consider that look to be of a more informative nature; letting you know that your child is disturbing other passengers and being rude.
2) Not everyone is on “vacation”. Some of us are on the way to work, returning from work, or actually working during the flight. It’s really sweet that you are taking your kids cross country to see Grandma, but that doesn’t mean that you have the right to impose your plans on the rest of us. I’ll let your kid scream all he wants if you are willing to help me finish up this 2 million dollar contract and prepare for the meeting I am heading to.
3) Not all of us are old, or men. The fact that you have children was your choice. There are many of us who have chosen otherwise. Many of us made this decision when were young. We respect your choice to have children. Do not expect us to be there for you to “help you pick up the slack”. If you choose to be a vegetarian, great…just don’t put tofu on my plate when I order a steak.
4) Changing a diaper is not “cute”. It is a terribly unhygienic. It may be an unavoidable fact of parenthood, but it is unhygienic nonetheless. Would you change a diaper on the table at a nice restaurant with people sitting around you trying to eat? Would you change a diaper on a crowded city bus with people sitting and standing all around you? NO. So what makes ANYONE think it is appropriate to change a diaper in the seat of a moving airplane??? It is scary how many times this has actually been attempted on my flights. Do you not realize that people are trying to consume food and beverages around you? Do you not realize that flights experience turbulence? This is the most glaring example of the “parents on airplanes” syndrome and if you accomplish one thing out of your article, I hope it is the education of your readers and other flying-parents that this is NEVER ok, not to mention illegal per health-code for the airlines.

I am on a flight about twice a week and almost every time there is someone who piles on the plane with a load of children that they are ill equipped to handle. The most the rest of us can do is hope they keep walking past us and have to impose their lifestyle choice on someone else.
However, I do want to thank you for many of the proactive pieces of advice you offered here. As a frequent traveler, it would be nice to see people use some common sense and adopt them.

    Penny 3 years ago

    Your response is betraying the exact sense of entitlement that you are accusing parents of small children of having. That plane ticket you bought guarantees you a seat on the airplane, no more. It does not entitle you to a blissful, silent, child-free experience in the air. Whether or not you choose to have children, they do exist and they have every right to be on that aircraft if a ticket was purchased for them. Sitting near you on an airplane is not imposing any kind of lifestyle on you. It’s using a seat that was paid for just like yours was. And that contract you’re working on? Not anyone’s problem but your own.

    It might do you some good to sympathize with the parents rather than condescend to them. That look you are giving them? The one you claim is just to let them know their child is disturbing people? Please. THEY KNOW. But that child is trapped in a tube in the air and there is no “let’s take the kid out for a walk to cool off.”

    Sure, there are parents who don’t plan ahead, who don’t tell their kid to quit kicking the seat in front of them, and who don’t care who is bothered. But for those of who do care and are mortified enough that our children are acting out, your attitude only makes it worse.

    I will give you your point #4, because I fully agree that changing a diaper anywhere but in the bathroom (which is crazy difficult, granted) is unacceptable.

    But please stop assuming that you are any more important that anyone else on that plane, no matter what the reason for your trip. A paid ticket is a paid ticket. Get over yourself.

      Tom 3 years ago


      With all due respect. Nobody has yet to complain that there are children on a plane or present in general. No one expects a plane ticket to entitle them to a “blissfull, silent, child free experience”. However, on that note, it also does not entitle you or you child to be rude and disruptive.
      If your child cannot be on a plane without being a ill tempered little monster, perhaps you should consider the advice and practice of some of the more considerate parents out there who choose to travel by road. The fact that your child is on an airplane is your fault, not ours. Take responsibility for your decisions and actions.
      Never did I assume that I was MORE important than anyone else on the plane. I assume that I am as EQUALLY important as anyone else on the plane. That is the part you are apparently misunderstanding: When you find it acceptible for me to scream, run up and down the aisle, and throw things at yout or other passengers when on a plane, then we will find it acceptable when you children do it to us.

