How to be an awesome parent when travelling with kids

By John Walton, September 14 2012
How to be an awesome parent when travelling with kids

Picture the scene on a plane: a screaming baby -- no, two of them -- a few rows away, penetrating your noise-cancelling headphones, for the duration of the flight where you'd hoped to get some work done or have a well-earned rest.

Would a pack of lollies and a set of earplugs help? For many travellers, the answer is yes, especially if it comes with a cute note "from" the tiny babies in question.

A quick sugar rush, a pre-emptive apology and the promise of doing everything possible to help fellow passengers avoid the noise is what these parents were going for with their gift bags handed out to fellow passengers on board a US flight recently, and which went viral on Facebook and Twitter.

Mum and Dad -- with babies on their knees -- back in row 20 handed out the lollies and a "sorry in advance" note to sweeten up the people on the plane potentially disturbed by the usual childhood wailing that comes with the pressure changes and overall novelty of the average flight.

The AusBT team gives a firm A+ to these parents, who know that their offspring are potentially likely to cause problems and are heading potential issues off at the pass.

But for other business traveller parents who might be bringing Junior on a first trip -- and who might not be so prepared -- here are a few frequent flyer tips to avoid those death stares from fellow passengers and to make your own flight more pleasant.

If your flight isn't as empty as this one, here are a few tips to keep the little ones occupied and avoid glares from grumpy fellow passengers.
If your flight isn't as empty as this one, here are a few tips to keep the little ones occupied and avoid glares from grumpy fellow passengers.

Pick a seat at the back

In economy, pick a seat as far back as you can in the plane, close to the lavatories in case she needs changing, and to the crew if you need a hand. You're also furthest away from the potentially disturbed business travellers up front and in the area of the plane most likely to yield a spare seat for your little sweetums.

Apologise in advance

Frequent travellers know that kids make noise on planes, but a quick "sorry if he screams" goes a long way to getting passengers in the same row on your side.

Bribery works wonders

On a buy-on-board flight? Shout your row and the people in front and behind a grownup beverage or two and you'd be surprised how much it lightens the mood if your little sweetie screams her head off.

Bring new things to entertain the wee one

On full-service airlines like Qantas and Virgin Australia, we've never heard of parents being denied an extra bag containing things for the little one. It's in everyone's interest if your kid is entertained, after all, so bring some cheap and cheerful new toys that'll keep him interested. Bet on a new toy every thirty minutes or so when she's awake.

Gadgets are great

Whether it's installing a stack of iPad apps on your tablet or adding something new to your phone, your kids will love new games and things to play with on your electronic devices. Add an extra battery pack and you might even make it through a movie!

Choose flights with entertainment

Australian flights vary from being full of entertainment options to offering nothing more than the fabric of the seat back in front of you. Pick flights that have decent entertainment, or know that you'll need to provide it yourself.

The crew are your friends

On some Air New Zealand flights, the cabin crew hold "story time" down the back in the galley kitchens. Take advantage of that -- or any other help from the crew -- to have a quick breather (and a grownup beverage of your own) while your little darling listens to a story. The crew can also prepare bottles and baby food -- all of which can be brought through security despite the "no liquids" rules.

Got parenting tips for your fellow business travellers who're jetting off with the kids? Share your experiences and top tips in a comment below!

John Walton

Aviation journalist and travel columnist John took his first long-haul flight when he was eight weeks old and hasn't looked back since. Well, except when facing rearwards in business class.

09 Nov 2011

Total posts 88

How to be an awesome parent when travelling with the kids - leave them at home

01 Feb 2012

Total posts 370

that makes you a good passenger to share a plane with, but a crap parent.

09 Nov 2011

Total posts 88

I never proffesed to be a Parent nor do I want to share a $7000 First Class plane flight with a screaming kid

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

19 Aug 2011

Total posts 167

Yes get a seat at the back of economy class.  Far away from premium economy and business, even better if the front of economy was sans bassinets (are parents with babies really business airlines care about keeping).  I had a 13 hour daylight flight from Asia to Europe in premium economy regularly tortured by the screaming children in the front of economy just behind.

11 Mar 2012

Total posts 314

Wow to the attitudes here.  Parents with young kids are as entitled as anyone to fly.  Noise bothering you?  Stick a set of earplugs is and pop a sleeping tablet, sorted.


04 May 2011

Total posts 22

Spinoza... you are correct. Everyone has a right to fly. What annoys me is people sitting in First and Business who get annoyed / make comments with Families travelling (We have 3 kids) when probably their company has paid for their tickets and the family has paid for their own. I have used this comment a couple of times in lounges / planes when travelling with the family  and strangely never got a response!!

09 Nov 2011

Total posts 88

Actually NO - I pay for my own tickets on many occasions and can now rely on the innovative Airlines who have decided to ban kids from 1st class such as Malaysia. I also recently flew Singapore Airlines A380 suites where every effort was made by the crew to maintain peace and quiet. This is not a stab at kids - more about parents that think it is ok to let their tribe run riot. Take a look around you when in a busy shopping mall or on a train.

09 Nov 2011

Total posts 88

Even Air Asia X is getting on the band wagon - Here is the exact quote from The Age today...

Travellers who favour the sound of silence can book an AirAsia X Quiet Zone seat on long-haul flights from February. Rows seven to 14, directly behind premium class, is the dedicated zone. Seats here don't cost extra, beyond the "pick-a-seat" fee of 35 ringgit ($11) for economy seats and 110 ringgit for "hot seats" the airline already charges passengers. Under-12s are not allowed in rows seven to 14. See

15 Sep 2012

Total posts 93

I am appalled at the attitudes of some passengers and some of the comments posted here.. Spare a thought for those of us with disabled children who may have no choice but to bring them on a flight. We may have to travel to attend funerals or for work. Most of us wont bring our child unless we have to! Often the airline charges us MORE  to bring special euipment like wheelchairs and pushers for our children with us! Severely autistic children can be upset by by the smallest thing which you cannot predict. All the good intentions and careful preparation in the world cannot stop some autistic children having  a meltdown and the rudeness of some passengers only makes it worse. We live with these kids 24/7 and we will try to do our best to calm them down but please understand it can take time and a lot of effort. You only have to put up with a noisy kid for a few hours - try doing it for the rest of your life!

27 Jul 2011

Total posts 42

why should babies be denied the premium class pleasures

11 Jan 2012

Total posts 20

We're taking our yet-to-be-born baby to London in December, QF/CX via HKG on the way out, BA/QF via FRA on the way back. Business Class seats purchased using all the points I have earned during the past year spending many weeks away from my home and partner on work trips. This is our first child so I have no idea what to expect. However, good preparations and good manners have gotten me this far in life and I hope they suffice on the flight.

10 Apr 2012

Total posts 59

I had to put up last year on a Flight between London and Singapore.The Daytime Singapore Airlines A380 SQ317 with a row not far from mine with a passenger travelling with her husband and two young kids It was totally unpleasant as I had just finished up a day earlier on a UK Tour and looking forward to sector 1 hopefully in peace.I could hear the screams for miles and sometimes I just wanted a water or juice to calm me down or to ask the cabin attendant for some fresh fruit or a sandwich to keep the peace for this peace.I am not a parent as such but boy was I glad to get out of that plane at Singapore.I think this person was going onto either Auckland or Brisbane later in the morning I didn't bother to ask as it wasn't my business but felt sorry for the persons near them to be stuck with the same crap like me for another 7 to 11 hours.

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