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Child on a Plane IV

Okay, so family travel on airplanes is not a new subject around here: We've chatted about Southwest dumping pre-boarding, the flight attendant vs. a baby, and, of course, the boy who couldn't stop saying, "Bye, bye, plane."

In all cases, it seems, it's the flying world versus those of us with offspring.

And now, well, all I can say is it's summer ... the time when more stories about families flying seem to pop up. So, how could I possibly resist Christopher Elliott's take on whether children should be allowed in first class? Elliott writes for Tribune Media but his story first caught my attention on CNN last week. After making the mistake of seating a Benadryl-dosed toddler in first class with him on an overseas flight, Elliott changed his tune on first-class seats for all future flights. Children do NOT belong in first class, he decided.

Ah, a child-free zone! Just what the average air traveler wants, according to a recent survey by Skytrax, that Elliott quotes. "An overwhelming majority of air travelers to a recent survey by Skytrax -- 9 in 10 respondents -- said families with children should be seated in a separate section on flights, presumably not in first class."

The kids vs. first class column followed an earlier take on the debate over whether kids should be allowed on planes at all. Elliott has changed his tune on this one since having his own children and now agrees that yes, folks, kids should be allowed on airplanes (as though some of us ever thought that should be up for discusssion!).

But, please, mom and dad, bring toys and distractions. Don't let junior spend the entire flight kicking the seat in front of you or otherwise annoying the other passengers. And now that airlines have decided to stop feeding us at regular intervals, bring plenty of refreshments.

It all makes me long for the good 'ol days, when the airlines would give my siblings and me a deck of cards that said "Boston" or "New York" on them, which we happily played the entire flight. Or when they fed us. Or when they didn't tell us to fit all of our travel gear into a rectangular bag only so high and so wide.

Unlike Elliott and his hyper toddler, my own most horrific air travel story followed another path. After a hospital doctor in the D.C. area insisted my then 11-month-old did NOT have RSV and could fly to Utah, we got on the plane. The child did not wake up THE WHOLE WAY to the first stop in Denver. Other passengers commented on how well-behaved the children were and how quiet the baby was. They, of course, were thrilled. I, however, was panicked and had paramedics assess him in Denver -- where he finally did awaken. They cleared him to fly the rest of the way with orders to bring him to the hospital as soon as we arrived.

So, my own advice to all you air travelers out there: Show a little patience and beware of what you ask for.

What are some of your best and worst "with kids" airline travel stories?

By Stacey Garfinkle |  July 7, 2009; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Family Travel
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Comments


Untested Benadryl usage is a common first time parent mistake. We did the same thing and although our daughter was about 2 and we were in coach, I was still mortified that we had given her medicine and she was irritating us and our fellow passengers with her drug induced hyperactivity.

I tend to agree on the 12 and under rule for first class. I think it is akin to taking your toddlers to a swanky 4 or 5 star restaurant, people are paying hundreds of dollars for a meal to listen to your toddler scream? I wouldn't have taken my little ones out in that environment and I appreciate others having the same respect.

Posted by: cheekymonkey | July 7, 2009 7:20 AM | Report abuse

Cheeky - I agree with you completely! I will also say that I always make sure to compliment children who are well behaved be it a restaurant or a plane. It is important that they know people notice and appreciate their good behavior. I always appreciate it when others do the same for me, so I try to pay it forward. Also, if someone does compliment your child, please, please just take the compliment and say "thank you". I cannot tell you how often I have heard "Oh, well that's not how he/she normally is. She's really a terror". Can you imagine how disappointing that must be for the child?

Posted by: moxiemom1 | July 7, 2009 7:53 AM | Report abuse

I just came back from a flight this weekend. We flew southwest-coach. BTW the lack of family preboarding is not a problem.

We came back a month ago from WDW and my one year old really had a tough time. His ears were hurting so much and he would not suck his bottle. He cried a lot. I did feel bad for all the other passengers. But every one seemed to understand. He did great on this flight. So it just depends.

My five year old is quite squirmy. We aim for the last row in order to minimize the disturbance. We bring milk and snacks and a porable DVD player. She seems to do fine but she does kick the seat in front and we firmly tell her no. We always apologize to the front seater.

Overall, I do think if the child is well behaved and the parents can afford first class they should be allowed. Just like cheeky said about the nice restaurants. We don't go to nice places because we know our kids have Ruby Tuesday manners.:) But flying is a difficult one because there is no other reasonable way to visit faraway relatives. So we grin and bear it. Childhood is fleeting and believe me, even my daughter has gotten a lot better on planes. I appreciate all the other passengers and baby boy will get it together.