      Mama and the City 3 years ago


      Unless you pay for a private ride, there is no other way than to be tolerant. Plain and simple.

      An 8 month old baby, at least has an excuse.

    Monkey’s Mama 3 years ago

    Say what you will but you are most definitely that crabby man (old or not) on the plane. You were once a child and I’m sure your parents dealt with at least once instance (air travel or otherwise) where you had a total and complete meltdown in front of a ton of strangers and were entirely inconsolable. Do you think that the poor parents of the screaming child on your plane are not horribly embarrassed or AWARE of the fact that they are the focus of a lot of peoples’ attention, angry, sympathetic or otherwise? You don’t the first clue about why that family is on that plane and it’s certainly not always “just to visit Gramma”. Next time you come across a blog like this (although I’m still baffled as to what brought you to this page. Do you frequently search for articles about children just so you can leave asinine comments like this?) I suggest you keep your opinions to yourself. I’m sure your mother taught you the rule of “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all” and I’ll bet she’d be ashamed to see you spouting your garbage in such a forum. Go back to your $2 million contracts, Mr Big Shot.

      Alison Armstrong 3 years ago

      Sounds like Tom needs a cocktail. Or two.

        Joelle Wisler 3 years ago

        Totally. Guess Karma might still be chasing him.

          Pam 3 years ago

          Lol! Poor Tom. What is he doing on Scary Mommy, anyway?

          When you’re free let’s get those two martinis. I can’t wait till our kids are grown. I just want to celebrate your first hater comment! (Or is it the first?)

        Dad 1 year ago

        Three words: Beats by Dre

    Kelly 3 years ago

    Tom you made excellent points & I agree that parents should be much more mindful of these things while traveling with children. If they can avoid it, do not bring a baby or small child on the plane. It’s not fair to the other passengers to endure two and a half hours of your baby screaming or your child talking loudly & kicking their seat throughout the flight. People pay a lot of money to fly, and many have to fly for their jobs & use that flight time to prepare documents or catch a much needed nap. It’s about being thoughtful, and considering that the other 175 passengers aren’t amused that you brought an infant that messes itself & screams on the plane…keep that in mind when you consider flying with a little one. The sooner people realize that the world does not revolve around their kid, the better. And my god, if you are that disgusting to change a diaper while sitting in your seat, you should be arrested when your plane lands…no one wants to get sick from your kid’s excrement. Hand, Foot, & Mouth sound like fun to you? Get a damn brain & change them in the plane bathroom or don’t fly with a baby like the rest of us moms who practice common sense.

      Ariana 3 years ago

      I’m a little late to this party, but feel compelled to respond to both Tom and Kelly. I offer these points:
      1. Children, especially babies are unpredictable. The perfectly well behaved child one day, can act completely different the next, all we parents can do is react, and hope that we are reacting appropriately and effectively. Guess what? Sometimes we get it wrong!
      2. There are situations that can induce panic…and panic can lead to poor decisions. Poop causes panic (as does vomit).
      3. No one WANTS to bring a baby on a plane. Sometimes life necessitates it though. You have know idea why this family is traveling, how much time they had to prepare for the flight, or how much experience they have. Lighten up, that mom maybe on her way to see her wounded husband in the hospital across the country…Unless you’ve taken the time to ask you don’t know, but it sounds like the limit of your interaction with the mom is sending her that look that says “hey, just thought you might want to know, your baby is being loud and rude”.
      4. Your attitude is unhelpful, and unproductive…it won’t change the behavior of future travelers or your “flying experience”. What is helpful? Offering to help the mom put her bag in the overhead while she seats the baby. Maybe offering to keep an eye on her 8 year old while she takes her 8 month old to the restroom to change its diaper. Offering a scrap of paper for the toddler to doodle on. These are small kindnesses that even the smallest hearted person can manage, and could make a huge difference to the mother.

