Imagine this: You’re on a plane, about to take off to a destination for a holiday you’ve been planning for months. However, as soon as the flight takes off, a kid starts crying–and darn it, that kid is yours. So, you can’t even shoot yourself a frustrated glare.

As a pre-kid flyer, I myself have been in a situation where I got extremely frustrated over kids fussing on a plane. I’ve even had the most inconsiderate thought: “Little kids shouldn’t be allowed to fly.” I mean, what a jerk, right?

Now that I am a parent, I understand it isn’t that simple. Sometimes, even though flying with kids is hard work, what’s even more challenging is trying to deal with or control inconsiderate flyers like I once was. Look, I get it — the incessant crying is a massive turn-off and can really change your in-flight experience. But we, as caregivers, deal with that daily and trust me when I tell you, these little ones — despite how wild they may seem — mean no harm and are often doing their best.

So, whether you’re a frequent flyer with or without kids, here are some tips for a peaceful flight when some are on board.

POV: Parents with little ones

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Travelling with your kids is one of the best lessons you can teach them in life. It exposes them to new cultures, places, and adventures, amongst a few. But for parents, going somewhere with kids sometimes leads to a mixture of excitement and apprehension. But it doesn’t have to be that way! Flying well with children is possible, believe it or not, and here are some dos and don’ts.

Keeping your child in check

Some parents may roll their eyes at this one because let’s face it–it’s not that easy! I can relate completely with this one as my secondborn can sometimes be unpredictable, and being such a ferocious three-year-old (read: threenager), she simply hates being told what to do.

But here’s what I found helped when flying with kids: pep talk. And you obviously cannot do this while they’re having a full-blown meltdown. Prior to boarding the plane, we had quick conversations about how to carry ourselves in public.

Before you even buckle up in your seats, advise your kids that they shouldn’t be messing with buttons or simply go around touching stuff. Remind them of the rules.

Nap time is everything

Travelling across time zones or simply dealing with the excitement of travel can disrupt the sleep routine of little ones. Try your best to book flights during your child’s nap time. If not, bring cosy blankets and pillows to make them comfortable enough to catch some Zs on board. A well-rested child often equates to a more enjoyable flight for everyone involved.

Plan ahead

Image by Taylor Heery

It comes as no surprise that being parents, planning ahead is your entire life, but when it comes to prepping for a flight, a little extra planning is required. Pack their favourite snacks, toys, and books to keep them engaged during the flight.

To preempt potential meltdowns, have plenty of activities on hand to cater to their ever-changing interests (and moods). And remember, the in-flight entertainment is lifesaving for parents, so load those tablets or phones with kid-friendly shows. While you’re at it, get them kid-friendly headphones too. The hours will fly by!

If you’re not too keen on your little ones having screen time, prep some colouring books, card games, fun workbooks, and miniature toys!

Communicate with fellow passengers

I personally feel going around giving fellow travellers a ‘Sorry, I’m travelling with a kid or baby’ kit is a bit too much. Have we become so inconsiderate as a society that we must put this sort of guilt onto caregivers? However, I do agree with communicating with your fellow passengers.

Greet those sitting near you with a polite smile, and maybe give a friendly heads up for any potential disruptions. This lets them know you’re also considering their comfort during the flight.

Pack lots of snacks

Airplane food has never been good unless you’re in Business or First Class, but after the multiple lockdowns, the quality has dropped even more. And they’re not always the most kid-friendly options. Take it from this mother of two: bring snacks and lots of them!

Opt for easy-to-pack items that won’t create a mess –– small crackers, sliced fruits, and bite-sized sandwiches. Just remember to be mindful of any allergies your child or others on the flight might have.

POV: Child-free flyers

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For many people, especially those with no kids or older ones, flying presents us an opportunity to relax, catch up on reading, or even take a quick nap. But what happens when the seat next to you is occupied by a pint-sized passenger? Here are some handy tips which I hope will be useful for a peaceful flight experience.

Offer to help

It costs absolutely nothing to be kind, and more often than not, parents will decline your offer to lend a helping hand. But trust me, the gesture is appreciated. If you see a parent juggling bags, children, and whatever else, it should evoke sympathy, so ask if they would like help. Small gestures of kindness can make the journey smoother for everyone.

Try your best not to judge

As flyers with no kids, it’s easy to assume that every child on the plane will ‘misbehave’, from making loud noises to kicking seats. But here’s an important reminder: not all kids are the same. Some kids are seasoned travellers who easily adapt to the environment. So, before you even start to roll your eyes at the sight of a kid walking up the aisle, give them a chance to prove you wrong.

Don’t be afraid to nudge parents politely

In the case that it does get a bit too much, it’s okay to kindly and politely express your discomfort to the parents. Most (reasonable) parents are considerate, will understand, and consciously try to soothe their child. Remember, communication is vital to a harmonious flight for all passengers.

The holy grail of peaceful travelling: noise-cancelling headphones

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I’ve heard people complain about crying children on airplanes, which makes me wonder if they know about the existence of noise-cancelling headphones. And yes, a teeny-weeny amount of outside noise may leak in, but if you’re THAT particular, there are always noise-cancelling earplugs. A good pair can transform a crying baby’s wails into mere background noise, allowing you to enjoy your book or music undisturbed.

Ultimately, flying with kids is a shared experience that involves understanding and empathy from everyone involved. Parents want nothing more than for their little ones to be content and comfortable during a flight, so if you see a kid struggling, it’s usually not on purpose. We also hope these dos and don’ts hopefully create a pleasant flying experience for all, regardless of whether there are kids in tow.