I might try the benadryl thing before hand. But you never know, he did well this time.
I can't afford first class now that I have the rugrats. I imagine more people are in my position. So it is not much of an issue.

Posted by: foamgnome | July 7, 2009 8:00 AM | Report abuse

The most hilarious part of Elliott's article was this paragraph:

"Another poll by corporate travel agency Carlson Wagonlit found that business travelers, who are most frequently found in the business- and first-class cabins, believe crying babies are the second-most annoying aspect of air travel. The first? Air travelers who carry too much luggage on board."

And who are those air travelers who carry too much luggage on board? Why, that would be those very same business travelers, who invariably carry a laptop bag plus a large "carry-on" that may or may not actually fit, plus have several devices that sprawl all over the place. They're far to hurried to ever waste the time to check and bag and then collect it, and far too important to ever be without everything they need at their seat.

(And yes, I DO include myself in that number, which is why I recognize the hypocrisy.)

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | July 7, 2009 8:50 AM | Report abuse

I have brought my kids on planes. For the most part they are well behaved. My problem comes when the person in front leans the chair bake into their feet. Because they are small their feet stick out of the seat. Then the same people complain of the child kicking the seat when in fact the child is just moving. I've even had one instance when I had my child in a car seat and she was asleep. The person in front leaned their chair back. There was so little room that it actually squished my child's legs, woke her up and then started her screaming.

Posted by: slapalmer | July 7, 2009 8:56 AM | Report abuse

ArmyBrat, I thought that was hilarious as well. Business travelers are the biggest abusers of bringing too many and too large carry-ons.

As for the original point, if the parents can afford the tickets or have the miles to get the upgrades, then the children have every right to be in first class. But it is still incumbent on the parents to make sure the kids behave. It drives me nuts when parents don't pay attention to what their kids are doing, or bring enough things to keep them entertained and so forth.

Posted by: dennis5 | July 7, 2009 8:59 AM | Report abuse


Frankly, I think Elliot got what he deserved. You don't drug kids with Benedryl to get them to behave. It's well known that Benedryl and other drugs can hype kids up--it says so on the bottle. My son has the same reaction to those meds, and I've warned my friends who travel with their kids that if they plan on drugging their tots, then they should have them try the medicine at home first. My son traveled a lot when he was under three, and we never had any problems. People were generally helpful and understandingm and he was more or less a normal toddler. think it helps to bring their carseat on the plane, since most kids are used to staying seated in the car, and many, many kids can sleep in their carseats.

There are lots of little tricks parents can do, but ultimately, flying with a small child is a gamble, and sometimes you lose. If the parents are trying, I think most people will give you a break. There are jerks who won't be understanding everywhere, but the problem with a plane is that, as a parent, you don't have the ability to leave. When our son just won't cooperate on the ground, we can always cut our losses and go home. Once the plane takes off, you're stuck.

What bothers me even more are adults who forget their manners when they fly, because they should certainly know better. People who reek of perfume, talk loudly, ooze over into their neighbor's seat, bring smelly food, take up all the overhead space or refuse to move from their aisle seat so you can get out of your row to go to the bathroom are far more common.

The most frustrating experience I had traveling with my son was when he was one, and we were sitting across from a couple watching a loud action movie without headphones. Our son was starting to wake up every time an explosion went off, and if he did wake up, we KNEW he would start crying. I asked, very loudly, for them to please use headphones to watch their loud movie because they were waking up our baby, and I was very worried that if he was woken up that he would start to cry, and I'd hate to disturb the whole plan when we had planned our flights so carefully around his naptime. (He was an excellent car sleeper and we knew he would sleep if we timed it right.) They initially refused, but other passengers asked them not to wake the baby. They finally put on headphones, but make no mistake, if they had woken up our son, I would have made sure the whole plane knew who to blame for the cranky baby!

Posted by: sjneal | July 7, 2009 10:58 AM | Report abuse

More on topic than my last post - there should NOT be rules prohibiting kids from first (or business) class. If I want to pay or use miles to put my kids there with me, then who are you to tell me I can't?

Yes, of course, I should always be considerate and keep my kids under control - REGARDLESS of the seats in which we're sitting.

And I should NEVER experiment with drugging my kids in a constrained environment. If you're really going to give your kids Benadryl on the plane, give it to them at home first to see what the reactions are likely to be. Don't assume anything.

