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Surviving Plane Flight With A Toddler


Luggage comes in many forms.


Abandon all hope, ye who enter here – The Divine Comedy, Dante Alighieri

In January, Junior travelled to Cuba and back with Elizabeth and I, then to Ontario and back with just myself. That is over 15 hours of flight time.

The first thing you must understand before getting on a plane with a toddler is that shit will undoubtedly go sideways. There may be screaming from both you and your spawn. There may be sneering and obvious frustrated gesticulations from flight companions. You may just have to hold a screaming child for three hours: consider this a truth.

But…you have some options.

Preface: Take ten minutes for yourself. Psych yourself up. Pray to your God. Take two poops. Plow a B12 shot into your hip. Re-align your chakras with open palmed face slaps. Whatever. Find your center. This is a necessity. Then…

1. Prepare for hell. Put it this way, if you prepare for the worst case scenario, at least when it happens you can pat yourself on the back for that. Embrace the toxic fluidity of being trapped in a tense metal cylinder flying at thirty thousand feet. Own it. Things will fall into place.

2. Distraction. Save for bringing fireworks, stuff a bag of things that you normally won’t let your little heathen have and use it accordingly. Be it an iPad or a smart phone or an ouija board, these things are then nth degree of survival. Pack a hell bag because hell may be coming whether you like it or not.

3. Get to know your seat mates. Firstly, to break the ice, ask them if they are Air Marshals. When they are done laughing like they just farted, look at them seriously and say that this flight may get a bit edgy. Then ask them if  they brought ear phones. If they didn’t offer to rent a pair for them. If you luck out and they are actually Air Marshals, find solace that you are sitting next to a trained professional with a gun. Then ask if the baby can play with it.

4. Break down the flight. Boarding, take off, meeting your seat mates etc. Whenever your offspring gets a bit edgy, throw in a diaper change and take your time heading to the crapper. Spread things out and move around the plane. Be like a ninja: No force against force. Absorb and redirect.

5. If none of this works, remember that a lot of people are sympathetic to the very young. Babies cry. Toddlers scream. This is the natural order of things. Just be calm and remember that everyone was a baby once. Sure, some people are dicks, but as long as the plane can see you making an effort, people won’t really care.

Epilogue: You like your kid. You want your child to experience as much as possible. You only have two years of free child flight and heck you’d be an idiot if you didn’t take advantage of that. Also, who cares what people think. There is always the possibility of the plane crashing anyway.

5 Responses »

  1. A similar pre-trip preparation is also required when travelling with a teenager. Although the one screaming may be you.

  2. Bravo, Trent. I’ll also add that selecting seats at the back of the plane has several advantages. Closer to the washrooms. Fewer neighbours. More likely to be surrounded by other people with small kids and people who are being paid to be on the flight. The only disadvantage is in disembarking.

  3. I think you missed celebrating the fact that our little one was impeccably behaved on your solo flights, and that your wife encountered some lovely supportive drunks on the flight to Cuba while she spent hours walking a crying toddler up and down the aisle!

  4. One thing that people don t realize is that the cabin pressure, especially during take off and landing is uncomfortable. Bring something crunchy for older kids and perhaps a binkie for your baby since the chewing and sucking helps relieve the discomfort. Also, if you are one of those people who are bothered by a child crying, perhaps you should try not focusing on it. Airplanes emit a lot of white noise which makes it difficult to hear the person right next to you, let alone the toddler crying from across the aisle.


  1. Edmonton blog roundup: Feb. 16, 2016 – Seen and Heard in Edmonton

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