Traveling with Terrible Children

photo credit: JPhilipson

I am not a parent, I don’t have nieces or nephews and I usually spend only a few hours a years around anyone under the age of 18. That’s not to say that I don’t like kids, on the contrary, I love them and one day would love to have some of my own. However, if I do become a parent I hope I’m better at it than the person I met on a recent flight.

I departed out of Baltimore, destined for the Midwest with an obligatory plane change in Charlotte. I have status with US Airways and was thrilled when I was upgraded for the brief, one hour flight. I was excited until I saw my seatmate, an infant and her obviously overwhelmed grandmother. Before I get hate mail, grandma was in her early 50s or so – I’m not picking on the elderly here.

A hot topic in the past year has been whether or not airlines should institute so called child only zones. Just as with the seemingly impossible smoking areas of flights long gone, parents traveling with children of a certain age would be forced to sit with other families in what would become a veritable nursery school at 32,000 feet.

I’ve only touched on this issue peripherally because, as a non-parent, I usually get a lot of flak from certain parents. But you know what, I’m a passenger too and therefore my opinion does count regardless of the fact of whether or not I have offspring.

Having flown countless times all over the world, I have witnessed a lot of bad behavior by all types of fliers, as I’ve detailed in How to Annoy Everyone on Your Next Flight. When it comes to small children though, every case of an impossible child has almost been entirely the fault of the parent.

Case in point, on a flight to Madrid last year, an eight hour overnight flight, there was a family with 3 young children sitting next to us. I was hoping for the best but of course we had unwittingly encountered one of the worst families I have ever seen. Over the course of a long, sleepless flight we were serenaded by almost constant yelling and screaming. Dirty looks and even remarks by flight attendants could do nothing to encourage the parents to actually start parenting and I was flabbergasted when, at the end of the flight, the mom and dad fawned over their kids telling them how well behaved they had been. My mouth fell open in shock. These parents were actually encouraging this behavior. And I’m sorry, anytime you have entire sections of a plane complaining, something is indeed wrong.

There sere scores of other young children on the flight, but you would never had known it. They shockingly comported themselves like humans and not wee devil-toddlers.

Fast forward to my recent flight with the exasperated grandma and her infant grandchild. I thought at first it would be fine. She’s obviously an experienced traveler or she wouldn’t have been upgraded. I could not have been more mistaken.

I won’t go into all of the details, but we had another devil baby on our hands and the grandmother did nothing to stop it, instead she kept laughing at how cute it all was. Enter the alcohol. Grandma decided she needed a couple of cocktails and a previously laissez-faire grandma turned into someone who couldn’t be bothered with the infant at all.

I don’t relate these stories to say how awful kids are and how they shouldn’t travel. On the contrary, I have traveled around kids many, many times and they have almost always been fine. I also think travel is great for kids, exposing them to new and exciting stimuli. No, the kids aren’t to blame, the parents are.

If you’re traveling with kids like it or not, you are going to be held to a different standard. People will look at you and judge your parenting skills based on only a few moments of interactions. That’s why, as the brand ambassador for parents everywhere, you not only have to parent, you have to do it well. I don’t think we need kid sections, we need sections for bad parents.

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By: Matt Long

Matt has a true passion for travel. As someone who has a bad case of the travel bug, Matt travels the world in order to share tips on where to go, what to see and how to experience the best the world has to offer.Also follow Matt on Twitter, Facebook and

49 Responses

  1. Margo

    This topic is very near and dear to my heart from back in the day when my older daughter now 18 and I somehow managed to survive 8 transatlantic flights when she was 4 mos to 2 yrs old. I always did everything I could to keep the peace from walking her up and down the aisle… I even in a moment of desperation let her crawl in the aisles one time and some old bitch sitting a few rows behind us couldn’t wait to tell me I should be ashamed of myself.

    I found there would always be more passengers than not where the resentment was pretty palpable. Now when I fly and see a parent struggling with a young one I offer to carry them around while the mother goes to the restroom or is trying to feed herself – sometimes a huge challenge! Food for thought: I found passengers were always more willing to offer help when my husband was with me – when I didn’t need it as desperately.