In a previous job, I traveled all over the world on short notice a lot. It was fairly common for me to fly business or even first class. And based on those experiences, I'd prefer having the kids over a number of other types of fliers. Like, say, the busy executive who's on his phone loudly until the last possible instant, and then again at the first possible minute. Or the guy who spreads his stuff everywhere, including my armrest and even seat if I get up. Or the two coworkers traveling together who keep up a noisy and slightly-inebriated conversation the entire 16 hours from Chicago to Hong Kong. Or the woman (or man) who has taken a bath in perfume/cologne and stinks up the entire place. Or....

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | July 7, 2009 11:09 AM | Report abuse

AB, If a particular airline wishes to they could easily make a rule prohibiting small children, no doubt it would get panties in a bunch with certain travelers - but that is their right.

Personally, if I pay a premium or use 100K miles to fly First Class I would be pretty upset if there was a cranky toddler next to me. Most people do not often fly first class, it is a luxury. As a matter of fact, I have never heard of frequent Business Class or First Class travelers express their desire for young children in those sections, particularly on long flights.

I guess I am just of different mind set, if a particulat airline wants premium seats child free - that is their perogative. I don't mind private industry making the rules, because if you don't like it - you go to another airlines. In the free market those with young children that want to fly in premium classes will fly the appropriate airlines and leave the rest of us on other airlines in peace.

Posted by: cheekymonkey | July 7, 2009 11:51 AM | Report abuse

I can't be the only person who wouldn't even consider drugging my kids, right? Don't get me wrong, I come equipped with nutritionally empty snacks and mind-numbing DVDs. But I draw the line at drugging.

My biggest tip is no flight legs longer than 3 hours. We actually try to get layovers. My kid can only handle be cooped up for so long.

Posted by: atb2 | July 7, 2009 12:09 PM | Report abuse

Cheeky, I see your point. Not being a lawyer, I don't know whether an airline could get away with such a written rule or not - I suspect somebody would try to sue based on discrimination; I have no idea whether they'd win or not.

If one airline did put in such a rule, there wouldn't necessarily be a viable alternative, particularly on international flights. Back in the days I was traveling so much, United had a non-stop from Chicago to Hong Kong that went over the North Pole, eliminating the need to land in Anchorage to refuel - and also eliminating the need to make connections on the west coast of the US or Canada. Total travel time was about 3 hours less on that route than any other option - making it the "only" choice as far as I was concerned.

(If you get an airline to make sure that you don't have to deal with young children on your flights, can I get an airline to make sure that I don't have to deal with obnoxious, self-important business executives on mine? I'd certainly be willing to pay for that. :-)

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | July 7, 2009 12:13 PM | Report abuse

AB, I don't know the legalities on discrimination either, but I fully support the airlines right as a private corporation to set the rules.

I don't fly a lot, as a matter of fact I hate flying. I also don't like irritating kids either - even my own at times, so being trapped on a plane with an irritating kid is about as bad as it gets for me.

You can wish for the obnoxious free and I will do the same for kid free - if I EVER make it into First Class.

Posted by: cheekymonkey | July 7, 2009 12:30 PM | Report abuse

atb, "drugging" your kids? It's just giving them some benadryl which is over the counter. Yes, always try it at home first but this is not child abuse.

Posted by: cheekymonkey | July 7, 2009 12:32 PM | Report abuse

"I can't be the only person who wouldn't even consider drugging my kids, right? Don't get me wrong, I come equipped with nutritionally empty snacks and mind-numbing DVDs. But I draw the line at drugging."

Nope, you're not the only one. I find the entire idea of giving a child unnecessary medicine just so they may be sleepy to be kind of appalling.

My older daughter (now 3.5) has flown several times, the first time at 4 months old. One thing that both DH and I have accepted is that once you have a kid on board, there is no down time once you're on the plane. Unless you can somehow coax the child to sleep, at least one parent needs to be paying attention at all times. No buying your nose in the skymall catalog while the kid is wiggling and kicking the seat back out of boredom. I've seen families that didn't seem to understand that idea, and that's where trouble starts.

And I'll join the chorus of people who think it's awful for someone to recline their seat so far that it squashes the kid seated behind. I will go to great lengths to insure that DD doesn't kick, scream, yell or do anything else to annoy other passengers, but there's only so much I can do if someone's laying in her lap.

Posted by: newsahm | July 7, 2009 12:37 PM | Report abuse

newsahm wrote:
"No buying your nose in the skymall catalog . . ."

