Beware! Not All Travel Tips Are Actually Helpful

How many “Top 10” travel tip lists have you read recently?  I must admit, I’ve pinned plenty of these.  But, how many have I actually read?  Well, let’s just say there’s a reason the “pin now, read later” phrase exists.

A few days ago, I came across this tweet… “10 Things to Never Let Your Kids Do on a Plane.”  Sounds educational, right?  I’m always on the lookout for great family travel tips.  I clicked the link with the intention of pinning the post.

And then my eyes fell to the first tip on the never, ever, EVER list – don’t let your kids kick the seat.  This must be a joke, right?  The number 1 tip when traveling with children on a plane is to make sure your kid doesn’t mistake the front passenger’s butt cheeks for a soccer ball?

Come on.

The only excuse I have for this sorry list is that it must not have been written by a real-life parent who has actually traveled extensively with his or her children.  The list reflects the writer’s self-consciousness; what others think about him or her is most important.  I can only imagine the miserable time the author (an au pair?) must have had to pen this list!

In an effort to set the record straight, let’s have a gander at these serious travel sins.

Never should you ever let your child…

Kick the seat.  “It is up to you to make sure your child keeps her feet to herself. She doesn’t realize how uncomfortable she is making the person in front of her, and most passengers will not turn around to complain, but instead will silently curse you and your child.”

Where to I begin?  Sure, you can teach an older child that kicking the seat in front is not kind.  But, what about a baby or toddler sitting in a forward-facing car seat on the airplane?  These little ones often have legs that don’t dangle much, leaving their toes touching the seat back.  Reality check – it might be physically impossible to prevent your child from toe tapping the traveler in front.

I’m not suggesting parents disregard the comfort of other passengers.  But I do think there’s only so much that can be done.  Remove the child’s shoes (this softens the kick), do your best to explain how to be a nice neighbor, and then embrace the reality that your kid is going to kick the seat at least a few times despite your best intentions.

Better advice?  Apologize.  Profusely.  And buy the unlucky recipient a drink.

Big Foot breakin' the rules.

Big Foot breakin’ the rules.

Stand on the seat.  “This is a dangerous thing for your kids to do, so don’t encourage them to do it and make sure that you put the kibosh on seat-standing the moment it’s attempted.”

Let’s go back to those babies and toddlers.  When tiny legs are a squirmin’, the best thing you can do is to let them stretch their muscles by bouncing gently on your lap or the seat cushion.  As long as you’re abiding by crew member instructions (including those all-important seat belt signs), what’s the harm?

Now, if you’re allowing your ten year-old to create his own mosh pit in 31B, that’s a different story…

Play with “guns.”  Really?  I guess I could let this one slide for travel newbs who have had their head in the sand the past 12 years…  I have three boys, and I can’t say my kids have ever wanted to play or talk about fake guns or other weapons on airplanes.

My naughty baby - roaming the aisles.

My naughty baby – roaming the aisles.

Run up & down the aisle.  “Kids get restless when they’re asked to sit for long periods of time, but that’s no excuse for them to run up and down the aisle of an airplane. For one, flight attendants often walk the aisles with beverage carts and food, making it a dangerous place for your kids to be. Also, it is a risk for other passengers who will use the aisle to reach the restrooms. Keep them in their seats.”

GET REAL.  True, the safest place for a child on an airplane is in their seat, belt fastened.  But this advice is not realistic for parents with young kids on flights longer than 2-3 hours.

True, you little one shouldn’t use the aisle to train for the 2028 Olympic track team.  But provided flight attendants aren’t serving meals or drinks, I wholeheartedly recommend you get up and walk the aisles a few times with your child on a long haul flight.  P.s. – It’s also good for your health.

Throw a tantrum.  “Granted, fits and temper tantrums are not necessarily controllable, but they will disturb the entire plane and put all of the other passengers on edge. Do your best to put the cap on any tantrums as quickly as possible, for your sake and for the sake of all on board.”

Wait, who benefits from this advice?  The child?  The parents?  No!  This is obviously written by an annoyed passenger who’s had one too many screaming seatmates.

Tantrums will happen.  Why?  Because kids are out of their routine, out of their comfort zone.  Yes, do your best to avoid meltdowns, but admonishing a parent to never let their child throw a tantrum on a plane is unrealistic.

Panic. “Keeping yourself calm is step one, and getting your kids to relax is the next step. Keep all panic out of your voice and your actions, and your kids will trust your instincts and mirror your reactions.”