    I do agree that often parents’ attitudes are pretty bad and quite hands off themselves… parenting at 35,000 feet is not something you can pretend is easy without bothering your fellow passengers.

    I will note the flight attendants were always GREAT, and helped me out when they could ( and more than once
    handed me bottles of nice wine leftover from First class on exit :) one time on the people mover at Dulles one even made an obtuse businessman give me his seat as I was struggling with
    aa stroller, purse and 500 lb diaper bag and an infant who finally had fallen asleep!

    This is a tough topic where each situation is unique, and thanks Matt for opening it up!

  2. ayngelina

    I don’t have children and not sure if I even want them but I don’t think there are terrible children only terrible parents. When I was growing up, yelling and screaming in public was not allowed. i remember once I threw a fit in a store because I wanted a toy and my mother wouldn’t buy it for me.

    Seeing that I was having a tantrum she calmly left the cart, took my hand and walked out of the store. We went home. I wasn’t allowed on shopping trips for an eternity, although it was probably a week but in kid terms that’s harsh.

    I never pulled the same stunt again. That’s good parenting.

    • Marsha

      I agree with you wholeheartedly that it’s typically bad parenting that produces “bad” kids. I’m laughing at your comment because my mother would not only *not* have bought it for me, but she would have given me “the look” that spoke much, much louder than any verbal chastisement ever could. Because of that “look” when my mom took us 4 kids on trips, we all knew exactly how to behave.

  3. Brett

    We’ve been on many flights with children who have been totally well behaved, and the occasional flight marred by a child (or parent) who could not keep quiet. The worst experience we experienced was on our Air France flight from Tahiti to Los Angeles where not only were the kids the most ill behaved monsters imaginable (throwing toys and food between rows) but the crew (in the case, the Pilot in fact!), when they finally made an appearence, turned out to be related to the family and instead of trying to calm things down, just sat and talked with the parents (while the children continued to be their wonderfully evil selves!)

    Ok, my wife and I do not have children, so we have never been in the situation of needing to control a cranky toddler at 35,000 feet, but somehow, there must be some way to accomodate the other paying passengers who did not pay to be harrassed and harrangued by a fellow traveller for an 8+ hour flight!

  4. Gail K

    Thanks for your post. I completely agree that there should be a “Bad Parent’ section of not just airplanes, but also restaurants. I can’t tell you the number of dinners that have been interrupted because someone couldn’t parent their child. And, this is coming from someone who used to be a teacher and would love to become a parent someday, so I am definitely not anti-kid.

    • Matt Long

      Thanks everyone for the great comments so far. I really tried not to just make this a post complaining about kids on planes, because as I said they usually aren’t a problem. And I’m also not saying that if your kid misbehaves then you are automatically a bad parent, BUT it’s the reaction to the behavior that is key.

  5. Francesca

    I’m a parent, I travel with my toddler, and I totally agree with everything you’ve said here. Like most travelers, I’ve had unpleasant experiences with children on airplanes and, almost always, the problem was the parents, not the children. My soon-to-be 2-year-old daughter has been on four airplane trips already and we’ve had no problems. In fact, we’ve been complimented more than once on how well-behaved our daughter is. Our real challenge, however, will come in just a few months when we embark on our longest plane ride to date: 10 hours. Hopefully the other passengers won’t want to stick my husband and me in that “bad parents” section.

  6. Corinne @ Have Baby Will Travel

    An infant typically isn’t capable of *behaving* any which way – poorly or not. Typically they cry as a response to a need – hunger, tiredness, pain, etc. I agree with you that parents (or in your case, grandparents) need to be attentive and on point during a flight, but sometimes a baby or toddler is inconsolable. And trust that the person most bothered by that is the parent – whether or not they’re reacting or emoting what you deem to be an appropriate response. How many cocktails can one consume on a 60min flight anyway?

