How to control kids on a plane

Here are some survival tips for when your little darling turns into a monster at 30,000 feet, writes Tracey Spicer.

Forget fingernails scraping on a blackboard; there is nothing more annoying than a baby crying on a plane.

Unless it's a toddler running up and down the aisles, squealing.

Or a tween throwing a tantrum, because his iPod has run out of juice.

As it is illegal to drug, gag, or shackle them, these are handy hints for staying sane while flying with kids.


Think long and hard before flying with a child aged between 18 months and 2½ years.

Feed them on take-off and descent. This shuts them up and helps their ears pop. Just make sure you bring enough nappies. Request a bassinet at the time of booking. Every airline has a different policy, but they usually have a weight limit of about 10-14kg. Welcome the kindness of strangers, who offer to hold your bundle of joy. Those five-minute breaks mean you can go to the toilet, eat food, or surreptitiously change seats...


Gift-wrap small toys, stickers and pencils. Allow the child to open one per hour, if they behave. Gotta love the good ol' carrot-and-stick, otherwise known as the bribe-and-threat.

Don't dose them up on sugar. I know it's tempting. But everyone on the plane pays the price. Do bring chewy snacks to help their ears pop during ascent and landing.


Let them play peek-a-boo with the passenger behind them. But set a statute of limitations of 10 minutes.


Load books, preferably from their favourite series, onto a Kindle or iPad. There are also apps, such as Bound Round, with information about your destination.

Break the boundaries of technology. Let them play their favourite games on iPod or DS until dark circles begin to appear. Then, it's time for sleep.

Pack plenty of chargers. Some airlines have USB ports built into the back of the seats. Or invest in a couple of portable chargers, which you can pre-load.

For all ages, choose an airline that's family-friendly.

Singapore Airlines serves substantial kids' meals before the adults', so you can enjoy dinner in (relative) peace. There are also spare nappies and infant puree on board.

Emirates boasts backpacks, with books and pencils. Make sure you request children's meals when booking.

And Etihad has a Flying Nanny service. (We flew this airline to Morocco via Abu Dhabi when the kids were little. One staff member was dubbed Taj and Grace's "new Mummy" because she was so helpful.

For domestic flights, Qantas is better than Virgin, says our nine-year-old son, because, "All the food is free!" It also provides a limited range of baby food, milk, bottles, cereals and rusks.

A final word of advice: think long and hard before flying with a child aged between 18 months 2½ years.

They can't be cradled easily, like babies, and they can't read, like older kids.

All they want to do is tear down the aisles, until you're forced to scream, "That's not my child!" and hide in the toilet.

Let's face it: flying can be boring for adults, let alone children.

Try to be patient, as I was for seven hours last Tuesday until growling, "Will you two just shut the hell up!"

After all, there's no such thing as the perfect parent, especially at 30,000 feet.