One time, I had a friend asking me for some tips to cure the fear of flight. She thought that since I used to work as a flight attendant, I'd know the answer. Half joking, I told her to sit around kids on the plane so she'd focus more on the anxiety of making them cry or throw a tantrum rather than flying itself.
I mean, I'm not gonna lie… I'm not a fan of the idea to sit around kids on a flight. Even worse if it's a long-haul flight. I remember during my flying time, I always felt anxious whenever I had family traveling with kids around the aisle. God forbid when it's an infant.
With that being said, I know some of you won't be happy about my confession. Especially those who are parents. One time, there was this Indonesian model who got slammed after complaining about a crying baby on board. I casually tweeted about it and said that I was lowkey on her side since I'm not a fan of crying babies on a flight anyway.
That, only to get a DM from my friend who recently got a baby lecturing me about traveling with kids. And even creating this collab post is not without drama, since I had to get into a debate as some fellow blogger said that this post would be offensive for some parents. While this might be true, I understand that you don't have to be everyone's cup of tea. And neither do I nor my blog post.
Sitting Around Kids on a Flight (From Other Passengers' Point of View)
Look, I understand that it's hard to travel with kids, and even harder when you're a new parent. I also understand that some infants can't communicate their way so crying is their only way to express their discomfort.
When I said I'm not a fan of sitting around kids on a flight, it wasn't my intention to shame you as parents. I thought we could just be civil about it. I mean, not everyone is the same then I suppose I have a right to speak out what I like and what I don't?
But it's 2019 and everyone seems to like confrontation. LOL.
Anyway, my intention to create this post is never bad. Instead of some people thought that it would be to make parents' job harder with us other passengers shaming them, I actually wanted to have this article on my blog so we can be more civil about sitting around kids on the flight.
If anything, I want the other passengers who are like me, those who hate sitting around kids, could at least help for a thing or two to make the parents' job easier on the flight. I know some airlines have nanny on-board to do this job, but not all parents have the privilege to fly with such facilities, right?!
What You Can Do as the Other Passenger Who Sit Around Kids on the Plane
Just like adults, kids come in so many different forms. The nosy one, the demanding one, the silent one… Everything. They could be traveling with their family, but they might be an unaccompanied minor who got the anxiety from traveling alone for the first time.
Whether or not you want to interact with this kid, there are always some things that you need to understand before you do. Here we go!
Use your common sense.
In the era when everyone could easily get triggered, one of the main things you need to understand is the concept of consent.
When it comes to sitting around kids on the plane, it's always important to gain consent from them or their parents before you interact with them. Use their body language to find out, if you're not welcomed then leave them alone. Otherwise, I'm sorry I can't help you… I guess you're not so good at socializing, are you?
I mean, seriously… You don't want to get any trouble involving the minor, do you?
If you can't do anything nice, don't do anything at all.
I mean, there's nothing wrong about trying to make yourself comfortable when the kid sitting on the three rows before you was crying out loud. It's always better to mind your own business than to make a worthless drama out of it, no?
Things to Do to Make Sitting Around Kids on a Flight More Bearable (For You and the Kids)
That's why for this post, I've gathered some snippets from other fellow bloggers about their ideas to make sitting around kids less annoying than it seems. From getting the best earbuds to finding some fun games to do during the flight like Solitaire or Freecell…. There are plenty of things that can distract you from focusing on the obvious. So, what are the things you can do with kids or infants sitting around you on a flight?
1. Noise-Cancelling Headphones
The number one way to drastically change your inflight experience is by including a pair of noise-canceling headphones in your hand luggage.
For years I struggled to try to fall asleep on a plane or watch a movie in peace without being disturbed by noisy children around me. Last year, I invested in a wireless and foldable pair and couldn't be happier.
They are comfortable enough to wear and have a long enough battery life to last for the duration of a long haul flight and more. If you purchase a wireless pair, just remember to bring the auxiliary cord so you can make use of the inflight entertainment too, which combined with the noise-canceling will make you forget about your fellow passengers.
-Roshni of The Wanderlust Within.
2. Fun Games on Board
Having traveled for a whole year full-time with three young kids (aged 6, 5 and 2!), I am always sympathetic to other parents travelling with little ones on airplanes.
If a kid is having a hard time near me I like to engage them in a fun game that requires no resources at all, so the parents can take a little break, go to the bathroom or just prepare the next activity or snack for the child.
My first go-to game is “I Spy”, either with letters for kids who can read or with colours (“what can you see that's red?” for little ones. Fair warning, toddlers will often have something in their head that isn't in the plane at all; when my middle child was younger the answer to her I Spy was always “a zebra” or “a blue whale”!
If “I Spy” isn't cutting it, the Alphabet Game is very simple and can take as long as you like. You take it in turns to name things you can see, following the letters of the alphabet- so I could say “Airplane” and the child could follow with “Bassinet”, then “Chair”, etc. Another fun way to keep the kids entertained is by playing word games with them, you can even use a word tool to help them learn new words easily.