    Maybe it’s been the spate of recent articles that have driven my back up, but frankly I’m tired of hearing about child-free flights. Or family sections. Or bad parent sections. Can you imagine if someone posted about how they can’t stand sitting next to an overweight person? Or how people of a certain ethnicity are so disruptive on flights? Yeah, me neither.

    • Matt Long

      I understand your comment about infants and can accept that. But it still holds true for older children. I’m not saying that all children or bad or that children shouldn’t travel. I’m saying that when possible, parents should accept some responsibility and at least attempt to not ruin the travel experience for 200 people.

      And grandma had four shots, two drinks with 2 shots each. I’m always amazed at how much people drink on flights.

    • Chantal

      Right on Corinne! :)

  7. Andrew

    I don’t fly very much, but I do take a lot of trains. These sorts of things occur in trains and shops and such as well.
    I will grant that the ear pressure can cause babies and kids to cry and scream in pain. Ok, this sucks for all of us, but that is different than a child that just wanders and screams to get attention.
    I have a good friend of mine who has three children. She was a single parent and took the kids on flights anyway. Her trick was drugs. Some sort of seditive to allow the kids to sleep through the trauma of the flight. Even though her kids are old enough not to need it, she brings it anyway to give to other overwhelmed parents. I like this story. Maybe I should get some to take with me on my trans-atlantic. Then either i can give it to the parent for the child or just take it myself.

  8. Chantal

    My personal favourite is when we get dirty looks before we have even sat down. People ASSUME that our 2 year old daughter will misbehave and that we will let her. I hate that.

    • Matt Long

      you hit at the heart of the issue. Many parents aren’t as conscientious as you are. I would think you would want to encourage parents to learn how to travel better with their kids in order to help change the public perception that all kids on a plane are misbehaved, which they clearly are not.

  9. Heather Greenwood Davis

    Such an interesting discussion. I wrote recently about something similar in a pet peeves post. I agree with Chantal that often parents are condemned before there is even a problem and with Corinne that babies/toddlers often simply can’t be controlled. I’m a mom of 2 and believe me, when my infant was crying no one wanted him to stop more than me. BUT I also agree that parents sometimes don’t do as much as they can to keep kids on best behaviour. Heck a lot of parents don’t seem to know it themselves. I think we’d all do better to act better on flights – parents or not.

  10. Colleen Lanin

    Oh Matt…you ARE so good at choosing controversial, LURING topics to write about, aren’t you? I have taught classes to new parents on how to travel with a baby and the #1 concern of attendees is, “What if everyone on the airplane hates me?

    Most parents try their best with their kids in grocery stores, restaurants, and airplanes. Sure, there are bound to be bad parents in the world too – and airplanes are no exception. But do we really need to add more stress to traveling parents?

    My advice to these worrisome, well-meaning parents so concerned that other passengers will hate them that they’ve signed up for a class to avoid just that? There are mean people everywhere – grocery stores, restaurants, and airplanes. Those mean people will hate you and your children wherever you go. You can’t spend your life worrying about the mean people.

  11. Colleen Lanin

    Me again…I don’t mean to blather on but your blog comment would only allow me to say so much…
    Anyhoo…I don’t think you are a mean person but, truly, you don’t understand how stressful it can be to fly with a baby or toddler until you’ve done it yourself. No matter how annoyed you were by that baby, her grandmother was equally anxiety-ridden. I’m an experienced traveler (some might call me a family travel expert!) and I personally have been onboard a plane with a 2-year-old who commenced screaming the minute we boarded (due to fear of ear pain from past experience) and did not stop for at least an hour…no matter the toys, Motrin, snacks, activities, and love bestowed upon him. It didn’t help that the business man seated next to me stuffed his fingers in his ears and scowled at us. There should be a MEAN PEOPLE section of airplanes!

  12. coolblueice

    For those of you “traveling with small children”… What were you thinking? … Ok just kidding….

