Hostility At The Airport: Traveling As A Family

Any kind of travel with Livi is a challenge. Aside from a few attempts to visit places other than our neighborhood park or the mall, almost all of which resulted in endless crying fits, we have not even considered traveling anywhere; much less thought about going on a plane with her.

It is hard enough to go anywhere with her in the car, a mode of transportation that provides the flexibility of stopping any time, changing plans, and even turning around altogether.

The thought of spending time at an airport and being stuck on a plane with no possibility of escape makes me nauseous and nervous.

So when I read this article today, I decided then and there that we would not see a plane from the inside any time soon.

In her article, “Threatened with Arrest — Because I was Flying with a Child?,” Lisa Belkin describes how she was treated with hostility by a gate agent. She believes the main reason for the treatment was that she was traveling with a young child and she cites other examples of incidents involving children at airports and on planes.

One of them, where a young child was throwing a tantrum after the family had boarded the plane, hit close to home. It just sounded too familiar and is something I would expect to happen were we ever to set foot on a plane with Livi.

So now I am sitting here wondering, are those incidents the exception or is there truly a hostility toward anyone traveling with a child?

I know some of you already took the plunge and traveled by plane with your baby or toddler. How was your experience? And how were you treated by agents, flight attendants, and fellow travelers? I would love to hear your stories!

UPDATE: There are great suggestions in the comment section you should not miss.

Flickr Photo by cubby_t_bear

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14 comments on “Hostility At The Airport: Traveling As A Family

  1. I have yet to travel on a plane with 2 year old and am dreading the day I have to. He’s pretty adaptable, but at the same time, he also cannot handle having to stay put in a chair for hours on end. I suppose if we were to fly, I would try to hype up airplanes in general. We have a museum nearby and can even see smaller planes take off. Hopefully the excitement will be enough to make the experience “cool” in their eyes and not so limiting that they have to stay in the same chair.

    • hnMom says:

      That is actually a great idea. Right now, Livi is still too little to make the connection. But I’ll keep it in mind should I ever have to get on an airplane with her. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

      • Deni Lyn says:

        I agree this is a fabulous idea for slightly older children. Our local airport has and observation area (Free Rainy Day Amusement!) that I was planning to take our son to see when he’s older. I think if you can create good buzz, you definitely have a better chance of at least getting on the plane without a meltdown. Also, I’d start out with a shorter trip. Just a couple hours on the plane if possible. No one can expect a small child to be still and content for a 4, 5, 16 hour flight. (I can barely contain myself).

      • hnMom says:

        Great idea to start with a short flight. You have to go through all the motions and can test different responses and strategies but it doesn’t go on for too long. Gradual exposure.

      • Deni Lyn says:

        Exactly. However, this idea is coming from a woman who turned her back for 45 seconds and her kid took a bath in 2 liters of olive oil. . .So what do I really know? LOL

      • hnMom says:

        Ha, stuff like that happens. It just shows that you are brave enough to let him explore!

  2. Roar Sweetly says:

    My family live interstate so I fly over about twice a year. They’re always super hard days! Next week am flying with a 2 1/2 year old and a 9 month old. I think this time around it will be a lot easier with the older child (think iPad and the fact that he is much better at listening and will probably enjoy the experience. The 9 month old will be hard as she has just started moving everywhere and cannot sit still. I tell myself that generations of parents have done it before me and generations of parents will do it after me. Toddlers and babies are the hardest it gets (surely). It only gets easier from here!

    • hnMom says:

      Thanks for commenting. I hope everything goes as planned. But you sound ready to tackle it so I am sure it will be fine. Good luck! 🙂

  3. the speech monster says:

    we’ve already flown 5 times with benji and he’s not even 6 months! but he’s so much younger than livi and i think it is easier to travel with an infant than toddler. however, i would really recommend the youtube link i posted on my blog in a previous post: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pe7hYoH9pKs it’s mostly for babies but there are some tips there that might work for you.

    i was never met with hostility the times i traveled. however, traveling from melbourne to LA which was a 15 hour flight was extremely uncomfortable because the airline we went with, united air, did not provide suitable infant bassinets so we ended up having to hold benji in our arms the entire trip.

