Thursday, March 14, 2013

Flying with kids - 5 rules-of-behaviour to follow on board

When you're on an airplane with your kids, you will probably feel a bit stressed out at some point. No matter how experienced a traveler you are, and how well-behaved your children are, it's just a fact of life that most regular kids will not behave as perfect angels for the duration of a long-haul flight.

In my experience though, most kids do OK on flights, even long ones. Yes, they can get bored and fidgety, and sometimes they cry, but on the many flights I've taken, I've never seen children totally out of control. Kids are people too of course, and if they're tired, hungry, scared or uncomfortable they might act out rather than tell you what's wrong. I've seen some adults act a lot worse than most kids I've traveled with, and they have way fewer excuses in my opinion!

Still, there are certain behaviours that should be avoided at (almost) all costs on board a plane. And most parents know that with kids, especially younger ones, you better pick your battles and focus on stuff that is REALLY important, rather than nag them about every little thing. So here are my 5 most important rules on board:

Behave, or the t-rex will get you!
1. No kicking the seat in front
Nobody wants to get kicked in the back every two seconds, so to preserve peace and good-will on the plane, this is my number one no-no for the kids: squirm in your own seat if you must, but don't kick the seat in front of you.

2. No tugging on the tray table
This is just as bad as kicking the seat, since the effect is pretty much the same for the poor passenger in front of you. The tray table can be rather irresistible for kids, so it's best to keep an eye on this and lay down the law as soon as you can. Using the tray-table is alright, but don't pound on it, or tug on it so that it causes distress for others.

3. No screaming (unless you're really in pain)
Let's face it: sometimes kids get loud. This is when we as parents sometimes tell them to use their "indoor voices". On the plane, indoor voice is important. Babies can cry: they don't have any other way of telling adults if something is wrong, so they're excused. I tell my kids they can whine and complain to me if they like, but please, no loud voices. With everyone in cramped, close quarters on a flight, too much noise is not a good thing.

See, perfect angels...
4. Always clean your hands after going to the bathroom
This rule is good all the time, everywhere, but I especially enforce it when we're on a plane. Why? Because airplane bathrooms are very, very cramped and very, very dirty. Anyone who goes in there will touch something that makes them pick up unwanted germs. Antibacterial hand-wipes and hand-sanitizer is a must to reduce the risk of catching a cold, flu or stomach-bug.

5. When you board the plane: get into your seat right away
When people board the plane, they should get out of the aisle and into their seats as fast as possible. Get your carryons out of the way immediately, or sit down and do it later. Standing in the aisle means you're holding up the entire boarding process, and that other passengers will have to stand around and wait for way too long. I enforce this rule for my kids when we board a flight, and would like to be able to enforce it for every adult on the plane too. My kids (and most other kids I've seen) usually get into their seats quickly, while adults often stand around fiddling with bags, coats, cameras, newspapers, headphones, laptops, tablets... forever.

Bonus rule: help out if you can. If you see a fellow passenger that needs help entertaining a child, getting their carry-on out of the overhead compartment, finding a pen that fell on the floor... help out. Small acts of kindness can go a long way on a long flight.


  1. I have to admit the one thing I continually nag my son about on a flight is stop playing with the tray table.

    I am then continually apologising to the person in front.

    I totally agree about getting out of the aisle. Whilst for me it seems natural for others (with or without kids) they seem to think the rest of the plane is happy to wait for them to settle.


    1. Thank you for the kind words! And yes, people hogging the aisle is a very big pet peeve of mine. I understand that sometimes people need to in order to get their stuff in order, but they could at least wait until everyone has boarded.

  2. This really is a useful article, there is nothing quite like taking children on holiday. No sooner have you just pulled off the drive in your car when you hear those words "Are we there yet"?I always have her favorite toys and some snacks to take away her boredom.


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