    Seriously though, while having children around is certainly a part of life (so some degree of “just get over it” is called for), parents have an obligation to keep their children in line. Just as in a restaurant when a child (regardless of how young) is making a disturbance, some intervention by the parent can and should be expected. For this reason, a special area at the back of the plane for families with children seems fair.

    Additionally, why are parents with small children allowed to board first? The announcement might as well say, “For those of you traveling with small children and need a little bit of extra time to completely clog up the aisles for everyone else, please board now.” Wouldn’t it make more sense to board the parents traveling with small children last?

    Then again, if the back of the plane were reserved for parents with children, it would make sense (and only then) to allow them to board first.

    Am I wrong? Am I wrong? … You’re out of your element, Donny. (For you Big Labowski fans out there. ;-)

    • Colleen Lanin

      Hey Coolblueice – Ummm…yes, you are wrong. Why do children board first? So that the parents can get the kids strapped into their seats and happily playing with something as to not annoy you and other passengers. Strapping a toddler seat into an airplane seat is no easy feat either. Airplanes were toying w/doing away w/the young-children-board-first policy for awhile & it resulted in planes being delayed b/c parents (like me) were struggling to strap the dang car seat in while other passengers stared on (with sympathetic or annoyed stares, as the case were). Here’s a better question, why in the world do you want to board first? You’re probably going to be on that plane for a loooong time…you really want 5 more exciting minutes?!

      • Francesca

        It’s been a long time since I’ve heard a pre-boarding announcement for families traveling with small children. I’d know because I do remember how difficult it is to strap in the car seat, as Colleen mentioned, and would have welcomed a few extra minutes to get situated.

  13. ehalvey

    I cannot agree more that it is the parent who can change the situation. After flying 6 times in the past 2 weeks, I can say that most “problem children” are old enough to understand boundaries but have not set or enforced for them. I understand that infants will cry because the pressure hurts their ears, the sounds of the engine freak them out, they’re tired, etc. I can actually tune out a crying baby.

    It’s the kids that jack their seats back, put all their crap in the aisle, keep getting in the attendants’ ways because they’re getting up without being cognisant of their surroundings, and generally being loud and obnoxious. My parents would have beat the living daylights out of me if I acted like that. Sit still, play a game or read or watch a movie, and be quiet. Look out the window. Have some activity about where you are going. There’s no need to run up an down the aisles, scream at your sibling because you have no concept of how loud you are, or other “devil-child” activities. I have 2 nieces and a nephew and many younger cousins. It’s how the parent reacts and what expectations have been set that dictates how they’ll behave in public.

  14. Matt Long

    Once again, I think it is important to say that I do understand how hard it is for parents traveling. I am not putting down the vast majority of them or their kids. Perhaps I shouldn’t have used the Grandma example since everyone is harping on that and glossing over the Madrid example.

    My problem is with the parents of toddlers or older who do NOTHING to try to mitigate the situation. I anticipate a certain amount of unruly behavior from kids on a plane. They are, after all, kids. But constantly bad behavior that goes unchallenged is the fault of the parent. It just is.

    People are assuming that I am complaining about everyone and I am not. Please carefully read my article and the points I have made.

    • Corinne @ Have Baby Will Travel

      The Madrid parents were jerks. So was a woman on a recent flight. I don’t think in future I’ll cringe if I notice a white woman of Russian descent sitting near me on a plane.

      Expecting anyone to act as a “brand ambassador” for their race, religion, tribe, gender, sexual orientation, marital or parental status is offensive.

      I’ve built an entire site on how not to be the parents you describe, but my first priority is always my children, not my fellow passengers.

      • Matt Long

        You know, I’ve enjoyed this debate except for the fact you keep calling me a bigot. Saying I don’t like bad parents does not make me a bigot. It means I don’t like irresponsible people. Parenting is a choice and those who accept it should own up to the responsibility it entails. And like it or not, as you and your kids travel you are being judged. It’s not fair, but it is human nature.