I never knew they sold noses in the skymall catalog! Will wonders never cease? Do they have a wide variety or just a small sampling to choose from among?

Posted by: janedoe5 | July 7, 2009 1:45 PM | Report abuse

My wife and I will be travelling with our son to Ireland for the first time this month. He'll be just shy of 7 months when we go. A little nervous but not too much. We've been reading up on tips and have new toys and other distractions waiting to be revealed to him. Plus the flight over is over night and if we're holding him he has no problem sleeping for hours (we're bringing his car seat as well). The way back will be trickier what with it being during the day and a longer flight, but it's worth it to me to be able to share the joys of another country with my son (even if he doesn't remember it later on).

As to the subject of this post, if someone pays for their child to fly first class and the airline allows it then anyone who doesn't like it should complain to the airline and not give the parents a tough time. I won't fly business or first with my child but that's only because I can't afford it. If I could, I'd have no problem with putting my child in first. That said, if the airline didn't allow it, I'd have no problem with that either. I can understand why it could be bad for their business to allow children in first.

Posted by: chibbs2000 | July 7, 2009 1:52 PM | Report abuse

newsahm wrote:
"No buying your nose in the skymall catalog . . ."

I never knew they sold noses in the skymall catalog! Will wonders never cease? Do they have a wide variety or just a small sampling to choose from among?


Oops! "Make that burying." That's what I get for typing while nursing.

Posted by: newsahm | July 7, 2009 1:57 PM | Report abuse

Sigh. Another typo. Please excuse my wonky punctuation.

Posted by: newsahm | July 7, 2009 1:59 PM | Report abuse

I'm not a lawyer, so don't take this as gospel. But I seriously doubt that the airlines can get away with discriminating against kids. What next, refuse old people because the lonely ones talk too much to the stranger in the next seat, or because they're more likely to snore loudly and keep everyone else awake on the red-eye? Discrimination on the basis of age isn't going to pass legal muster.

My kids have been a joy when traveling (and at restaurants too). It's fun when strangers notice their good behavior, and especially when the flight attendants bring them the extra left-over cookies, because the boys were so polite ("please" and "thank-you" for drinks, snacks, magazines, etc). DH and I always make a point of letting them know we appreciate their good behavior, and when strangers notice and comment, we reinforce it: "we're so proud of you guys."

All kids are going to blow it sometimes - grown-ups have bad days too - but dealing with the bad times, melt-downs, etc. should be swift and simple. Catching them being good and praising them for it gets more good behavior.

P.S. off-topic - The boys' first experience of a really nice, fancy restaurant was our 15th wedding anniversary when they were 10 and 5. They were fascinated by the jazz combo, tipped the waiter for the Shirley Temples, ate and drank with good table manners, and stayed in their seats until everyone was finished with the meal. As we were leaving, the couple at the next table complimented the boys by expressing surprise that the kids in the room hadn't ruined their evening. I would have hoped that patrons in such a nice place would have expressed themselves more positively, but we took the compliment graciously, anyway.

Posted by: SueMc | July 7, 2009 3:48 PM | Report abuse

SueMc, Congratulations on having such nice kids. I'm sure there are times that my kids could have acted as well too, however mine would not have been accompanying my husband and I for our 15th wedding anniversary dinner in a fancy restaurant. To each their own.

Posted by: cheekymonkey | July 7, 2009 9:10 PM | Report abuse

I don't want to be seated next to a diabetic because I don't like needles. I don't want to be seated next to a solo traveler because they might talk to me. I don't want people to be allowed to recline their seats because they will make me uncomfortable. Airlines should ban vegetarians (flatulence), perfume (allergies), and cat-owners (more allergies), and make you brush your teeth (halitosis). I think airlines should give breathalizers before beverage service to make sure nobody gets drunk. I also think everyone should be measured before boarding to make sure they won't spill over into the next seat.

Seriously -- people who can afford first class shouldn't be subjected to kids, but screw the people who can't afford it? Did it occur to anyone else that kids are probably going to be better behaved in first than in coach because they have more space? And there are fewer people around to hear any misbehavior?

Posted by: stalkeyedfly | July 7, 2009 9:36 PM | Report abuse

Oh, and please people -- DON'T GIVE YOUR YOUNG CHILDREN BENADRYL UNLESS THEY ARE EXPERIENCING AN ALLERGIC REACTION. It is too easy to overdose and may be unsafe. Please. Especially if your child is under two years old.

