How to Handle People Who Hate Children on Airplanes

Many airplane passengers can’t stand flying within the same fuselage as children. In a survey of nearly 2,500 individuals by Travelzoo Australia, screaming children were named as the worst aspect of air travel by 67 percent of respondents. Apparently travelers think airplanes should be Zen zones free from the noise, exuberance, and annoyance of children. But what’s a traveling parent to do? Rather than staying grounded until the kids go off to college, use these six tips from family travel bloggers to handle people who hate children on airplanes.

Worry about your child, not the haters, on your flight with a baby
Worry about your child, not the haters, on your flight (Photo credit: cunaplus,

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1. Make Friends

Jessica Bowers, author of, suggests asking those seated nearby to tell you if your children are bothering them. She says, “I think just giving (other passengers) the freedom to complain makes them less cranky.”

Debbie Dubrow of says, “Once someone actually said ‘just my luck’ as he sat down next to me, and I answered with a polite and friendly, ‘I’m sorry, I didn’t hear you?’ which sent him back-peddling. He was actually quite polite for the rest of the trip.”

Some parents even recommend purchasing a round of drinks for neighboring passengers or passing out ear plugs to drown out any child-induced noisiness.

Make friends with flight attendants and fellow passengers when flying with children
Make friends with flight attendants and fellow passengers when flying with children (Photo credit: yacobchuk1,

2. Keep Kicking to a Minimum

Avoid jostling those seated in front of your family by removing children’s shoes. There will be less kicking if tootsies get sore from this unwanted behavior. Keep the tray table steady by choosing mellow activities and explaining to children how their behavior could disturb other passengers.

Keep kids content with toys and when flying
Pack travel toys and games for kids (Photo credit: FamVeldman,

3. Fly Prepared

To avoid mid-flight meltdowns pack toy sets, arts and crafts projects, and travel-sized games and puzzles. Take a look at our recommended list of toys for traveling with kids.

You should also bring along favorite books or download children’s stories to your smart phone or tablet. Even if you don’t allow television or video games at home you may want to consider bending the rules to allow a bit of screen time, especially on a very long flight.

Pack travel snacks for children
Pack travel snacks for children (Photo credit: AChubykin,

4. Pack Snacks

Pack a wide variety of healthy travel snacks, all in their own small containers. Dole out goodies one at a time to keep mouths happily munching (and silent). You might want to bring a few special treats to hand out for good behavior toward the end of your journey. Sandra Foyt of always keeps a few lollipops handy on flights, “for emergency purposes.”

Mom and children on an airplane
Pay lots of attention to your kids on the airplane (Photo credit: yacobchuk1,

5. Make an Obvious Effort

Parental involvement is key to keeping offspring content in the close confines of an airplane cabin. Many travelers say they do not hate children on airplane, rather it is their inattentive parents they do not like. Make an obvious display of your efforts to show you’re doing your best to soothe the wails of your crying baby or to diffuse your child’s tantrum.

Lisa Goodmurphy of says, “I think the most important thing when flying with kids is that your attention needs to be 100 percent focused on them. Children can’t be expected to know how to behave on a plane unless you teach them how.”

Focus on your child to avoid or lessen meltdowns in the air
Focus on your child to avoid or lessen meltdowns in the air (Photo credit: AndreyPopov,

6. Ignore the Haters

Other passengers may inwardly (or less often, outwardly) groan when you board with your kids. Despite all the negative polls and articles, not everyone on the plane will hate you. Many will be sympathetic to the sometimes stressful task of flying with children.

If all else fails, then silently repeat this mantra, “This too shall pass.” Soon enough, your family will land safely at your destination. And remember, you will likely never have to see your fellow passengers ever again!

Look for friendly faces on the airplane
Look for friendly faces on the airplane (Photo credit: odua,

Learn More Tips for Traveling with Kids

Traveling with a toddler or preschooler? Learn how to keep your child safe when flying with this compact airplane travel harness for kids.

For more air travel help, take a look at our tried and true tips for flying with babies and toddlers.

Keep kids content when flying with this list of recommended travel games for toddlers to teens.

Find out why to fly Frontier Airlines with kids.

My toddler in a CARES airplane harness
My toddler in a CARES airplane harness (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

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How to Handle People Who Hate Children on Airplanes

Do you have any tips for handling passengers who hate children on airplanes? Let us know in the comments below!

A Note from The Travel Mama: When I originally wrote this story (using the title “How to Handle Kid-Hating Curmudgeons on Airplanes”) for TODAY Travel in 2012, the story received over 100 comments, mostly from angry airplane passengers upset, apparently, that children exist in the world. The story is no longer on their website.

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  1. Other passengers are not “haters” because they don’t want to listen to your child’s loud voice and tantrums. They’re just not used to your child, and what seems like normal kid behavior to you can be quite annoying to others. Many people like to read, watch a movie, work or even sleep on a long flight. No one is obligated to appease you as a parent. Referring to other passengers as “cranky pants” or “haters” who need to put their headphones on (which does little to block out the noise of a shouty kid) and just deal with it is rather selfish on your part.

    Yes, you have a right to travel with your children. Your rights stop where other people begin. Try to remember that before getting all huffy and entitled just because you pushed a baby or two out of your body. That was your choice. It’s not everyone else’s obligation to put up with it.

    1. Hi J – It sounds like you really didn’t read the full story. Our tips really focus on making unhappy people like you feel a little less angry when flying. I never did say “cranky pants” but you sure sound like a cranky pants! Come back and let me know your thoughts after you’ve actually read the entire article!

