I’ve read a number of articles about travel with children recently. Most of them are well written and considerate of both the adult traveling alone sitting near children and the children who are traveling. The comments, however, are always negative and generally one sided. Children do not respond to newspaper or website articles. I’ve been in both positions: a flying child and an adult flying alone. When I respond to those articles, I always respond on the side of a third party: the parent of the children.
I recognize and have experienced the following: as the parent of children on a jet there some things you cannot control
- Passengers who dislike children will nearly always complain
- Drunk passengers complain the loudest and longest
- Children who are afraid, just like everyone else, will cry
- Children who are sick, tired, hungry and/or poopy will cry
- Children who are bored will cry and/or look for ways through mischief to entertain themselves
- Children WILL cause mischief
- There are never enough diapers when emergencies arise
- Passengers who sympathize and/or like children will nearly always try to help
As a child, I traveled often with my military parents. We lived in Germany for four years and traveled throughout Europe on vacation. My parents love travel. Right now, out of retired boredom and wanting to pay off all debts before they get too old to do so, they have become over the road truckers driving one of those huge Kenworth trucks everywhere they can get to and are loving it. We traveled whenever the excuse was available. As a child with five brothers all very near in age (I’m the oldest), I was often the ringleader of mischief or the scape-goat for mischief. My brother Pat is the family genius for trouble (he’s now a lawyer). We however knew there were limits. If we acted out while flying, we would go with dad to the restroom to get a spanking with the belt (my dad still wears that thing and it has become a piece of family folklore) to the often applause of passengers.
As a traveling adult who speaks both Korean and French and with a working understanding of German, I traveled often for both AMEX and SuHyup UhHaeng (Korean National Fisheries Bank). I have seen it all, but when possible and welcomed, I have tried to help kids who are flying. I have also been the bane of many traveling drunks who bitch way too often about flying children.
As a flying parent who traveled with his kids throughout Asia and back and forth to the US, I have been attacked verbally and physically (once in Tokyo, Narita by a drunk Frenchman–he got to stay in Tokyo longer than he wanted). I have also found very generous and kind travelers everywhere. To make travel the best for my kids, I did the following:
- I let them carry their own tickets, passports and carry-ons (I took the documents back when we were in the air or waiting around in airports)
- I told many tales about Pat and his many visits with the belt to the aircraft restrooms
- I packed snacks, books, coloring books and crayons, toys they forgot, Walkmans for each kid and loads of CDs and maps showing times and destinations
- When the kids were toddlers or infants, we packed twice as much formula and diapers as normally needed (we did run out on one flight to Seoul when Martie got sick)
- I made sure to educate the kids about where we were going and what to expect while we were traveling
- I also told them that many of the adults were terrified of flying and would not appreciate being bothered by them
- I also told them that many travelers would be drinking and since they had lots of experience with their alcoholic, maternal grandfather, they knew to keep their distance
Traveling with kids is always hard. Always. I recommend patience and preparation even if you are the adult traveling alone. AND if you hate kids, KEEP YOUR DAMN MOUTH SHUT.