Air travel is hardly simple for those traveling solo. But when someone is traveling with infants or young children, it can sometimes become a daunting task. For those inclined to groan when faced with a crying baby or a fidgety child on the plane with you, take a moment and think again. Instead of that roll-your-eyes attitude, perhaps a “love thy neighbor” approach will go further both in-flight and in life. Consider some stories of “plane kindness”, and tips to help make for an easier trip for all.
When Rebekka Garvison wrote a thank you note on her Facebook page, she was acknowledging the plane kindness of a stranger. You see, she’d taken a flight from Chicago to Atlanta with an infant in arms, and when she boarded the full-but-quiet plane at 5:30 a.m., she was met with annoyed looks from seatmates that only worsened when baby Rylee began crying while still on the runway.
Garvison was fortunate enough to be able to change seats and, thanks to the plane kindness of her new seatmate, her stressful morning took a positive path. She explains in her Facebook entry, “…next thing I know I was sitting next to this amazing woman! I’m not sure if she could tell how stressed and upset I looked or what, but she turned our day completely around. Rylee wouldn’t stop crying no matter what I would try and do…so she had asked if I didn’t mind if she tried and of course, I let her. As soon as she had her, Rylee was looking out the window and stopped crying. When we got in the air she fell right asleep and slept in her lap the whole flight until we got to our gate. She kept saying it wasn’t a problem at all and it was actually a comforting feeling for her. She even carried her off the plane and held her so I could get the stroller and car seat put back together so I wasn’t struggling to try and do it all alone.”
More than a hundred thousand people (and counting) have shared Garvison’s story and the thanks she gave to her seatmate Nyfesha Miller, who was chock full of plane kindness.
Much to Care For
Personally (and coincidentally), I had my own encounter at JFK Airport earlier this week. I was behind a young mother from Japan as the two of us went through security. She began struggling with her infant son, having no where to put him when she was abruptly told by the TSA representative that she’d have to fold his stroller for inspection and then take off her jacket, sweater and shoes etc. to go through security. Her English was not great and I felt compelled to ask if she wanted my help.
As a new mother traveling internationally, she’d brought just about everything but the kitchen sink, and I remembered fondly back to when we’d had to have our daughter fly with us at that age and the things we’d worried about. At one point, she was close to tears after the man behind me said loudly, “Hurry it up lady!” It didn’t matter whether or not she spoke the language, as his message was clear as day. But did he offer to help her move her plastic bins along? No. Did he offer to help her open up her stroller? No. He could only focus on himself getting through security and avoiding any inconvenience.
I asked her if she’d like me to hold her son and she desperately handed him right over, allowing her to continue through the line. I stood bouncing the baby, cooing, clucking and reminding him that his mother was just steps away as he looked back and forth between the two of us. I finally got him to smile, which was incredibly gratifying. Happily, he didn’t start crying in my arms, but if he had, I think his mother would have understood.
I asked the inpatient man behind me to help open the stroller once it was through the x-ray machine and he grudgingly did so. As he did, he struggled with it himself. Quite a bit. “It’s a lot more complicated than when we were children, isn’t it?” I said to him and smiled. At that point, he began to help the mother retrieve items from the bins as well. He didn’t say anything, but his whole demeanor had changed after helping her. She thanked us both with small, repetitive bows and we all headed to our planes.
I can’t say that I’d have ever thought of letting a stranger’s child sleep on my lap for an entire flight, but in light of Nyfesha Miller’s gentle actions and reactions, I would certainly think of it now. Just holding that child for a few minutes was a reminder of the many good things—including trust–that we encounter every day and an easy way to help someone. Everyone benefits.
10 Tips When Traveling With Infants or Young Children
- Make room: If possible, book an extra seat next to you as opposed to choosing to “lap” your child. If you can’t due to financial reasons, (I do understand that!) make friends with the flight attendants early at the gate. Ask them if there may be a different seat you could move to next to an empty seat. Having that extra room can make a big difference to both you and child.
- Great Expectations: Before you take off, you should let your children over three know what’s going to happen and what’s expected of them. Safety dictates that they keep their seat belts on. Sure, that's a safety thing, but it comes with the added bonus of other passengers or flight attendants not complaining about children running rampant in the aisle.
- A Little Can Go A Long Way: A single squirt of nasal decongestant into a child’s nose helps make the air pressure adjustment easier for their little ears to handle. (Feel free to reach out to your doctor for their opinion about your child, but I’ve had plenty recommend this, assuming there’s no medical issue that would contradict.)
- Drink! Bottle or Sippy? For infants,bring a bottle (sorry, unless they've got less than 3.4 ounces of liquid you'll need to consider bringing powdered formula to concoct after you've gone through security) and feed your child on takeoff and landing to help their ears adjust to the cabin pressure. For young children, a sippy cup that you fill on-board with your beverage of choice provides the same benefit. Don’t let them have it the entire flight so they want it when needed.
- Foodies: If you can’t get them drinking, bring something you know they like to eat. If it’s something that’s a special treat they enjoy, they’re more likely to eat it and again, consider giving it to them during takeoff and landing. Same benefit as the drink.
- The Element of Surprise: Consider getting young children some small toy or books they’ve never seen before and allowing them to open them up (Look! A present!) on the plane to play with. If they’re well-behaved early in the flight, wait until a bit later to spring it on them. On a budget? Check and see if the airline has any mini-kits for kids, or get them a bunch of plastic cups and straws and have them build or invent things. You have the option of throwing those “toys” away at the end of the flight!
- More Surprises: While you’re at it, consider offering/handing out earplugs or candy to passengers around you, along with some well-chosen words letting them know you’re doing your best to make sure things go as smoothly as possible. Catch them off guard!
- Home Away From Home: Allow children to bring a special blanket, pillow or stuffed animal with them—something they find soothing at home. (But make sure you either have a duplicate at home or that it’s something they can live without in the event it’s lost in transit!!)
- Eyes Glued: Not a fan of TV? While I get that you don’t want them watching the tube for hours at a time, consider being more lenient when on a flight. The in-flight entertainment system can become a big benefit for all. If you’ve brought your iPad, smartphone or computer don't be afraid to break them out when permitted. And don’t forget to bring actual headphones for your children—earbuds are not meant for little ears.
- Let ‘em Help: If people offer to help you—don’t be too proud to accept their help! (Even if sometimes it comes with a less-than-genuine desire to help, it’s better for all in the end.)
You don’t have to be a parent yourself to remember that we were all children once. That could have been YOU on the other end making parents and passengers frustrated at some time in your past—wouldn’t it be nice to think someone helping out or simply being more understanding? While we aren't all Nyfesha Miller, “plane kindness” could be just what the situation calls for.