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Common Courtesy 101: How to Travel with Kids

TravelPulse logo TravelPulse 4/21/2017 Holly Johnson

© Flickr A few weeks ago, I was headed home from Jamaica with my family in tow. We had just spent an exhausting week laying around on the beach, drinking Red Stripe and searching for crabs. With a four-hour flight ahead of us, we were ready for some R&R.

Unfortunately, the family next to us had other ideas.

As soon as our plane took off, they whipped out a giant iPad, turned on the most annoying cartoon I’d ever heard, and proceeded to watch it on full blast. And this wasn’t just a child; the parents were watching, too!

Everyone around them kept looking and waiting. Did they really expect the entire plane to listen to their cartoon? Why didn’t they wear ear plugs? I found it fascinating they didn’t realize how rude they were being.

At a certain point, I started to wonder if they noticed the angry looks and stares. But no, they just kept on watching.

Fortunately, a flight attendant made them turn the volume off after 30 minutes of uncomfortable misery. I snickered with sweet satisfaction as she said, “Sorry ma’am, but you’ll need to turn that off or plug in headphones. The people around you shouldn’t have to listen to your movie.”

This is the kind of thing that gives parents with kids a bad rap. While plenty of us work hard to keep our kids busy, other parents don’t seem to care if other travelers are miserable.

And some people seem truly clueless when it comes to child and parent etiquette on a plane.

If you have kids and want to improve your own travel experience, along with the experiences of those around you, here are some tips to consider:

Bring Kindles, Tablets and Something to Color With

A long flight is boring enough for adults but almost impossible for kids to bear.

To break up the monotony, it helps to have a Kindle or tablet to play with. Load it with a few simple games that don’t require Wifi, then let your kids play away while you’re in the air. While it’s smart to limit screen time at home, flying is one time where you’ll want to throw those rules out the window.

As an alternative, I always try to include some paper and crayons in my laptop bag. When all else fails, most kids love to color!

Force Your Kids to Turn Off the Volume or Wear Headphones

The rows around you don’t want to listen to an episode of Caillou, especially on a plane where it’s already loud and uncomfortable.

I always bring headphones, but my kids occasionally refuse to wear them. In that case, they play their games without any volume.

And, you know what? They survive.

Don’t Let Your Kids Kick the Seat in Front of Them

Nothing is more annoying than having a kid kick your seat while you relax on a plane!

It’s hard to imagine that parents don’t notice their child jamming their foot into the seat in front of them repeatedly. Don’t let your kid do this. Don't be that parent.

Bring Snacks That Aren’t Gross and Messy

Bringing snacks to keep your kids happy is smart. However, bringing messy snacks or candy is insane.

I once sat next to a kid eating Fun Dip on a plane and, trust me, it wasn’t pretty. He got it all over himself, the seat and eventually me.

As a parent, do everyone a favor and bring simple snacks that are easy to clean up. Think animal crackers, cereal bars or fruit snacks.

Pack a Bribe

Snacks are good, but you may have to bring out the big guns. I usually keep a few goodies in my purse when we fly with our young kids.

If they start arguing with each other or start to lose it for some reason, a candy bar or pack of Mentos (or another “clean” candy) usually does the trick.

Don’t Ignore Your Kids When They’re Acting Up

This final tip is probably the most important: Don’t look the other way when your kids start to lose their minds. Travelers get annoyed easily when a kid is acting out and you’re staring out the window or reading a book.

It’s your kid and whatever is happening is your problem. Deal with it.

WATCH: How to load your luggage into the overhead bin
(Provided by Travel + Leisure)

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