Five Ways to Ruin a Family Plane Trip

A lot of people think it’s a shame we don’t have family sections on planes because some parents and kids haven’t quite mastered the art of air travel and the pleasant plane trip (listen to a spirited discussion about family sections on a recent Ask Rick podcast). I can think of five ways to ruin a plane trip when flying with kids – and five solutions. So, here’s a “do this not that” when flying with kids:

#1 Don’t: Be a Pal Instead of a Parent

A “pal” lets the kids do whatever they want, be it kicking and screaming or generally causing chaos. You do your child and surrounding passengers no favors on plane trips by permitting such behavior.

Do This: Take Charge of Your Kid

Be the parent, set the rules and prepare the kids ahead of time with the following:

  • Show them pictures of airplane interiors for familiarity
  • Let them know they must stay in their seats
  • Explain to your kids in advance that you expect good behavior and “indoor voices”
  • Keep them busy with books, art supplies, games or videos

#2 Don’t: Forget to Bring Tasty Snacks


The key word is tasty. A long plane ride is no time to worry about the dentist.

Do This: Bring Food Bribes

Children, especially little ones, need a treat every now and then; call it a bribe if you like but remember to:

  • Pack a nutritious lunch, but don’t forget the cookies
  • Reserve some special surprise as a reward for good behavior
  • Let the child to choose a snack item from the cart (and insist on please and thank you)

#3 Don’t: Ignore Kids’ Fears about Security

Everyone must go through airport security screening including children and babies. Let the kids know the security process is routine.

Do This: Prep the Kids on Security

Explain to the kids what’s going to happen:

  • Belongings they put on the conveyor belt will be returned to them
  • Keep any concerns you have about security to yourself
  • Explain the body scanner and pat-down if necessary but keep it simple

Note to parents: The TSA’s website says, “We will not ask you to do anything that will separate you from your child.” Let the kids know this too.

#4 Don’t: Fly When Sick

Sometimes kids act up on planes because they’re not feeling well. Do everyone a favor: don’t fly if you or the kids are sick.

Do This: Prepare for Colds and Ear Pain

For minor ailments like ear pain due to changes in cabin pressure or the start of a cold, come prepared:

  • Carry pacifiers and bottles for babies
  • Keep a supply of gum and hard candies for older children
  • Bring hand-sanitizing wipes for all family members
  • Don’t forget the tissues

#5 Don’t: Pack Everything They Own

Want to add a much as $50 per child to the cost of your trip? Allow children to pack enough so you’ll be forced to check their bags. Find out more about baggage fees.

Do This: Use a Carryon (Cute Optional)

Pack only what the child can handle in a carryon bag. You’ll save money and time at the airport.

Read Rick’s Columns on ABC News:

abc news, rick seaney column for farecompareFive Easy Ways to Ruin a Plane Trip

abc news, rick seaney column for farecompareThe Cheapest Time of Year to Fly

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Published: December 8, 2010