Posted by: stalkeyedfly | July 7, 2009 9:42 PM | Report abuse

Hi, we live in Europe (Netherlands to be exact) and fly to the US at least twice a year. Those are looonnngg flights, especially for me as I can't sleep whilst flying. We've got a babygirl of 6 months and we will be bringing her along on our trips, if only because we will be moving to DC for a couple of years next January.

My point is that we don't do this often (and only on points, not money), but I've flown Business on occasion and I do sleep better and am more relaxed when arriving. We haven't discussed if we'd do this with our baby, but I can imagine we might once or twice over a period of years of homeleave. I would -and will also in coach- be very aware of keeping my baby the same calm, happy child as she is normally, but as long as the airline doesn't outlaw it (and KLM doesn't) I would expect the other passengers not to make rude remarks or anything to express their annoyance.

I would like to add, though, that we've done a two-hour flight 'trial run' and she was a little angel, charming all flight attendants in her path :) No guarantee for the future, but hopefully a nice guideline. I don't know Benadryl myself, but the thought of drugging my baby to keep quiet does simply not enter my head.

Long story, hope you guys don't mind the foreigners perspective.

Posted by: cver | July 8, 2009 6:46 AM | Report abuse

I'd rather have a young child/infant sitting behind me, beside me and in front of me instead of a dozen teens on a group trip flying in the same plane. The older children are much more disruptive than younger ones. I also think there are several adult types I'd rather not have: the obese passenger who takes up half of MY seat (who also lifts up the armrest because it's so uncomfortable) and the aforementioned person who pushes their seat all the way back mashing the passenger behind them..

If parents can afford the airfare (that would be my only issue), then of course, children should be allowed in any airplane seat.

I had my own "awful" experience flying with my children. My then-3 year old son screamed when the plane started to move. Hey, he was terrified, never having been on a plane before. I took him out of his carseat, sat him on my lap and began to nurse him - yep, I was one of the evil mom who nursed a older toddler in public. But that's the choice - public nursing or screaming child.

Posted by: slackermom | July 8, 2009 7:52 AM | Report abuse

Flying first or business class is an "event" for me (we save the miles for those long overseas flights). Except for the fact that I STILL have trouble sleeping, the flight becomes part of the experience and not just a necessary evil to be endured before the vacation begins. And when I upgrade to first class, I expect two things -- more leg room and a quiet atmosphere. Decent booze and halfway decent food is just an added bonus. I agree with the analogy to an expensive dinner out. If you are paying that much money for a dining experience, you don't expect to have toddlers at the next table, and maybe you even decided to go to that restaurant because you could reasonably expect that the rest of the room would be filled with low-volume adult conversation rather than children shouting or even parents making loud inane conversation in order to distract or entertain said children.

Posted by: beachy1 | July 8, 2009 8:02 AM | Report abuse

"maybe you even decided to go to that restaurant because you could reasonably expect that the rest of the room would be filled with low-volume adult conversation rather than children shouting or even parents making loud inane conversation in order to distract or entertain said children."

How do you feel about adults making loud, inane conversation to distract or entertain each other? :-)

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | July 8, 2009 9:13 AM | Report abuse

I agree with AB's comments. My daughter (who is almost five) has been flying since she was about six weeks old. She's been all over the U.S., and flown to France, Germany and Romania (courtesy of my in-laws. So she's more than used to flying, and she's flown first class a number of times, including internationally when she was not quite 3. We haven't had any problems at all with her behavior, or with other passengers complaining about her. But if she wasn't a well-behaved child, I probably wouldn't consider taking her in first class.

I have experienced many, many adults on airplanes who much worse behaved than my daughter. As long as we're paying for her seat, she should be allowed to fly.

Posted by: plawrimore1 | July 8, 2009 9:40 AM | Report abuse

We find it very helpful to remove our children's shoes when they are in their seats. If they accidentally kick the seat it minimizes the damage significantly. It also serves as a good reminder to our children that they have to be careful.

Posted by: rsweber1860 | July 8, 2009 9:49 AM | Report abuse

How do you feel about adults making loud, inane conversation to distract or entertain each other? :-)

Just about the same, I'm sure, but my experience is that such conversation is usually directed at a preschool darling to keep them occupied ("Look Tommy, see the pretty plane next to us? How many people do you think are in that plane? What color is it? Can you say silver? Is that the same color as grandma's car? Do you remember riding in grandma's car last time we visited? Wasn't it fun?").