      • Margo

        Matt, I think this is obviously a hot topic and as I said earlier today, I’m very glad you brought it up. Also as I said below a few minutes ago – no judgement, just sharing perspectives… When Holly my now 18 yr. old infant was “such a good baby” according to some fellow passengers at the end of one (HA HA) or maybe two (?) or those many 10 hour flights, I was always the same parent, doing the best I could and as a young parent, and was horrified by how I was treated…. and I’m pretty sure at least a few of these people who buy into the “good baby” thing and complimented my 9 mo. old’s behavior (9 mo. olds don’t behave) would be the same ones treating other mothers poorly if she hadn’t fit their definition of “good.” Indifferent parents bug the heck out of me, but no more so than a lot of other rudeness we’ve all seen on flights… and earplugs and melatonin are seriously my answer ;)

      • Corinne @ Have Baby Will Travel

        Matt, I’ve never called you a bigot. But I find generalizations offensive, and I don’t care if they are human nature.

        I somehow doubt you’d write a piece called “Traveling With Terrible Overweight People” or “Traveling With Terrible *insert ethnicity here*”, so why is “Traveling With Terrible Children” ok?

        In choosing to use inflammatory language, you initiated a predictable reaction. Mission accomplished? Or is that me generalizing? ;)

      • Matt Long

        Yes it is because the fact is that there are terrible children and terrible parents and I wrote about them. It is a common travel occurrence that bothers many people.

  15. Stephanie C

    Great piece. I couldn’t agree more. As a mother who flies frequently with THREE children all by myself, I get it. When I fly, one of my TOP priorities is making sure that none of my crew is bothering other passengers.

  16. Holly

    We started traveling abroad when our kids were a few months old. We love to travel and refused to give it up. I remember difficult flights, evil stares from people across the aisle, particularly on one flight when our young son refused to buckle his seat belt and pleaded for mercy the entire flight. However, the more experienced we got traveling with young kids over the years, they in turn became better travelers. But it was not easy when they were young. I used to pray for quiet flights. Breastfeeding helped for a while but when that ended, there was no magic tactic to quiet them down. But we have always tried to keep the peace so not to disturb fellow passengers.

    In this case, I have sympathy for both you and the grandmother. She probably looked like she didn’t care about her granddaughter’s behavior, but I assure you that she did and was putting on an act for appearance’s sake..hence the alcohol. It’s embarrassing. She probably couldn’t wait for the trip to end, just as you did.

    When our kids were very young, they were a year apart, we brought a suitcase full of things to do, stuff from the $1 store, to keep them entertained, DVD’s, whatever it took, even Benadryl to knock them out when needed. It was certainly challenging and exhausting but we kept them entertained for as long as necessary. It sounds like the family on the Madrid flight neglected to pay attention to their kids on the plane, and they certainly should not have commended their behavior when all was said and done. How will their kids learn better for the next flight (G-d help their parents).

  17. Carol

    Matt, the “problem” is you don’t have children, as most of your readers. As young, carefree travelers, you couldn’t possibly understand what the hell is going through our minds when our children cry, or get bored, or get hungry, or uncomfortable, or can’t wait on the long lines to the bathroom, or deal with on-flight delays as well as others or care to see “Eat, Pray, Love” quietly like everyone else.

    You said it all. Before you even sit down, the sight of a child prepares you for the worst, makes you hopeful for the best. But really, what hope is there? The perception,expectation is already there. All the kid has to do is fart, and it’s downhill from there.

    Yeah, there are some shitty parents everywhere, but there are some shitty childless people too, who have no understanding or can at all relate or sympathize with what a child must be going through, least of all the parent, who I swear to you is stressing the hell out and is FAR MORE MISERABLE than any other traveler on that plane, train, etc. before we even GET on the plane. Not because our children are demons, but because the people we have to travel with think they are and treat them accordingly at the slightest childish act.

