How To Travel With Kids Without Disturbing Others


A while back, there was a survey conducted saying that screaming kids and their parent are among the worst plane etiquette violators. These children are even considered to be more annoying that those foul-smelled passenger.

For travelling mommies – including myself – this may not be a shocking surprise. I can’t speak on behalf of others, but for me, when I read about the survey I turned into my defensive mode. No, my kid is never annoying.

Oliq on Air France
Oliq on Air France

On the other side, I am not always a mommy. I was once single, flying solo often, and occassionally annoyed by the behaviour of children on plane.  Even cursed it.

My most dramatic flying experience was a bumpy domestic ride from Yogyakarta to Jakarta. Along the way, there was this little boy who kept screaming, “Pesawat mau jatuh, mau jatuh, mau jatuh!” or literally means “Plane is about to crash, about to crash, about to crash.” The screaming was very loud as this kid was actually sitting away from me. I did not know the response of the parents, whether they tried to calm him down or shuuush him. The effect was all passengers started to recite prayers as turbulence continued.

As a mother who has been flying with my currently 3,5 years old boy for over 70 flights to over 15 countries, I think it is fair for me to share my experience and tips.

My son is not an angel. He threw a tantrum now and then. It is normal, people understand as long as it does not cross the limit.

What limit? For me, the limit is the parents. As long as we see them prepared, exercise a caring discipline to the children, and work very hard to calm the children down, it is acceptable. Babies are being babies. Toddlers are being toddlers.

Let me share you a story, Oliq and I experienced just few days ago, flying our regular internation route from Kuala Lumpur to Yogyakarta. We had our favourite seats, 30 E and 30 F, with nobody sitting in 30D. I thought it was going to be a comfy flight. I was damn wrong.

Few minutes before taxiing, a group of people (4 adults and 4 kids) rushed in to vacant seats behind us. Apparently this is a family with 4 kids and two relatives. They moved from their original seats because they wanted to sit together. The relatives leaved the parents and the kids to go back to their own seats.

Out of 4 kids, two are toddler, aproximately aged 2.5-4 years old. About my son’s age. These two were screaming, crying and kicking. The youngest kicked the back of my seat violently, I had to move to 30 D. What annoyed me the most was how the parents responded. Father was clueless. Mother was screaming to her husband, “Get the green bag. Get the milk bag. I told you at the airport, where is the green bag?” The other passengers looked at them. Frustrated.

Screamings continued. Mother scolded father , “I told you to take care of the green bag. He needs his milk. Where is it? You, you paid attention to much to the lady sharing pomegranates with us, you did not hear me!” ….apparently a little jealousy there….

This is where I drew a line. I don’t respect parents who let their children get away with bad behaviour and disturb others. Parents should try work harder and put their comfort below the comfort of other passengers, instead of screaming and make things worse. Children would get scared even more hearing the parents panic.

One of the relatives rushed from the front, carrying a green bag. The mother gave the milk to the screaming boys, the older one start to doze off, the younger kept on screaming.

Luckily, my son did not pay attention. He was busy reading (looking at – I mean) the safety instruction card.

The screaming continued throughout the flight, with occasional silence when the boys were sleeping. Crying started again when the planedescended.

I tell you a story when my 11 month-old-son threw a hissy fit on a flight from Jakarta to Jeddah. It was a disastrous 9-hour flight. He simply could not sleep. But I worked my f#$king ass trying to calm him down – at least to to annoy the other passengers so much. I carried him around, I breastfed him a lot, I created new toys using any material. At least I tried.

Another story was involving the Air Force. Our Batik Air plane could not take off due to parachuting by the Air Force in Yogya airport. All the passenger were already inside the plane in the tarmac for an hour.  It was hot, it was uncomfortable when my kid started to cry. He cried for ten long minutes before finally calmed down when the plane took off (and the aircond was on).

There are some more general tips on how to fly with children here and here.

These are more specific tips you may want to try:

  1. Tell to the toddlers about the flight before. For example, before boarding the plane I told my son how long it is going to take. He may cannot understand what 2.5 hours mean, but I can say “it’s not too long, enough to have a nap”. Or if we fly longhaul, I will tell “X is pretty far, we will get there in the morning. It’s much farther than Jogja or Jakarta. Don’t worry!”
  2. Be responsive to their needs. I flew business class from Abu Dhabi to Amsterdam with Oliq. Puput was in economy class. The one thing that I most afraid of is my kid would cry and disturb other passengers (who paid a fortune to get comfort). It was a flawless flight. Oliq was hungry, I gave him snack. His iPad was on standby along with his toys. The Dutch gentleman sitting next to us smile admirably seeing how both of us handle things.
  3. Be prepared. Variety of favorite toys, favourite books, favourite toys.
  4. Emergency kit. Not a bandage nor plaster. It’s a new toy I always have in my bag. One of his favourite kind, such as miniature plane or heavy equipment. During emergency (I can’t calm him down for no reason), I will give it to him. It will cheer him up and buy me sometimes.
  5. Stay calm, don’t panic. I have stated this many time in my articles before. Kids can sense if the parent are panic, it will worsen their fear.
  6. As I already said, put the comfort of you behind other passengers. Besides, it’s your kid. Your responsibility.

See? Flying with kids is not hard at all.

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13 thoughts on “How To Travel With Kids Without Disturbing Others”

  1. can not agree more! saya udah 6x terbang sama nisa. waktu umur 10 bulan sama 3 tahun. jakarta-nagoya PP sama Jakarta-Yogya PP. dan semua baik2 saja. ^_^ just the 2 of us. memang ketenangan orangtua adalah kuncinya. dan yg penting lagi well-prepared. Tfs mbok! 😉

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      1. etapi blm pernah ngalamin si kecil tiba2 pengen ‘pup’ di atas sih. kalo kayak gitu kasusnya si Nisa pasti ngamuk deh, soalnya dia agak susah klo disuruh masuk toilet kecil gitu. -_-. ada tips ga mbok gimana cara menghadapi anak yg tiba2 kebelet pengen pup di pesawat? Oliq gimana? 😀

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      2. Aik blm pernah pup di pesawat. Dia tipe yg ga akan kebelet klo ga ngerasa nyaman. Paling pol kalo di mall deh dia bisa kebelet atau klo road trip naik mobil bisa pup di toilet spbu. Biasa aku bawa pottynya yg tipis gampang dibawa ke mana2. Potty yg ditaruh di atas dudukan toilet. Krn klo duduk di wc tanpa potty harus dipegangi dia ga nyaman juga. Klo ada potty cepet beres urusannya.

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  2. Jadi inget Januari tahun lalu pas tebang ke El Tari bareng ponakan yang usia 2 tahun. Pas awal tebang si ponakan tenang.. Tapi pas tengah2, dia mulai kebosanan.
    Karena biasa terbang sendiri atau sama temen yang seumuran, jadi ga persiapan banyak pas bawa terbang si kecil. Dan, kami lupa bawa mainan #Duh
    Ternyata, mainan2 ini memang senjata ampuh buat si anak biar tenang selama terbang ya mba #BaruTahu

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