This is one for the parents – not the kids.  I guess this is good advice if the parent thinks there’s something worthy of panic.  But, hopefully any psychological issues with air travel will be worked out before boarding.

The only thing worth panicking about on board is whether the pasta meals will run out before the meal cart reaches your aisle leaving you with rubberized chicken for dinner.

Take off the seat belt.  If the seat belt sign is lit, don’t let your kids take off their seat belt… It’s best for them to remain belted throughout the flight if possible.”

Sounds solid, right?  Yes, this tip would be golden… if it weren’t so absolute.  How are potty-trained children going to take a tinkle while strapped in?

Leave with strangers.  “If your kids end up in a seat in a different row from you…”

Hold it.  Stop right there.  The rest of this sentence should read, “then fight tooth and nail to get reseated.”  Don’t take no for an answer.  Sit with your kids.  You wouldn’t let someone else entertain or take responsibility for your iPhone during a flight, would you?  Then why in the world would you do the same with your most precious children?

Eat too much.  “Letting your kids eat too many treats could lead to trouble.”

What, like them sitting quietly in their seats for an entire flight, passing the hours one Cheerio at a time?

Of all the tips on the list, I consider this one the worst.  Snacks can get a mama through a multitude of trials: delayed flight, missed connection, those infamous mystery chicken nugget kid meals, long haul boredom, and more.

I’m not advocating administering a stream of sugar – candy, chocolate, cookies, cake, and Coke.  But bags of crackers, pretzels, cereal, almonds, vegetable sticks, fruit… seriously, let ’em eat!

Let their ears pop.  If this is something to never let your kids do on a plane, then forget traveling altogether.  It’s impossible to prevent a change in pressure.

Instead, be prepared with (age appropriate) tools.  Let little babies drink a bottle, nurse, or suck on a pacifier.  Older toddlers and children can lick lollipops, chew gum, and slowly sip a drink.

My advice to you – treat travel tips as just that.  Tips.  Not rules, not absolutes.  Make sure the advice you’re filling your overstuffed parental brain with is from a reputable source.  Take what works, and toss out what doesn’t seem to fit your family’s values and lifestyle.

And then, just go!  Get out there.  The best travel tips come from personal experience.  In no time, you’ll be writing your own list!


9 thoughts on “Beware! Not All Travel Tips Are Actually Helpful

  1. Yeah, that advice is definitely not advice. One I heard of recently was that kids shouldn’t go on planes until they are 9. Even if it’s just to visit family.

    I know one thing, for every post I see about how kids behave on planes, I’d love to see a post about how people should use deodorant or less perfume or general hygiene tips if they’re going to be on plane. I’m more often bothered by that than kids.

    • Hilarious – yes, often there are things much worse than children on a plane. Fellow passengers can block out tantrums with ear plugs or head phones. But nothing can combat the effects of strong odor 🙂
      Until they’re 9?! Sheesh..

  2. Oh, I think that list was written by the crew of a flight I once travelled on. They insisted I had the 1yo seated on my lap the whole flight, even when the seat belt sign was switched off. Unfortunately this led to a six-hour-long tantrum… so it kind of clashed with another rule. She was very happy standing up between my knees at the start of the flight.

    Then they wouldn’t let my 3.5yo go to the toilet when the seatbelt sign was on. After a certain amount of arguing they realised they were going to have to clean faeces off a seat if they didn’t find a new solution (he waited quite a long while for the light to go off, but couldn’t wait forever) so we did resolve that eventually.

    Oh, and they wouldn’t let two people into the toilet at once. Not even when one was wearing nappies. (???)

    But mostly people have been very understanding. We do try very hard to make sure the kids don’t kick the seats but one or two have inevitably slipped through – sometimes complete accidents as they try to reposition themselves, a few instances of mindless fidgeting (a little walking up and down the isle usually resolves that… again with the clashes… you can’t have it every way, you know) but never maliciously, touch wood.

  3. My first thought on the don’t kick the seat advice was “great, you can stop a baby/toddler from doing that but it will result in a tantrum. What is better, that one person on the plane gets a few small kicks or the whole plane suffers from a tantrum?” Lucky there was advice not to have a tantrum 😀 Hilarious. My guess is that these advice were from a traveller who does not like kids.

  4. This is hilarious. People seriously need a reality check. I am not going to leave my kids at home when there is a whole world out there to explore. Bring it on. Plus it is only 15 hours not 15 days or years!

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