    the only little hiccough we had with air travel staff was at LAX when security had to take apart my medela electric breast pump in public because they weren’t sure what exactly it was and didn’t trust my word for it. that was kinda embarrassing more so for the staff, i think, than me. 😉

    i do work with toddler clients with autism and air travel for those families are always extremely nerve wrecking due to some of these kids’ symptoms in a new environment and having to deal with people. i had some suggestions for them that might work for you. (not that livi has autism!!!!)
    – talk about air travel/introduce your kid to airplanes in books/cartoons/toys
    – take them to the airport to orientate them to the ‘scene’
    – bring their favorite books/toys on board the flight
    – think of games on board to keep them occupied
    – pack lots of snacks/food

    going through security checks swiftly are usually the hardest point of the air travel for us. there’s just so much to deal with there: a non-mobile infant, taking apart the stroller, putting our laptops/electronic items on trays, removing our coats/shoes, worrying about not holding up the rest of the people in line…so try to take as little carry ons as possible and wear clothes and shoes that require the least work.

    hopefully you guys will do a short trip somewhere to build up your confidence! it can be done. and with more practice it gets easier. 🙂

    • hnMom says:

      Wow thank you so much for your comments, tips, and ideas. This is a lot of great information and I am sure not only helpful to me but also to others.
      I’ll definitely check out the video and try what you suggested. Thanks again. 🙂

  4. Wow, I cannot imagine how crazy that whole scene was! But I can just picture it. Most of the time, air travel goes relatively smoothly, but there are those rare occasions when things go horribly wrong.

    I traveled with my daughter on my own when she was 10.5 months old. I don’t really like to fly, so I was pretty anxious about it. But it was a total non-issue. The thing I found the hardest was having her strapped to her stroller for such a long time as she got pretty annoyed with it.

    I made sure to buy lots of “quiet” toys. One of the best toys was a book (Hey Diddle Diddle) with a glove attached to it with puppets on the ends of the fingers. I didn’t show her any of the toys until the flight, so they kept her occupied. Another thing she liked was the small pretzel snack bags you can buy at the grocery store. I took a bunch of those (watch out for kids with teeth though as they can bite through them, so take a few bags with you!).

    A mistake I made was to reserve the toys only for the flight. I should’ve kept her more occupied at the airport too. I was just worried she’d grow sick of the toys while we were in the air, but as she slept for 45 minutes on the plane, I could’ve spared a toy or two!

    As for getting her to sleep on the plane… I used the Bjorn and just bounced back and forth in the aisle for 30+ minutes until she fell asleep and then sat down. The flight attendant on the way home was really irritating me as he kept walking past me and interrupting my rhythm, which made her wake-up. But she eventually did sleep, which helped break up the trip.

    It’s not FUN to fly with them, but I found doing it was good for me as it gave me a sense of freedom. I thought we’d never travel again, but now I see it doesn’t have to be THAT bad. You just need to reserve yourself to the fact that it could be rough, but that it’s only ONE day. And as for the other passengers – don’t worry about them. Just concentrate on keeping your child happy. Chances are most of the other passengers have kids of their own and will appreciate what you’re going through. Some may even offer some pointers.

    • hnMom says:

      Thank you for those great ideas. It definitely sounds like you know what you are doing. You’re right, it is only one day, so even if it is a horrible one, the next one will surely be better.

  5. We missed my brother’s wedding in Japan last year because we couldn’t see how it would be possible to have out high-need, never-still-for-3-minutes toddler on a plane that long. It was a hard decision (he is my only sibling and we are very close), but I still think it was the right one. A few months later we tried a much shorted domestic trip (2, 2 hour or less flights each way) and while we survived alright, I could see that it was pushing the limits.

    This time is just a passing phase. There is so much about infancy and toddlerhood to enjoy, but for my LO long trips by air aren’t one of them.

    • hnMom says:

      I’m sorry you missed your brother’s wedding. But I can relate. We also had to turn down an invitation to a very important event.
      Yeah, long trips by plane are definitely out of the questions for us for now. But like you said, there are so many other things we get to enjoy.
      Once you know that it really is unpleasant for your child and as long as it is not absolutely necessary, it’s not that hard to live without for a while.

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