10 Ways To Make Traveling With Children Tolerable

And by “tolerable” we just mean “nobody has to die this year.” Kiplinger offers 10 ways to prepare yourself for traveling with kids now that cough syrup is frowned upon. We think one of the best is “team boarding”—don’t pre-board an airplane, because all it really does is increase the time your children are stuck in their seats getting all bouncy. Instead, if you’ve got another adult with you, one of you should board early and get the luggage stowed, pillows arranged, etc., while the other stays in the airport for as long as possible trying to run the kids ragged enough that they’ll promptly fall asleep once they’re settled in.

A couple of other great ones: look online to locate rest stops (they usually have nicer changing facilities than gas stations), sightseeing opportunities, attractions, and other on-the-way diversions to keep your kids from rebelling. And if jet lag is going to be an issue, gradually stagger your child’s sleep schedule by about 15 minutes or so each day a few days before traveling to minimize the effects.

“Traveling With Tots: A Survival Guide” [Kiplinger]
(Photo: Getty)


Edit Your Comment

  1. catcherintheeye says:

    So… sneaking a little Precedex before takeoff is not recommended?

  2. SaraMahalo says:

    When flying, also try to protect children’s ears: breastfeeding for infants, sippy cups for young ones, and gum or hard candy for older children. (Tip courtesy of my co-workers page on How to fly with kids ([www.mahalo.com]).

  3. Alvis says:

    Why does traveling = flying? Do you really want to teach your kids from a young age that they should allow people to search them before they’re allowed to go anywhere?

  4. KernelPanic says:

    It’s called throttling them…

  5. CurbRunner says:

    What about the eleventh way…as cargo.

  6. mconfoy says:

    Always give infants Tylenol before flying. One should assume that their ears will bother them. Most of the time they will then sleep.

    And before the losers post here, the ones incapable of propagating the species, if you don’t like kids on airplanes, then obviously you must have forgotten the greater pain of security, delays, etc.

  7. ironchef says:

    Pack them in the luggage. :)

  8. ultimaluz says:

    What about the twelfth way: negative population growth.

  9. FLConsumer says:


  10. FLConsumer says:

    @SaraMahalo: Hmm.. I wonder if the sippy cup thing would work for um..bigger kids… with the airport bar. Some days, those little $5 bottles of alcohol on the planes doesn’t cut it.

  11. CumaeanSibyl says:

    @SaraMahalo: Yeah, but according to articles I’ve seen on this site, you can’t bring a sippy-cup through security and you can’t breastfeed your child on the plane. Has the TSA outlawed hard candy yet?

  12. BigNutty says:

    Of course you could stay home when your kid is young and make everyone come visit you.

    I was married 8 years before we had a kid so my wife and myself could get out and party without worrying about a kid. I’m sure that is an old fashion view though.

  13. Madness says:

    I remember plane rides as a kid, it was an event comparable to going to church or a fancy party. We had to act like perfect little gentlemen and ladies, or we knew once we got there we’d be stuck in the hotel room for the duration and that would really suck.

    These days, I’ve learned to take pleasure in the discomfort of others and nothing is quite as satisfying as being on an eight hour flight and watching the chap next to you who’s desperate for a smoke pop blood vessels as the air raid siren a few seats over goes into another bout of wailing.

    Yeah, it’s schadenfreude but it makes long flights enjoyable for me, plus a few years ago I used to be that guy until I had some sort of moment of zen about air travel and became apathetic towards it. It’s annoying, dealing with strangers in an enclosed space is bothersome, it stinks, but it’s transitory.

    Mind you, I haven’t dealt with the TSA and the other horrors you American fliers faces, so perhaps if I was going around America on a plane and getting a full body cavity search at every airport for looking like a hippie I’d turn pretty bitter about it again.

  14. dirtymoney says:

    Howsabouts the airlines start charging penalty fees for parents of unruly little hellions that disrupt the passengers’ & flightcrews’ flight experience/duties? Start charging penalty fees & parents will start whipping their little demonseeds back in line in a flash. No more kicking the seats, running amuck down the aisles & generally being loud & obnoxious.

    Or airlines can cut coach into two sections & divide it with a curtain like they do between coach & first class….. keep the parents with their demonic little monsters in the VERY far back section. Earplugs will be provided free of charge to the regular passngers (or will be charged at the parents’ expense).

  15. quail says:

    Back in the 90’s I took my young niece and nephew to the airport to wait for family. They were both under 5 years old. To pass the time when the flight was delayed I took them to a vacant gate with lots of room and had them run relays to the window and back to me. When they tired of that it was story time while we watched the planes. On the car ride home they quickly fell asleep. They key is to engage the kids and not ignore them. Find/make something for them to do.

  16. EtherealStrife says:


    For the kid too.

  17. Major-General says:

    @Tocsin: And where are you flying, because I found European airport security just as bad as the TSA.

    Maybe I was a little different, but my first time flying (age six) was not spent being a little hellion. Of course, my mother would have no qualms about spanking me no matter where we were.

    Today, I can’t even stay awake on the plane.