      Andrea, Passports And Pushchairs 3 years ago

      Some of us don’t have a choice but to fly. We have family in another part of the world, and if we want to see them there is no other way to get there than to fly. The world also doesn’t revolve around those who don’t want to share a very public space with babies or children, we all have to find a way to share it, peacefully, which means parents have to work to keep their kids quiet and people flying without kids have to recognize that a plane is nothing else than a vessel that gets you from point a to point b. It isn’t a place to relax, or to expect that you can get work done. You may be able to, and that would be great, but if it isn’t a child (which, by the way, way to presume all babies and kids will be terrible) it is the man snoring behind you, or the woman wearing too much perfume in front of you, or the person taking up more of your ‘space’ than they should. Not flying with babies isn’t ‘common sense’, it is a choice you make. I choose to fly with mine, to show them the world, to see their family, and to get them used to it. By the way? Sometimes we even fly business class. The horror. Yet we have never had a meltdown/screaming fit/crying for hours episode on any of the many flights we have been on.

      We were all babies once. I know it is easy to forget.

    Sara 3 years ago

    An eight-month-old baby is rude? Hahaha. That’s a good one. I’ll tell my daughter that next time she has a random breakdown. “Quiet sweetie, this behavior is rude.” That will go over swimmingly.

    You do realize that not all people have children with your discomfort in mind, correct?

    Evelyn 2 years ago

    We all impose on others lives styles so suck it up! I impose in others smoking next to me and making my environment not breathable! I impose in the fact that others flight so much to make millions yet contaminating our environment. I impose in others becoming rich while others are becoming poorer and sicker. I hope you get my point because you also chose the life style to flight out of country to make a living!

Carrie 3 years ago

Oh, wow….most all of these would have come in handy with my 15-year old last month!

I’m not sure they ever get over the “thrill” of flying!

Brenda Dion 3 years ago

I take long car trips with my kids and I agree survival is survival! You do what you have to do. I would add to this list, bring at least one change of clothes (maybe even one for yourself!). I’ll never forget bringing my newly adopted daughter home from Saint Petersburg, I had packed four extra outfits (just in case) for this day and by the first hour (of a total 24 hour trip) we were down three outfits with one to go! We didn’t bring a change of clothes for ourselves so we came out of customs stained with pee, vomit and god knows what else but grinning from ear to ear to finally be HOME.

Hana 3 years ago

This is why I refuse to fly with my kids! They will see every in of California before I get in a plane with them and not before they are into their teens.

    sue 3 years ago

    Teens?? A 8 year old is not old enough to be well behaved on a plane? What kind of kids are you raising?

Wendy 3 years ago

I once was traveling by train with my 6 y.o., and 2 1/2 y.o. (just 3 weeks out of diapers). We’re sitting in Penn station, NYC with two large suitcases, backpack, and other assorted carrying devices, when my 2 y.o. has to pee, really bad. I’m trying to figure out how I’m going to bring two kids and all our luggage in to the bathroom, and the screaming begins -“I can’t hold it! I’m going to wet my pants! MOMMY, I gotta go!” What to do, what to do? There was not a porter or cop any where in sight, and there was no way to carry everything, and no way I was going to leave all our stuff sitting there. Panic started to set in, but then my 6 y.o. very calmly said, “Mom, you take her, I’ll stay here with the luggage,” and I grabbed the little one and ran to the bathroom. She’s sitting there happily doing her thing, when suddenly it hits me – I left a 6 y.o. alone in Penn station!!!! OMG, am I insane????? I quickly wiped the tot, grabbed her up, and ran back out. My big boy was clearly a little nervous, but fine. A very nice gentleman came to me and said he was keeping an eye on him, and understood my dilemma. I wished he would have told me that before! 22 years later I still think back on that and shutter, and curse the person who dropped us off, rather wait with us!