    I was on a plane recently with a family with a small baby. Towards the latter part of the flight the baby cried, and cried, and cried. When the plane landed, the baby finally stopped crying. I looked at the people on the isle next to the parents – childless, no other concerns but their own well-being and comfort, then I looked at the parents, the mother and father were stressed, red, not happy. Until I looked at the mother and said, “Don’t worry, you are fine, your baby is fine, and you did a great job.” She took a deep breath and said, “Thank you so much for saying that. Really. Thank you.” You know who did that to her? Not her crying baby. But the mentality of judgmental travelers who don’t know a thing about her or her child and have labeled them as they wish. I feel for her and for other parents. It’s not right, and verges on being cruel.

    No one, unless in our place, will understand that many of us, more than is ever noted anywhere (because no one ever remembers or writes about the good kids or parents), have way more to deal with. On top of the hassles air travel often delivers, we have to care not only for the needs and comfort of our children, but we also be highly concerned in maintaining the needs and comfort of everyone else on the plane too, including that of the flight attendant apparently.

    All I can say is that I am not excusing the very, VERY rare times I have seen awful parents in my travels, and I feel bad for the many parents and kids that have to travel under this judgmental pressure.

    In the end, all I can do is wish on you all many, many happy children and travels in your future. Then, let’s talk again. As hard as you can imagine it being, there are a lot of internal-mess-with-your-head-and-emotions that is added by judgment of others, even when as a parent you are trying your hardest. Sometimes, for some, it’s never enough.

  18. Deanna

    I have been on both sides and I have to say, the conscientious parent is suffering 1000x more than anyone else on that plane when her child has a meltdown; we’re suffering because our child is suffering (like with ear pain) or frustrated (like with turbulence and not being able to move) and we’re suffering the weight of judgment and embarrassment from others. The real issue is one mentioned above, which is that everyone automatically assumes that you are going to be an inattentive parent and your child is going to be the hellbeast who will torture them for the next few hours. We get thanked at the end of flights for our daughter’s behavior and always in the same tone: totally shocked incredulity. It’s “worst-first” assumptions every time.

    I agree that it’s obvious when parents don’t give a damn and that those people might benefit from a carryon bag upside the head–but I beg the rest of you, please don’t lump us all together before you’ve had a chance to see our kids in action. Flights are so much less stressful for all when parents who are trying to be respectful of others are respected in turn by their fellow passengers.

  19. Margo

    Ah, the benadryl as panacea myth. The fact is that a fairly large percentage of children have an opposite reaction to benadryl – the OTC med of choice to induce sleep in children and infants–and yes, my lovely infant was one of them. And I’m certainly glad I didn’t find it out an hour into a 9 hour flight. No one should decide to give their child any kind of sedative, OTC allergy medication or otherwise in a moment of desperation.

    I think the bottom line is, attitudes towards infants, children and parents whom we are bothered by and/or have decided it’s okay to look down upon, are the ones who need to take a tranquilizer and insert earplugs. No judgement on anyone intended – And based on my experience referenced above, the greatest lesson I took away from it, was the importance of trying to be kind, or at least decent to fellow travelers, even though they may not be my exact cup of tea. We just weren’t meant to be bivouacked together in such close quarters in such conditions for long periods… and I don’t see child free, “bad parent” sections or flights happening anytime real soon, or providing a real answer, since human interaction is infinitely less black and white than that would imply.

  20. Stephanie C

    Are you mommies reading the same article I am? Are there some secret paragraphs that only you are allowed to see? You’re sure adding an awful lot of nonsense that was never said to this discussion.

    If there is anything that we wish to change in the child, we should first examine it and see whether it is not something that could better be changed in ourselves. ~C.G. Jung

    • Carol

      Whoa. What “mommies” are you talking to?? From what I have read, for the most part, is parents, or “mommies” sharing from their point of view, and adding on to what Matt has shared from his, which, for the most part, most “mommies” can agree to.

      • Matt Long

        Steph is a mommie of 3 just for the record

  21. Adam

    I totally agree with Stephanie here. Jeez, read the freaking article already.

    “I don’t relate these stories to say how awful kids are and how they shouldn’t travel. On the contrary, I have traveled around kids many, many times and they have almost always been fine.”

