Travel with kids on a plane – how to cope

famille patientant dans l'aéroportTravelling without kids

When I was in my twenties, my pet hate was having to hear kids screaming and throwing tantrums. The worst was when you were on a flight somewhere and you had to listen to a kid cry the entire way. I mean what was that parent doing? Just ignoring their child? Why wouldn’t they just make it stop?


Fast-forward ten years…

Now I am that parent with the screaming children. The argumentative, rude and uncontrollable little kids that everyone is shaking their heads at are mine.

It is just the worst. A confined space that you are stuck in for any number of hours, and all the people around you just want peace and quiet. But they aren’t getting it. Because of your kids. Riding on a plane with young children will definitely have you dealing with a rush of anxiety

A few weeks ago, I had to travel on my own to see my family. I was so excited to be on a plane – all by myself. I was able to watch a movie without interruption, eat all of my own meal, and even start reading a book. I know, amazing right?

Then just this week all four of us take a trip to New Zealand, and it was the complete opposite of relaxing.

Getting to the airport was no drama, checking in was quick and easy. Then came customs. At Sydney Airport. At 7.30am on a Monday morning. It was like driving into the city in peak hour traffic.

I think our big mistake was not having breakfast before we left home, because as soon as the kids realised how long we would be in that line for, the winging started. ‘My feet hurt’, ‘I’m hungry’, ‘How much longer…?’

My husband & I managed to make it through customs with one kid crying and one dragging their feet in protest. Everyone was nice enough to smile politely in pity as we dealt with the tantrums at that stage. We managed to walk to the eatery on the way to our gate and get some breakfast into the kids. They even had time to play in the playground area before we walked all the way to the gate. Happy days.

I should have known what the flight was going to be like as we commenced boarding and the arguing started again. We had one window seat and two kids. Cue the shouting, ‘I want the window seat!’, ‘No, I want the window seat, I never get it!’.


So then Angry Mummy had to come out to lay down the law. And it worked. Until we took our seats and the next argument was who was going to use the armrest. I sighed in exasperation, and I swear you could see the steam coming out of my ears.

It was during this time that I saw a few of our twenty-something neighbours on the flight, watching us as we dealt with mini-drama after mini-drama. And all I could think of saying was, ‘Please don’t judge us, they have a mind of their own. I too used to think the same thing at your age!’

But of course I didn’t express this out loud. I thought it better to let them find out for themselves when they had their own kids. I wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise after all.

So what have I learnt from this recent experience?

Feed the animals before letting them lose.

Never again will I take the chance that the kids will be able to last without having a good bit of food in their tummy before all the fun at the airport. It is tedious, can take longer than you expect, and snacks just don’t cut it once they have reached tantrum city.


Don’t be tight when booking your flight options.

If the flight is over an hour, I always make sure that I book a meal & movie ticket. This at least distracts the kids and gives them something to look forward to during the flight. It is usually only an extra $30 or so, and it gives me time to take a breath.


Forgive the drama.

At times, I find it hard to keep calm in high pressure situations. Mainly because I worry what everyone is thinking about me as a parent. Sometimes though I need to forgive myself. We are doing everything we can to make sure that those around us aren’t uncomfortable because of something our kids are doing. Though there are some people who won’t be happy no matter how your children act. But that’s not your problem. It’s theirs. Don’t take that negativity onboard.


Overall, just allow your kids to be the kids they are. Trying to contain them just to please other people can confuse your little ones. Don’t get discouraged just because of one bad experience. Kids learn best from experience.


Have you got any travel tips or horror stories to share?



Bob says:

Discipline. Plain yet effective…..avoids all this.

Judith-Rose Max says:

Thanks for sharing Bob, discipline comes in many forms and supporting our children is a key form.

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