Maura 3 years ago

We travel by air about 3-4 times a year, and this will be the first year that we can’t carry our son on our lap. I’m hoping the frequency of travel will eventually make him immune to acting up, but in the meantime, I agree with being armed with drink and snacks; maybe a small toy or two and some books. We also try to schedule flights around his nap time so he will be naturally inclined to sleep. Also, change his diaper just before boarding – I know, he could still potentially “poop” midway, but odds are you’re saving yourself the trouble of a wee wee leak if you are proactive. Happy flying!

Amanda 3 years ago

So funny!! We didn’t even attempt flying while our twins were little.

grownandflown 3 years ago

We are two moms at that “martini-people magazine-manicure stage” now and remember all too well the nightmarish condition you describe of traveling around the country (and sometimes across the ocean) with our very young kids. Great list – I would only add this: make sure to retrieve your child’s lovely from the carry on security belt. We once left behind our son’s stuffed rabbit in Orlando which we, fortunately, realized before it was too late.

catina 3 years ago

Everything you mention is sooo true! Thank goodness my kids are ipad junkies now and just past toddler age. Now we just have poop issues during flights!

Nuts about food 3 years ago

I laughed through the whole post, remembering some of those moments. Incidentally, I am taking an intercontinental flight the day after tomorrow with my two kids, and am suddenlyfeeling a little panicky. I wonder why? I must stock up on snacks and lollipops.I already packed the hand sanitizer. Oh, by the way, we also use the “poop on everything” story with our son (never needed it with out daughter… must be a boy thing to lick everything around).

Amanda 3 years ago

Unfortunately for us, air travel is the necessary evil of living halfway ’round the world from family. The last trip we took, my spider-monkey-on-crack (then) 2 year old screamed for almost an entire 18 hour journey (with several flights and layovers) while DH slept beside us for the first 9 hour flight. I was never so happy to get off of that plane!

I’m hoping that DS3 be preoccupied by the ipad for the next flight, but at least it’s not going to be as long as the trip to Hong Kong!

    CaleyDog 3 years ago

    Wow. Wish MY mom had known spider monkeys on crack and pot-induced amounts of time. How proud your kids will be when they read your earlier work! More seriously, if I’m limited to two drinks on a plane, can’t smoke and/or have to sit next to someone who needs to purchase two seats, do I REALLY have to listen to someone spawning offspring like a spider monkey on crack herself call me a grumpy old man and warn me about negative karma? (You’re going for a third? Did I read that right? Are your genes THAT vital to the world’s future?) Wouldn’t it be far easier for the Hong Kong contingent to come visit you rather than you subjecting 200+ others to your little cherubs’ vocal stylings? I’d think about that karma thing a bit more.

      Amanda 3 years ago

      Was this comment directed at me or the author of the article?

      If it was directed at me: No, it wouldn’t have been easier for the Hong Kong family to visit us. We were going to see DH’s grandmother who was on her deathbed. If you’re the type of person to need alcohol, a nicotine fix and peace and quiet on a flight, I suggest you buy noise cancelling headphones and Nicorette patches for your next trip. Unfortunately children get bored, tired, overstimulated and want to run around, and sometimes there’s not much that the parents can do about it. Being “that guy” on the flight who complains about every.single.thing is worse than a screaming child IMO.

Tinne from Tantrums and Tomatoes 3 years ago

And this is why we have avoided air-travel like the plague ever since we had kids. Ok, car trips are no picknick either but at least you can let them out for 15min every hour to run wild and scream at the top of their lungs.

rebecca at thisfineday 3 years ago

Ha ha ha- must be the season. I just posted today about the same topic after our flight back from Hawaii last night! I forgot about the hand sanitizer! I did this too when my kids were super young. I used to give them the sanitizer wipes so they could clean the plane. This seriously occupied them for at least 15 minutes, which is like a lifetime on a plane! ha ha ha. I didn’t sanitize once this last trip.. man hope they aren’t barfing in a day or two!


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