There are many reasons why families travel. It’s no easy feat taking small kids on an intercontinental plane ride, and it’s often not a decision we as parents take lightly (trust me, I’d love to save the extra money that goes into flying a family of five across the continent). Being the twat with the screaming kid on the plane is one of the worst parenting moments; almost as embarrassing as being the twat whose kid pooed in the public pool.
Like everyone else, we want a vacation too — but on a deeper level, because giving our children the gift of travel at a young age is one of the biggest gifts we can give them as parents. Travel exposes children to people, cultures and experiences they don’t get back home and allows them to become more tolerant and open minded adults. Those are the same reason you travel too, right?
Yeah we get it, being on a plane with a screaming kid sucks. We know this because before we had children, we were solo travelers too and, yes, we cringed at the sight of a family boarding the airplane. Now we are hogging the front row in economy with baby bassinets, oversized diaper bags, and silently praying that our little angels keep quiet during the flight.
For most parents, preparing a family for air travel takes on the same proportions as planning a military expedition. We pack extra food, clothes and diapers; we even wrap presents as extra little goodies, lovingly prepare their favorite snacks, and try to cover every eventuality — from delays, to medical emergencies — to keep our little angels quiet during the flight.
Any parent knows that two hands are never enough. There’s the diaper bag, the scruffy teddy, the milk bottle, the pacifier, and just when you thought you’re more loaded than a Sherpa on Mount Everest, Little Miss Toddler decides she can’t walk anymore and needs to be carried if you’re looking to make your connecting flight on time.
Try walking up a narrow plane aisle, while 200 other passengers are shoving behind you, and trying to get your oversized diaper bag into the overhead compartment. You could really use a hand, but all you get is a few embarrassed sniggers. Suddenly everyone is either looking out the window, or at the still inactivated screens in front of them.
A friendly smile and an extra hand, if you can spare it, goes a long way. Just sayin’.
Airplanes and airports are the perfect breeding ground for toddler meltdowns. Long check-in queues, passport controls, austere security checks, and more waiting to get on the plane can test anyone’s patience — and that’s all before you even stepped on the plane. There are the 300-plus strange faces to contend with, confined space, neon lights, incessant aircraft noise, and missed naps. When the same situations also apply to you and make you cranky, is it really a wonder why my child is having the meltdown of the century?
We agree, no one likes a screaming child on an airplane, but next time you’re at the receiving end of Little Johnny’s tirade, please know that we are trying our best. If that doesn’t work, crank up your headset, use the complimentary ear plugs, and breathe deeply; we’ve all been at the receiving end of annoying passengers, and it’s not only children.
An Expedia survey found that inattentive parents traveling with unruly children are officially the number one pet peeve of air passengers. There are definitely tone-deaf parents blissfully immersed in their headphones whilst Little Johnny screams like a maniac, and I can’t make excuses for them. But I think that the dude snoring like a walrus is more annoying, or even the Chatty Cathy who just spent the entire 12-hour flight blabbing non-stop about her arthritic knee.
We all have different thresholds of testing our patience and comfort. Wanting to expose my children to the outside world doesn’t make me a bad parent. But maybe if you stop hogging the armrest, pushing your knees into the back of my seat, or remember to shower before boarding, I’ll reconsider bringing my kids abroad.
Priority boarding, special children’s meals, express customs clearance, toys — these are all things that make a huge difference to traveling families, and can be the clincher between a happy child and a meltdown.
Traveling as a parent can be an exhausting experience. No longer are our main concerns whether to choose chicken or beef from the meal trolley, or whether to watch the latest release or have a nap. These days we’re more concerned with sacrificing our shut-eye to keep the little ones rested and calm.
We appreciate every little bit of help the airlines can give us. Flight crews know what they are doing — unlike you, who may experience the annoyance of a child on your flight every so often, they have to deal with it on almost every flight. If you honestly feel like our special treatment comes at your expense, flag down a flight attendant and pony up the $3 for a pair of “special headphones.”