Posted by: beachy1 | July 8, 2009 11:10 AM | Report abuse

My WORST flying experience occurred when I was returning to CA from PA after my sil's mother died.

There was a mother and 3-year-old flying and of COURSE they were in my row. I gave up the window seat so little "darling Susie" could have the window seat. Halfway thru the flight, mommy and susie changed seats so susie is right beside me. I'm trying to nap, but little susie isn't having any of that. According to "mommy", the kid "hadn't had her nap today". Halfway thru the flight, I suggested that susie go play outside, as she was kicking me, pinching me, poking me, etc.

NEVER have I had a worse seatmate.

Posted by: Alex511 | July 8, 2009 11:38 AM | Report abuse

We flew to BWI with our 12-month-old yesterday. Snacks, drinks, toys, our full attention: None of it mattered when when he began 15 minutes of full-on wailing. There was nothing we could do about it except hold him close (so he couldn't kick seats) and wait for it to stop. I felt bad, of course, but guess what? The people around us were warm and understanding. I'm sure it sucked for them and they may have hated us inside, but they dealt with it pleasantly. And it's not going to stop me from flying with him again, in whatever class we can afford, because we need to get from Point A to Point B.

Posted by: sweetpotater | July 8, 2009 11:49 AM | Report abuse

Kids are kids--they don't bother me one bit. I'd rather sit next to a fidgety kid any day over sitting next to some gigantic fatso.

Posted by: nuzuw | July 8, 2009 11:50 AM | Report abuse

Just because Benadryl is over the counter does not mean it's safe. I agree with the other posters who stated that it is morally wrong to drug your kids to get them to sleep on the plane.

I have two VERY active kids and fly with them often. I try my best to make sure my kids behave properly and have rarely had problems with them. Sometimes it's easy, the kids are in a good mood and it's easy to distract them. Sometimes it's not. I try my best to keep my kids distracted with books, a portable DVD player is great and snacks. I try not to stress out about what other passengers might think because traveling is hard enough. People complain about kids , butthere are plenty of obnoxious adults as well. My two year old doesn't know any better, what's the adult's excuse?

The airline industry isn't going to prohibit kids from airplanes or first class. You know why? Because of economics. They don't give free seats away. So when a family travels, they're buying those seats (at full price, kid seats don't come discounted). Unless of course for lap babies. You might have saved all your points for a first class ticket, but when I buy four first class tickets for my family (which I have) they're not going to say no. So, like the obnoxious fellow I had to sit in front of last week and put up with his endless loud talking for the entire flight, people will have to deal with kids on planes. It's just a part of being a member of society.

Posted by: newtoHouston | July 8, 2009 12:00 PM | Report abuse

Here are my tips with flying with kids on planes that don't involve sedatives:

1. Try to avoid flying near nap time. This might seem counterintuiative. If it's near nap time your child might sleep, but if he/she can't fall asleep, you risk a very cranky child on the plane.

2. Bring snacks and favorite sippy cup (empty).

3. I finally got a portable dvd player and it's been great. Make sure you get proper headsets and not the earbuds. Also use it before hand to get your child used to using a headset in case she hasn't before.

4. Books are good too, and my son and I also look through the skymall magazine for laughs.

5. Depending on age, definetly use a car seat. It mimicks a car environment more will keep younger flyers from trying to get out of their seats.

6. If you're going a far distance, consider a flight with a stopover (as long as its not out of the way). On one hand, it is a hassel, but if you're going from one coast to another, breaking up a trip gives kids a chance to walk around the airport.

7. For younger kids, I definitly suggest pull ups. My 2 1/2 is potty trained, but she doesn't understand the meaning of the plane is landing so we can't get up and go. I had to convince her it was ok for her to go in her pull-up if she couldn't hold it, and it didn't affect her potty training (i.e. didn't go in it again after the trip).

8. i know that continental airlines has changing tables in the lavatory, but southwest doesn't. that said, whenever i have gone on southwest, I have asked politely what would be the best place to change a diaper and the air hostess has allowed me to change the diaper in the area in the back.

9.Being early is the key! Book tickets early, so you can get seats together and you're not trying to switch as the last minute and get to the airport early as well. I like to be able to calmly take my time through security, and get to my gate, so have time to to let the kids unwind or walk around the airport. The airport in Chicago even has a children's museum. It's all abotu reducing stress.

10. Try not to stress out. Traveling is stressful and as long as you try your best that's all you can do. When you stress out too much, you're kids can sense it and feed off of that.