  2. Love these responses to Frequent Flyer. As if I’m going to stop my toddler from seeing her grandmother and aunties on the other side of the world (plus get a break for myself with family help that I don’t get at home) in order to appease complete strangers for a number of hours!!

  3. Well Colleen, frequent flyer here, i’ve read this article like you suggested. While I empathize with the families that MUST travel for legal or obligational reasons, I disagree with the consensus that vacations with your infant (sounds like under the age of three is the worst) are a good thing despite the poll stating that 67% of passengers are annoyed by it. While gestures of drinks, ear plugs and condolences are polite, when your infant is kicking and screaming non-stop for three hours, there is not enough alcohol on board (or deep enough pockets) to make your condolences meaningful. The first leg of everyone’s strenuous journey has just been forever soured.
    Save your money and self esteem for the next couple years until your child can have his/her own seat and experience the thrill of air travel. Imagine the how peaceful it will be for you and everyone else on board. My children are none the wiser that they didn’t get a chance to visit (insert a destination here) when they were 2 years old.

    1. You are a nightmare human. MUST travel!? How about I pushed 2 humans out of my body and I want a vacation? How about I am still nursing and wouldn’t want to leave them with family even if I wasn’t? I enjoy being with my family. Get some headphones and stop being a selfish bitter child hating fool.

    2. So people with young children should put off seeing family across the country because some stranger finds it annoying? My vacations are to be with my extended family and to have my child meet and visit her relatives. Why don’t you wait three years and see if you’re a better human being by then.

    3. Nothing you could do would ever please some loser like “frequent flyer”. Besides this is the kind of guy who sits next to you on a flight and bothers you the entire time.

      I’ve been an airline brat my whole life. My entire family has worked for the airlines. So I’ve flown as much or more as most “frequent flyers” and I can’t think of a baby ruining my flight even once… But, I can think of dozens if not hundreds of times adults have been absolutely horrible.

      I would’ve paid to have a screaming baby next to me instead of a guy from Seattle who couldn’t stop talking to me about himself on one of my flights.

      Moms and dads… take those kids and fly!

  4. Any special tips for a 9 month old who is to young to be enterained by electronics and is almost walking? When she wants to crawl n walk she wants to crawl and walk! Im a dad and nervouse about the other ppl as if i hear anyone make a comment i might shoot of my mouth. My wife and i will be 100% about keeping her calm but we obviously cant all the time. I told my wife if she flips out to walk her to the bathroom n try to calm her in there and come outbwhen shes calm? Idk

    1. Travis – The biggest concern I hear from traveling parents is worry that everyone on the airplane will hate their family. Check out the travel toys for babies and toddlers in this post: Also, you may find this Airplane Kit for Babies and Toddlers handy: My book, “The Travel Mamas’ Guide: How to Vacation with Babies and Children…and Stay Sane” is full of tips for traveling parents of young children. There’s a whole chapter on air travel with children. Enjoy exploring the world with your little one!

  5. What I can’t stand and am glad was not mentioned is the “I’m sorry” pack of goodies that some give out to other travelers. I’m not a fan of that. I’m more of an advocate of actively managing your kids no matter how tired or awful you feel.

    1. Totally agree, Katie! I think this extra pressure to make goodie bags for other adults on the airplane is just another stressor for parents. As thought parents of young children don’t already have enough to manage!

  6. Good advice, especially the ‘make an effort’. The only time I get annoyed with parents of misbehaving kids is when I think the parent doesn’t care. Otherwise, I certainly know how it goes, and have been there myself!

  7. I kind of understand this kerfuffle over kids on planes, but i sort of don’t. Yes, I’ve been on planes with crying babies and then parents do the best they can and you have to sympathize and realize there is only so much they can do. Sometimes babies just cry and it’s as hard on the parent as everyone else on the plane. But once kids are 3 or so and older they are capable of occupying themselves and behaving with help from you. My experience is that above 3, kids misbehave in the airport more than on the plane (on the plane they have books, videos, video games, toys, snacks, etc.). I can’t stand kids who are loud or fidgety or running around me when I’m waiting in line at the airport. Usually those kids have parents who are ignoring them or choosing not to do anything (maybe it doesn’t occur to them that their kids are bothering other people?) I agree with Lisa Goodmurphy says, you can’t plan to put on headphones and read for 4 hours; you do have to actively manage your kids. But i also find that preparing kids ahead of time, telling them where you’re going, what will happen, and how they should behave goes a long way; when they act up you remind them that this isn’t “airplane behavior.” If more parents did that then people might not mind having kids on planes so much. If you know your child really really can’t sit quietly and behave for the length of your flight than maybe you should consider a different mode of transportation while you work on getting them plane ready.

    1. Eileen – Good tip to prepare kids for what to expect and how they are expected to behave on their airplane journey. I think maybe parents let their kids run around the airport to let them get rid of some of their energy before being limited to the tight confines of the plane. When my kids were a bit younger, I would take them to a less populated area of the airport and encourage them to run laps around this one particular lonely fountain in hopes that this would help release some of their kid energy!

  8. Special ‘dollar-store’ gifts can work magic – new and surprise toys can delight kids for hours! Plus if they’re cheap and get lost at some point, it won’t be the end of the world. 🙂

    1. Yes! Love getting new little doo-dads for travel with children. You need not spend a ton to entertain little ones, either!

  9. You forgot to mention bringing items that you usually don’t let your child have. These things have special powers and give more leverage with an uncooperative little one.

    1. Phil – Great tip! I do mention bringing along special treats like lollipops and bending technology rules while in the air!