    Matt is complaining about a SMALL section of bad parents. Not ALL parents. It makes me wonder why some of you parents are so defensive…

  22. Colleen Lanin

    Well I, for one, am enjoying the debate. This is precisely why I chose Landlopers as 1 of my top 10 blogs of 2010- Matt knows how to lure readers in with interesting topics!

    By the way, Steph, why the quotes around “mommies”? Is that supposed to be insulting? It sure felt insulting. Aren’t u a “mommy” too?

    • Matt Long

      Thank you Colleen and as I said, I am honored to have been included.

  23. Gray

    I have to admit as a childless person myself, I would very much appreciate it if airlines created “family sections” and “adults only” sections on airplanes (or even entire airplanes that are just for families or just for adults). But I’d be equally happy if all parents started doing their jobs of being parents and teaching their kids how to behave themselves in public.

    There are very rare situations when kids on planes need to be disruptive. The crying babies can’t help themselves. I feel just as bad for the parents as anyone else, because I know there’s nothing they can do about it and it’s got to be horrible to hear your child cry inconsolably. The same goes for the children who experience ear pain due to cabin pressure. They can’t help it, and neither can the parents.

    But I think most of us recognize the difference between those situations and the ones where parents let their kids be loud and hyper and throw tantrums and run wild without trying to control them–OR as you’ve indicated, praising their children for “good behavior” when in fact, their behavior was anything but good. Too many parents have learned to tune out their kids’ bad behavior instead of teaching their kids the proper way to behave in public. But I suppose it can’t be helped, since many of those parents haven’t yet learned how to behave in public themselves. You can’t teach manners to others if you don’t have any yourself.

  24. CanCan

    I vote for a Jerks Only section for the people that get their panties in a wad over the sight of children on a plane. Then we could all feel happy, just a matter of changing the name of the section.
    It all began for me when my first born was 7 weeks old, we flew from Atlanta to Bangkok. That flight is approximately 14 days long. I dutifully boarded first (as a parent of a small child) so that I got a good view of the woman rolling her eyes once she realized I was her seatmate.
    FYI, newborns sleep about 20 hours a day and cry as loud as kittens, so my baby just slept the journey away and cackled for about 8 minutes of the whole flight. My seatmate on the other hand insisted on reading a full sized newspaper that she spread out her entire wingspan so that it took up 1/3 of my field of vision (totally over the armrest line). She had good stamina too because her reading light stayed on the entire flight (14 days).
    But I had a baby so damn, what I was I thinking inconveniencing her. Shame on me for realz.

    • Matt Long

      This is getting old, but did you even read the post before calling me a jerK?

  25. amyfabulous

    Hey Matt,

    Thanks for this post. I understand that when it comes to the topic of children, as a writer you have to be prepared to get a lock of flack from parents out there. To the people offended by Matt’s post, I understand that you’re likely a parent who has had your experience of uncontrollable kids and that listening to a non-parent discuss the woes of being on a redeye next to screaming kids is less than ideal. Yes, you’re trying the hardest you can (or maybe you’re not), but stop being angry and accusatory when other travelers just want some peace and quiet. I don’t know who is to blame nor what the solution is. And for both parties – travelers and parents – screaming at each other on the flight usually doesn’t help much either.

    • Matt Long

      Amy, thank you so much for this comment. Without a doubt I think it’s one of the most insightful comments on this issue and I appreciate it.

  26. amyfabulous

    Hey CanCan,

    I don’t think Matt is talking about all babies and children. In no way has he suggested that there babies are an inconvenience. He is sharing specifically on two occasions where the children (not newborn sleeping babies) were screaming and running around with what appeared to be with no reaction from the parent to control the behavior. Of course, there may be behind-the-scenes stuff going on that the regular disturbed traveler cannot see (maybe the children were acting up due to an illness, etc). But he is simply questioning if the parents were actually parenting at that point.