Posted by: newtoHouston | July 8, 2009 12:17 PM | Report abuse

I'm a flight attendant (for a regional airline), and trust me I could tell you horror stories about children on planes (and just about anything else on a plane) Some airlines do have rules about children in first class, but it mostly has to do upgrading or flying stand-by with children, if some one actually pays the money for a child in first class then they have the right to sit them there.
The real trick is BRIBERY, I don't believe in bribing kids to behave on an everyday basis, but you are asking children to deal with an extraordiary circumstance that most adults can't deal with, so nothing is wrong with gifting a toy or something for good behavior,and letting them know that such a prize will be availible after the journey. Before my airline took food away altogether (which is something us flight attendants weren't happy with either, because already grumpy people are worse when they are hungary) we used to have these wonderful mint chocolate chip cookies that quieted many children down. Also, if you can't bring liquids on board then bring an empty bottle, most flight attendants would be happy to pour juice in to the bottle, we'll diluted if you like, especially if it means calming a screaming baby. If you don't like dealing loud unruly children for 3 or 4 hours, imagine dealing with it for 8 to 10 hours a day for days at a time.
And one more note, if you need the Flight Attendant's attention for help with a child, please ask nicely, don't make demands, we are not there as people's servants, too many people make that mistake, and thats usually what makes us unresposive. Oh and Please don't put dirty diapers in the seat back pocket.

Posted by: sweetladykt | July 8, 2009 12:18 PM | Report abuse

On his first flight, our 3-month-old son vomited all over his dad. Everyone was very sympathetic, of course. If I had been holding him, I would have been that Bad Mom, but a dad with a sick baby is a saint ;-)

Our daughter's first flight was a horror. She wailed from NY to Rome because she was tired and wanted her bed. You can't explain to a toddler that there is no bed and that the plane seat is fine for sleeping. Other passengers and the flight attendant were annoyed, but they weren't the ones walking DD up and down, up and down for hours while she screamed in their ears. The daytime flight home was just the opposite: both kids played nicely with their toys, each other, and everyone on the plane and received many compliments. Karmic balance?

Posted by: DebraR | July 8, 2009 12:31 PM | Report abuse

Alex, sounds like your trip was horrible. However, my worst seatmate was the obnoxious businessman. I was in Hong Kong; the company CEO called and said "you're going to Sydney tonight; you have a meeting with an important new customer at 10 tomorrow." Me: "then I'm going first class, because that's a 9 hour flight and I'll be dead when we land in Oz otherwise." Boss: "OK, but I'd better hear good things from the customer."

Boy, was that a mistake. First class on Cathay Pacific, nonstop HKG to SYD, should be very very nice indeed. But the problem was the seatmate (he was another gweilo for what it's worth). He was furious that I got the aisle and he got the window; he screamed and demanded that he get an aisle seat (so he could get up and move around in the middle of the night without having to climb over me); I switched to shut him up. He talked on his cell phone until the flight attendants took it and turned it off. About an hour into the flight, I was awakened when this bozo tossed his papers and PDA on me - apparently if I was sleeping that was his right, or something. He smelled something fierce - combination of sweat, the tobacco he chain-smoked before getting on, and constant flatulence. He kept calling the flight attendants for drinks. And of course, as soon as the wheels were down and cell phones were allowed, he was back screaming at the top of his lungs to find out what had happened overnight, when he had had to be out of contact.

Give me the kids, any day.

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | July 8, 2009 1:06 PM | Report abuse

My mom gave my sister and I Dramamine every summer when we flew to Europe to see her family, starting from when we were babies. Looking back on it, I don't think I was abused or subjected to morally wrong actions.

Posted by: dajack02 | July 8, 2009 1:47 PM | Report abuse

Airlines banning kids from first class is absolutley legal. All the parents on this site who are appalled by the idea and are shocked to hear this really need to remember that the world does not revolve around children. Any law or rule that discriminates is governed by the Constitution, and is divided into regular, intermediate (such as gender) or suspect classes (such as race). Young persons just fall into the regular class, which means the law or rule is okay so long as there is ANY rational basis for it. Kids making noise in first class is definitely a rational basis for permitting this rule.