  18. homerjay says:

    Fly JetBlue. A child with Cartoon Network is a happy child.

  19. JustAGuy2 says:


    Because flying is faster than driving, and most of the interesting places are far away?

  20. Madness says:

    Well, in that case I suppose I’d have the patience to stand the bumbling about of TSA just as well if they equal in incompetence. I hope you didn’t feel the need to point it out just because you thought I was somehow trying to undermine the quality of American airports, well I suppose you can never be too careful with us dangerous European liberal types. Eh? ;)

    Anyway, to be fair I rarely fly inside of Europe, I’d rather go between countries by train or if at all possible car.

  21. extracrispy says:

    I’m in the “hates kids” camp too, but… I have zero sympathy for anyone who gets on an airplane without headphones. So kids on planes don’t bother me.

    Besides, slipping on the headphones is the best way to signal to the stranger next to you that you will not be talking to them for the entire flight. And honestly, incessant small-talkers are worse than any kid I’ve ever seen.

  22. MonkeySwitch says:

    I don’t “hate kids” because I sympathize with them. Most of the loud, obnoxious kids you see running around are a product of a parent who is too busy talking to other people to pay attention to their own kids. At a restaurant last week, I saw a mother literally put her hand over her crying child’s mouth and keep talking rather than tend to whatever it is he wanted.

  23. DashTheHand says:

    Cough syrup is only frowned upon by parents that are so overprotective that their kids should either be dosed or on Ritalin already. Heres a free tip: if your kids annoy the crap out of you, or other people OFF an airplane, don’t think that they will be “perfect angels” on one.

  24. Amelie says:

    I see the lame comic wannabes are out in force today. I wonder how many people leave or stay away from this site because of the pathetic attempts at humor or the inflammatory comments of the corporate shills.

    @dirtymoney: Actually children’s (not infant’s) misbehavior is 99% of the time due to poor parenting. Making parents responsible, by fining them – is an excellent idea.

  25. Mills says:

    I still feel that benadryl is an acceptable option.

  26. rjlewis74 says:

    @Mills: 100% agreed. Its a must when your kids are at that stage when they just won’t sit still

  27. getjustin says:

    Load ’em up on Benadryll. They’ll be out before the safety demonstration and won’t be back until you’re taxiing to the gate.


  28. BuddyHinton says:

    Don’t forget the Portable Hypnosis Devices that are getting very inexpensive. Often times at under $100. These are known to keep kids quite for hours on end.

    P.S. I’m talking about portable dvd players by the way.

  29. Elvisisdead says:

    @CumaeanSibyl: You can absolutely do both. The contents of the sippy cup need to be in their original sealed container (like a small water bottle or a single-serve juice bottle). Keep them seperate and in the appropriate-sized plastic bag. We’ve never had a problem, and have flown 8-9 times in the last year with our 14 month old.

    My wife breastfed our daughter on several of those flights. Breastfeed at takeoff and landing to help their ears, and they’ll generally fall asleep at takeoff and stay out for around 2 hours.

    I wouldn’t dope up my daughter to fly, but she’s good and knows how to behave. We play with her quietly, and neither of us uses headphones or reads. Our job on that plane is to keep her entertained and of minimal intrusiveness to others on the plane. We rarely eat/drink on the plane because we can’t wrangle our daughter and deal with food/drink in such tight quarters. We don’t want to bother other people because we hate unruly kids just as much as everyone else.

    We consider the level of effort on our part to be a given. We don’t complain about it, and do our best to make the little one’s flight a good experience for all parties involved. We have to hustle our arses off to make it happen, but it works out to be an easier thing once you get into a groove.

    It’s really just a shame that more parents don’t feel the same urge and commitment to the frequently traveling community.

  30. bbbici says:

    We’re big fans of TASERs up here in Canada.

  31. othium says:

    I agree with the comments that bad behavior in children is the result of bad parenting.

    Whenever my siblings and I went on a family trip, we behaved ourselves. Saying “Please” and “Thank You” to servers and others. My parents were very strict about public behavior and manners and got many compliments on how they had such “well-behaved” children. My daughter has been raised with the same method I was and I also get compliments from people when eating in restaurants and such. When traveling, I see many children running wild and the parents totally absorbed in a cell phone conversation or on a laptop. It’s kind of sad. I work quite a bit and I view an extended trip on a car/bus/plane as a unique opportunity to talk to and connect as much as I can with my kid. Just me and my daughter having a good conversation about how she is doing in school or anything she wants to talk about. As to not chatter too much and disturb others on the bus or plane, we have a “splitter” with a pair of headphones so we can watch a movie or listen to music together. I’m also glad she shares my fondness for art, as drawing on a sketchpad is a nice, quiet activity and can keep us both happily occupied for hours.

  32. Benny Gesserit says:

    @homerjay: We flew transatlantic (6hr flight) a few months ago and the couple ahead of us had two – maybe 2 and 6. The 6yr old had a PSP and watched cartoons most of the flight. The little one was “happy bouncy” – DESPERATE to crawl up the aisle. (Eeeew, hope his baby immune system was turned up to 11! I looked at that carpet.)