If the child is really little then a simple game of peekaboo is often enough to distract them, at least long enough to stop them crying. The parents will always remember your kindness and it can make the world of difference between being frustrated all flight and having a bearable trip!
-Hannah of Adventure Travel Family.
3. Help Their Parents
My favourite way to make sitting beside children on a plane more bearable is to help the parents out and make their lives as easy as possible.
This can be anything from helping them take off lids from drinks and food, picking things the child dropped on the floor up, helping them store their luggage, or even offering to hold their baby if the parent is trying to do multiple things at once and has run out of hands to do it all.
It is amazing how much more enjoyable your flight is when the parents around you feel organized, calm, and know there is somebody willing to help them with anything they need.
-Erica of Travels With Erica.
4. Make a Connection with the Kids
If you're dreading sitting next to kids on a flight, imagine how the parents feel! Trust me, they are scared. They don't know how their little angels will fare and they are very aware of everyone around them.
The parents don't want to ruin your flight. Just like you, they would probably prefer to be sitting in that kid free area you spotted on the way in. If you can see things from their point of view, perhaps you will remain tolerant. As a bystander to the potential plane crash you're about to whiteness (pun intended), you might like to take a proactive, positive approach.
Consider making a connection with the kids before any possible tantrums. Play a game or have a little chat. By forming a mini relationship, even for a few minutes, you will learn a little about the kid's personalities and you might actually like them. If you like someone, you're less likely to get annoyed. You'll also be doing the parents a massive favor.
-Emily of Websites From A Van.
5. Some Art Escape to Keep The Kids Entertained
We have an idea of how to use arts to make sitting near kids on the plane a bit more bearable. Ask the flight attendants to bring a painting/coloring set if they have any, or just improvise.
We always carry a notebook and some pens and pencils so it's easy to just spend a sheet or two and give the kid(s) nearby a present. When they draw and paint, it takes up a lot of their plentiful energy so you can hope they'll get focused and inspired to express themselves on the paper and become a bit quieter.
We've tried this trick a few times and we've always been successful, well, at least for 30 minutes to 1 hour. But that could be a life-safer. The only downside of using this trick is that you can't use it with toddlers who simply can't hold the pen…
-Bistra and Nace of The Magic of Traveling.
6. Funny Faces Never Fail
You sit back in your airplane seat and plug in your headphones. A quick nap or maybe kicking back to watch a favorite show is on the agenda for the flight. And then you see it. The dreaded kids right in front of you. I get it. Who loves a screaming, kicking kid on a plane? Nobody.
But you know who else hates it more than you? That kids' parents.
One thing that is incredibly easy for me to do when I'm stuck behind a baby or a toddler is to offer a few funny faces. I know it sounds silly, but I'm just watching “It's Always Sunny” anyway, so a goofy face here or there really isn't distracting me from my show.
If I'm lucky, there will be a cute baby wanting to play peek-a-boo behind his seat! Again, it takes me just a few seconds, here and there, throughout the flight, yet can make that toddler last just a little longer… meaning no meltdowns.
After all, isn't that all any of us want from kids on a plane? Just to not have any screaming children? Making silly faces and playing peek-a-boo literally takes almost no extra effort on your part… Shoot, you don't even need to talk! Yet, it can make a huge difference for the sanity of that kid and parent, which is a welcome response for EVERYONE on the plane.
-LeAnna of Economical Excursionists.
7. Install a White Noise App on Your Phone
If you're trying to rest on a plane, a white noise app on your phone can do wonders.
I like to use the app Relaxio on Android, while my husband uses the app Relax Melodies on iOS. Put together some relaxing sounds with a baseline of noise – I prefer brown noise – and pop in your earphones.
At first you can hear the white noise, but soon your brain will adjust and tune it (and many other noises) out. Don't do this while landing or takeoff, as you might drown out important announcements.
Of course, this tip works better if you're not right next to an upset baby, in which case distracting him or her might work better. You can also try this trick at the same time as listening to a podcast or watching a movie on your phone.
-Shimona of Sidecar Photo.
8. Sticker Book
Sometimes parents are just completely overwhelmed (and I’m not blaming them!), but when you find yourself in such a situation… It is time to pull out the “big guns”.
My favorite go-to is a pack of stickers or a sticker book. Small children are not picky and if you invest in a few cheap packs of stickers at the dollar store, you can buy yourself at least a couple of hours of quiet on an airplane.
And quite easy to carry too, you can distribute to several children around you, assuming you are being surrounded by noisy toddlers! Kids are usually thrilled by anything new, and it also has the benefit of being good for their fine motor skills. Even the most ardent parent, who doesn’t want their kids to watch the inflight entertainment, will allow for some stickers.
Stickers don't fall on the ground, don't make noise, and best of all, the kid can likely do it by themselves. Hours of entertainment!
-Nassie of Snippets of Paris.