Posted by: coops905 | July 8, 2009 3:41 PM | Report abuse

Dramamine is not the same as Benadryl. That's to prevent motion sickness, and my husband takes it before every flight. My kids don't seem to have a problem with that, so I've never thought about giving it to them. The only reason MOST parents give their kids Benadryl on a flight is to get them medicated and fall asleep. I'm surprised that people don't find that troubling. In fact if you look on the bottle, you're not even supposed to give it to a child under 6 unless authorized by a doctor. If someone said I give my child sleeping pills (and there are over the counter sleeping pills) before a flight, people would be up in arms, but somehow if it's Benadryl, people think its ok.

Posted by: newtoHouston | July 8, 2009 3:45 PM | Report abuse

My wife and I have been flying with our daughter for for about a year now and she's been good thus far.

I agree with the others on bringing entertainment. We got an iPod Touch and buy episodes of kids TV shows in iTunes. I has a speaker in it or you can use earphones. I prefer this over the DVD player, since it has a longer battery life and no moving parts. Surprisingly, they also have lots of apps for toddlers, like drawing or memory games, etc.

Posted by: Corn_Laden | July 8, 2009 4:13 PM | Report abuse

SueMc, Congratulations on having such nice kids. I'm sure there are times that my kids could have acted as well too, however mine would not have been accompanying my husband and I for our 15th wedding anniversary dinner in a fancy restaurant. To each their own.

Posted by: cheekymonkey | July 7, 2009 9:10 PM

I bet your 15th wedding anniversary wasn't on Sept. 12, 2002. DH had written a poem called "A Year and A Day" that morning, and it made me cry. We very definitely wanted our family all together for our celebration.

But I get you - for our 20th anniversary, we had a quiet dinner for two, and the boys stayed home and had pizza delivered.

Posted by: SueMc | July 8, 2009 5:25 PM | Report abuse

Oh, I am totally aware that Dramamine isn't Benadryl. All three off us took it for the same reasons, to prevent any possible motion sickness (my mother and my sister are pretty prone to it, but I'm not so much) and to put us to sleep since it usually causes drowsiness.

The point is, I personally really don't find it morally offensive or abusive that my mother used drugs to get my sister and I to shut up and go to sleep on long flights as children.

Posted by: dajack02 | July 8, 2009 11:31 PM | Report abuse

All I have to say to anyone who doesn't want to be around kids is Don't Go Out! You cannot expect to go places and say that kids don't have the same right to be there as you do. I am tired of dirty looks on planes, the library, even the grocery store when my kids are being kids. I don't allow my kids to be crazy, loud or out of control and still get the looks when they laugh really loud or talk to each other or someone else where ever we happen to be. Kids have the right to fly and if you don't like it drive in a car. How about drugging you ignorant passengers and then we wouldn't have to hear your comments and you wouldn't have to hear our kids.

Posted by: mechmartinez | July 9, 2009 3:28 PM | Report abuse

You can't compare a 5 star restaurant to first class on a plane for one reason: ROOM. When we travel with our toddler, we try to get at least premium economy or business because when we have room to manuever, she is MUCH happier and much better behaved. Being squished into the tiny economy section is just simply a nightmare. The only time my daughter has screamed on a plane was in economy. Whenever she has been in premium economy, business, or first, she has been good as gold.

I know some people still may not want toddlers in first class. But realize that it's not a direct comparison with a fancy restaurant.

Posted by: mountainlake1 | July 13, 2009 5:46 PM | Report abuse

fr mechmartinez:

>...Kids have the right to fly and if you don't like it drive in a car..,..

Oh, so YOU would tell someone who HAD to fly across country to a funeral to "drive" if they don't like flying with kids in the same area? Pretty unrealistic.

Posted by: Alex511 | July 14, 2009 11:58 AM | Report abuse

A related question we've been discussing in my family is: Should they do away with the infants-in-laps loophole? That is, should every person regardless of age be required to buy a seat? This came to mind after the 10-month-old in the lap of the couple behind me spent the entire 14-hour trip from Sydney kicking the back of my chair. This isn't a matter of behavior, it's a matter of you can't cram an active 10-month-old into the two square feet of space between the parent's lap and the back of my seat. If he'd had his own seat, I don't think there would've been much of an issue.

Posted by: ganley | July 14, 2009 12:41 PM | Report abuse

My son has flown on planes several times in his 8 years, in fact, he flew from Phoenix to DC as an unaccompanied minor this month. The only issue I ever had with him was during a blessedly short trip between San Diego and Phoenix when he was about 3. He sang and performed The Itsy Bitsy Spider over and over again which drove me nuts but the elderly ladies across the aisle from us were charmed by him.

Posted by: ItshotinPHX | July 14, 2009 9:11 PM | Report abuse

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