    I sat on a plane with 4 loud kids running around, screaming, laughing, jumping. I saw other guest start screaming at the dad. I felt that was uncalled for, because he really was, trying the best he could. That doesn’t do anything to help the situation. If the father was completely neglecting the children and not trying at all to manage their noise and physical activity levels whilst on a plane, that may warrant a comment. Not destructive or a screeching yell though.

  27. Christine Gilbert

    I think you’re overlooking one glaring fact: No one likes screaming kids. Not even their parents. I used to be annoyed by crying kids wondering “Why don’t they just comfort him!”, but now that I’ve flown over 30,000 miles with my infant son, I feel differently. When I see a frazzled family, I feel sorry for them. I want to give that poor momma a drink. Or maybe two. If you think sitting next to a crying child is bad, try comforting one on a plane while everyone gives you Hate Eyes.

    Compassion people! Seriously! If a baby is crying, the parents feel horrible. It’s biological. The sound of your own child crying is excruciating. If despite that a family can’t help their child quiet down, then really, they are in a world of misery. No need to pout! Just be happy it isn’t you!

  28. Annie @ PhD in Parenting

    I love traveling with my kids. I hate flying with them.

    I hate flying with them because if your children are having an “off” day, there aren’t that many options when the plane is up in the air. If I’m in a restaurant or at a party, I can opt to leave. In an airplane, that option isn’t there.

    There are a lot of times that my kids just don’t want to be on that plane, but we drag them on anyway. Saying “let’s just go tomorrow when you’re in a better mood” isn’t really an option. They don’t want to go home from their vacation. They didn’t want to be dragged out of bed at 4am to leave for the airport. They didn’t want to be kept up hours after their bedtime for a cross-Atlantic flight, only to have to sit on the tarmac for 1.5 hours when all I desperately want is to be up in the air, have the stupid useless 11pm meals served and removed, so that I can FINALLY get my now over-wired and over-tired children to sleep. By the time they finally get on the plane, my kids have usually already been traveling for between 4 and 8 hours and they are already sick of it.

    Personally, I would love a *special* section on the airplane. I would love a section where the flight attendants don’t come through four times before finally leaving you alone on the flight. I would like a section where flight attendants and passengers don’t bump the arm of whoever is in the aisle seat each time they walk past. I would love a section where the person in front of me doesn’t put their seat back. I would love a section where the person behind us doesn’t lean on our seat when getting up to go to the bathroom. I would love a section where no one guffaws at the movie. I could go on…All these things that other passengers and staff do make it more difficult for me and my children on the flight.

    I know what works and what doesn’t work when it comes to parenting and disciplining my children. I also know when none of that is going to work and when I just have to push through and hope I come out the other side alive. If you are on a flight with that like me (or any other parent), I hope you brought your noise canceling headphones with you. I’ve heard it is a worthwhile investment.

  29. Nath

    Maybe instead of Child sections on planes there should be a complainers area. Where we could put all people that complain for nothing. You can’t handle a child for an hour? I hope i don’t become like that when I grow older (I’m 21). But I don’t think so.

    • Matt Long

      Wow, hope that’s not the official position of Gap Adventures! This post was meant to start a discussion about a very real travel topic, which I believe it did. Most have refrained from name calling and instead have entered into the discussion in a sober and intelligent way.

      • Nath

        This is my personal opinion and was referring to the fact that there are 3 different posts about 3 different situations on flights, which I think wasn’t necessary. I just think that there are a lot of people complaining about kids all the time, and sometimes a kid should just be allowed to be a kid. If you don’t like being cramped on an airplane for 8 hours, the kid won’t necessarily like it neither, and they should just eb allowed to be. Yes it can be annoying but this post sounded very bashing on kids behaviour on planes. Maybe it had to do with the fact that I read your article on cats kids and just people in general, but i just think you make awesome travel articles and these ones were just a little too much. Travelling is a beautiful thing and as all great thing do imply a couple of less pleasant things, which we should just comply with, for the love of what we do =)

      • Matt Long

        The cat article was satirical, meant to poke fun at myself as I indicated in the comments.

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