Traveling With Small Kids Is Hell. Here’s What I Want Other Passengers To Know

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My family recently returned from a vacation to California. When initially planning this trip, we were faced with the decision of either a 21-hour car ride or four hours in a plane. As much as I wasn’t looking forward to shuffling two small humans through multiple airports, the thought of listening to them fight with each other for 1300 miles in the car was even less appealing. We booked our plane tickets and hoped for the best.

On one of our flights, we were in a terminal with only one security line. Directly in front of us was a mom who had her hands full (literally and figuratively) with two young children, two pieces of luggage, and two booster seats.  My husband and I followed with our two young boys and our passel of carry-on items.

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As anyone that has traveled with small children knows, the process of guiding all these items/people through security takes a bit of time and finesse. As this mother and my husband and I were in the process of sorting and shoving all our gear into multiple plastic security tubs, a woman behind us said loudly “It would help if you would just move out of the way.”

traveling with kids

Um, excuse me? Where, pray tell, would you like us to go? It’s a single line, lady! I turned around and said in as calm a voice as I could muster “We are doing the best we can up here.” She didn’t seem convinced that we were, in fact, doing the best we could, but at that point, my 3-year-old made a mad dash toward the metal detector so I had other things to worry about.

Her comment did make me want to grab the nearest loudspeaker and do a public service announcement for all those traveling without small children, but that would have taken too long and then we would have missed the family priority boarding offered by our airline. Parents know this is one of the only benefits of traveling with young offspring, and I wasn’t about to miss it!

So, for anyone that has never had the pleasure of flying with small humans – here is what I would like you to know:

Chances are, my kids are not on their best behavior.

Maybe this is their first time flying and they are so stinking excited that they can’t hardly contain themselves. Or maybe they are wrapping up a long vacation full of late nights and they are tired and grumpy. (Much like their exhausted parents).

Judge my parenting skills if you must, but offer my little darlings a bit of grace if you feel they are not behaving up to par. When kids are out of their usual routines, they tend to go a little cray-cray.

Giving me an exasperated look will not help the situation.

Just like someone tailgating my car will not inspire me to drive faster, you giving me an annoyed look will not inspire me to hustle my buns through whatever line we are both standing in. Nor will your death stare cause my children to adjust their breakneck speed of turtle.

You know when a baby is crying in the seat in front of you or behind you and you wish you were anywhere but your current seat assignment? Chances are, the parents of that crying baby feel the exact. same. way.

They don’t want their baby wailing through the flight anymore than you do, and I can guarantee they are trying their best to calm their baby down. So, when you make eye contact with that weary parent when you are both exiting the plane, give them a smile.

Better yet? Tell them they are doing a good job. It’s amazing what a little kindness from a stranger means in this stressful situation. I speak from experience.

My kid might want to tell every person they pass on the plane about our vacation plans.

If you are stuck right behind us, you might wonder why the line is moving down the aisle at a snail’s pace. Truth: if my 3-year-old wants to share with anyone who will listen why he is excited about our trip, I’m going to let him. At least once.

In his mind, this is the best thing that has ever happened in the entire history of the universe, so I’m going to let him have his moment. I can almost guarantee that the 10 seconds he spends telling the flight attendant about Legoland will not affect the on-time departure of the airplane.

traveling with kids

Flying with young children can be stressful. Scratch that. Flying with young children IS stressful.

Trying to keep everyone and everything organized, herding them from point A to point B in busy airports, keeping everyone happy for hours upon hours inside a cramped space—it’s not for the faint of heart. Especially when your wee little one proclaims an urgent need to use the bathroom mere seconds after the captain has switched back on the fasten seat belt sign.

The moral of the story? When you see that frazzled mom or dad trying to drag their screaming two-year-old through the security line, just be glad it’s not you.

And remember, they really ARE doing the best they can.

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