9. Knock Knock Jokes and Beyond!
If you happen to be sitting by kids on the plane, one idea to help your flight be more bearable is to play a game with them. An easy one that takes nothing but a piece of paper and pen is Tic Tac Toe!
You can also tell knock-knock jokes or the 20 questions to guess what animal you are. Simply engaging with the kids can go a long way to making the plane ride more enjoyable for yourself as the kids will be preoccupied with the games.
Nicole of The Passport Kids.
10. Introduce Them to the In-Flight Entertainment
My very first memory of flying on an international flight as a 12-year-old was how amazing it was that you could watch one of 20 movies or even play Super Mario. This leads me to believe a very simple equation, online entertainment = quiet kids.
These days, the inflight entertainment systems on new planes are completely mind-blowing. There are hundreds of movies, series, and arcade games to keep you preoccupied for any duration flight.
If you have the misfortune of sitting next to a rambunctious child, simply set the inflight entertainment remote in the child's hands, show them how to play a game or access a movie, and you will probably not hear another peep out of them. Just remember to keep it PG.
-Ollie and Candi of Ollie and the Captain.
11. Play Word Games with Them
Travelling with kids can be very difficult sometimes if you are sitting right next to them and have no earplugs of noise cancellation headphones.
I would suggest you play word games with the kids. Word games are a great way of keeping the kids engaged with very less trouble. You can also interact with the parents and ask them to join.
The main thing that helps will the kid's attention will be elsewhere rather doing something that will create trouble. It will also help increase vocabulary. It will also be fun watching the kids making up words.
-Shalini of Eager 2 Travel.
12. Mind Your Business and Pack Some Earplugs With You!
There's nothing worse than boarding your plane and immediately hearing the cry of the devil, aka babies or kids.
For long-distance flights, most of the time you will be okay because kids are capable of sleeping for a long time. However, the worst-case scenario is a short distance flight with children full of energy.
The more attention you give to them, the more power they have over you. The best way to approach this is simply not acknowledging them and putting on some earplugs. You can block out most of the noise and chaos children and babies usually cause on a flight. So don't forget to pack some earplugs for your next trip!
-Sean of LivingoutLau.
Flying for long distances on a plane sitting around loud kids can be very challenging, especially on international trips. I have found that flying on red-eye can be very convenient for everyone. Most kids sleep through the entire trip as it is during their usual sleep schedule.
There was an occurrence when a baby cried during the whole ride. When this happens, I am well equipped to handle the situation. I reach into my purse, grab the ever-handy earplugs, and I hit the assistance button to order a bottle of wine.
The wine and earplug combo does it for me. In 20 minutes, I am in a trance and having my beauty sleep. Now you know my secret to survive around emotional kids. Make sure you keep this tip handy in your back pocket; you never know when you will need it!
-Lydia of Africa Wanderlust.
13. Offer Them Something to Chew During Takeoff and Landing
Part of the reason why kids cry on planes is down to the new situation, the discomfort and noise of the plane – which you can't change. But another big factor is also the pain of blocked ears, which especially happens during the pressure changes at take-off and landing.
It happens to all of us, but little ones may not know how how to help themselves. Ward off any crying by offering kids near you sweets to suck or chew on as you go up or put down, checking first with their parents that it's OK. This will naturally help to unblock their Eustachian tubes.
-Danni of Live in 10 Countries.
14. Travel Board Games
Traveling with children can be hard. It is difficult to keep them entertained when you are on the go. It is even more difficult to keep them quiet and occupied on a plane.
One way that really works is to carry a travel board game. There are so many different options that are available but when picking one for children make sure that it is age appropriate. This is especially important when you consider all the tiny parts that many board games have.
Luckily there are guidelines that are available. All you have to do is check the age requirements. Do make sure that you also buy something that plays well on a small space since you will be playing it on tables in the plane. Card games are a great way to go.
-Penny of Globe Trove.
15. Netflix and Chill
Having an iPad or phone to watch Netflix is one of my best tips in general when going on an airplane. Not all flights will have inflight entertainment, and if you happen to sit next to a screaming kid, you can block their sound and make your flight more enjoyable.
Furthermore, the time will go faster, and if you're around kids, they might even calm down and become fascinated about what you're looking at. A lot of the times, kids on planes that are screaming are just restless or want attention.
Another twist would be to have kids friendly shows on your iPad, and show them to the kid. They will probably be quite shocked and happy, which will likely result in them being calm for the rest of the trip.
Either way, it's a win-win, you don't have to listen to other people's noise, and you will have something to do on the plane.
-Alex of Swedish Nomad.
So, those are some ideas to make flying around the kids easier. I mean, sure it's challenging but you can always pick one to distract you. After all, you're the adult ones. You can either choose to help the parents who might be more stressful than you because it is their first time flying with their baby, so just live your best life on the flight and enjoy what the IFE has to offer.
Do you have any experience sitting around kids during a flight that you want to share? Drop me the story in the comment, and tell me what's your move around them on the flight. Safe travel, and cheerio! 🙂