    Infant a few rows back BELLOWED until we took off and promptly fell asleep.

  33. flowergirl says:

    ok, i must say i’m firmly in the “do not want” camp when it comes to kids, but i am appalled at how many people- parents- think that the portable dvd is the answer to everything. any television watching before age 6 severely affects your child’s ability to form language skills, motor perception and deptch perception, and coginitive ability. please people! don’t raise us another generation of morons! take them off the tv tit!

  34. itsgene says:

    When I was a kid, the “stewardesses” (as they were called then) always had cool stuff to give kids. Pilot’s wings, crayons, color books, once I even got a really nice hardcover portfolio with a pad of paper, emblazoned with the airline’s logo. It kept me busy and made the trip seem like a fun, interesting thing rather than a six-hour forced punishment. Coincidentally, I think that the incidence of annoying child behavior was less back then.
    Today, these amenities aren’t even available to First Class passengers, much less to the steerage group smooshed into 3 inch pitch seats. Airlines themselves have a lot to answer for when it comes to the annoyance of upset kids on the plane.

  35. I have an extremely vivid memory of when my youngest brother was about 18 months, and I was about 14, we drove cross-country (as we did every summer; six plane tickets was much too expensive), 17 hours in one day, singing the Jeopardy! theme song. Because he shrieked literally constantly unless someone sang Jeopardy! No other songs. Just Jeopardy! It was his lullaby too. I can never hear that song without thinking about the trip.

    I was flying a few years ago and was sitting in the waiting area near a woman rocking a baby/toddler, quietly singing him the Jeopardy! theme song because, she said, it was the only thing that would keep him quiet. I felt like I’d found my soul mate. Or at least my baby brother’s soul mate.

  36. MaliBoo Radley says:


    It’s true. Growing up with Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers has made me the illiterate moron I am today. I’m rather fortunate that I hired this Baboon to type for me. I call him Mr. Chuckles … he works for peanuts.

  37. esqdork says:

    @Elvisisdead: God bless you. I wish more parents were like you. If that were the case, it would make the inevitible occassional meltdowns more tolerable because there wouldn’t be the assumption (oftentimes correct) that the parents don’t care about anyone else but themselves.

  38. arby says:

    @flowergirl: “Any television watching before age 6?” Your comment is inane. I watched Sesame Street twice a day and learned to read before I was 2 years old, and I probably watched several hours of TV a day through much of childhood (in addition to reading a lot, of course) and scored a 760 (out of a possible 800) on my verbal SATs. Apparently sanctimonious anti-TV fervor severely affects your language skills (say, capitalization and spelling).

  39. SaraMahalo says:

    @CumaeanSibyl: You’ll have to bring an empty cup through security and buy juice/milk/water. And the airlines got beaten back on their breastfeeding ban! Check out this article: [www.boston.com] It notes that a woman who protested after she was told not to breastfeed got Delta to state that it allows any woman to breastfeed on its planes.

  40. mconfoy says:

    @itsgene: go to the information desk in the airport terminal for people flying out. they have them.

  41. mconfoy says:

    and for all you kid haters as i expected, my genes continue on, yours don’t, i win, you lose.

  42. MaliBoo Radley says:


    You say that as though your genes are worth passing on. Just because you’re capable of playing the game doesn’t mean you should.

  43. esqdork says:

    @mconfoy: If you’re the parent who decided to bring the child on the last red-eye I took and proceeded to carry the child up and down the aisle as she screamed and cried at the top of her lungs for three hours; I hate YOU, not your child.

  44. UpsetPanda says:

    I love how incredibly self-centered the article is…okay, yes it’s geared toward parents and how they can keep their rascals entertained on trips, but a lot of the reasoning for keeping your child quiet is not just for your sanity, or theirs. It’s just common decency to make sure your children are well-behaved. If you wouldn’t let them run around your home screeching and making a mess, why would you let them do it in public?

    I believe any people here who have problems with children on planes do not have a problem with the children or the parents flying…it’s that they have problems with misbehaving children, correct? I don’t mind kids…as long as they behave when in public. What they do at home isn’t my concern. But when parents let their kids run amok in public, where they affect others, I have a problem.

  45. Mills says:

    @getjustin: And when you forget benadryl, just get a nice mixed drink throw some of it in a sippy cup.

    (It is possible I have suggested this to parents of screaming toddlers when on planes. Sadly, without sucess.)

  46. Leah says:

    @dirtymoney: can we also start charging extra for people who want to listen to their headphones at loud volume? Listening to thumping rap from someone else’s mp3 player is horrible. I want equal fining here.

    Sometimes kids cry, and it often has nothing to do with the parents (or not a whole lot). That’s what happens. I’m much more concerned with the behavior of folk who can and should control their own behavior than I am with a little baby who cries because of the pressure.

  47. mconfoy says:

    next time i fly with the family, i will get my kids upset enough to throw up, (its easy), and hope one of you maroons is on the flight or better yet, real close.

  48. Pender says:

    @mconfoy: You’d make your own child throw up just to piss off a stranger? You sound like a great parent.