Travelling with a baby: What it's like to be the annoying person on a plane

Now, I've felt the fear. Now, I understand.

It builds as you approach the airport, as you run through a mental checklist of all the things you have to do: take out the car-seat and wrap it; find a trolley to pile up all the luggage; park the car somewhere affordable; get everyone checked in and drag the extras to the oversized luggage counter; get the little guy a fresh nappy; get him through security without screaming; keep him happy and fed.

He starts yelping while you're waiting at the gate, making himself known. You catch the looks of a few of the passengers. I hope we're not sitting near them. By the time you actually make it on board he's properly grumbly, he needs a quick feed to calm him down. You want to save some of that precious milk though, you need to feed him as the plane is taking off or his ears won't equalise and he'll really crank things up.

You take all the precautions. You do all the things you can.

But still, I'm sitting there on the plane halfway through the flight, and our baby starts yelling. He's three months old – you can't reason with him. The girl at the window seat next to us discreetly reaches for her headphones. We jiggle the kid, smile at him, bop him on the nose, try to take his mind off whatever it is that's bothering him.

But there's nothing for it. He's making noise, and suddenly I'm that guy. I'm the one on the flight with the crying baby. I'm the passenger no one wants to be stuck next to. I'm the annoyance. And there's nothing I can do.

I've written plenty of times about annoying people on planes. I've written about people who recline their seats during meals, about those people who always pull the back of your seat when they sit down, about passengers who drag a million bits of hand luggage on board, and so many more.

I've also made a conscious effort, in the past, not to be one of those people. I bring my seat back up at meal times. I only take one bag on board. I'm polite. I'm understanding.

So it comes as a shock to realise that finally, I'm the guy annoying everyone.


Parents on planes have always had my sympathy, if not my complete understanding. I've sat near a few shockers, with kids who've just screamed the house down, making a truly incredible amount of noise, but I've always tried to grin and bear it. Smiled at them. It's not your fault.

There's really nothing parents can do about this stuff. And you wouldn't want people to stop travelling just because they've had kids.

But you can see on their faces that they're stressed, they're concerned. Screaming kids are bad at home. That noise pierces you to your core, it throws you into emergency mode, it makes you want to do everything in your power to just make it stop.

Try sitting through that on a plane. Try adding the discomfort of 100 or so strangers to your guilt-wracked mind. Try overcoming the panic as you realise what's about to happen, that your kid is about to crack it, that the noise is about to begin and nothing you're doing seems to be making even the tiniest amount of difference.

We haven't had a full-blown meltdown just yet. My partner and I haven't ended up locked in a toilet with our baby, all of us bawling our eyes out at 30,000 feet, like some friends of mine once did on a flight home from New York. But it's coming. It will happen.

We'll be the people everyone wants to get away from, the ones they tell their friends about when they eventually land. We'll go through something horrendous just to continue our travelling lives. And I'll feel terrible about it.

On that last flight our little guy calmed down pretty quickly. He nodded off to sleep, calmed by the vibrations and the white noise. The girl next to us slipped the headphones out of her ears. The hosties smiled and cooed at our once-again-cute baby.

But I've felt the fear now. I understand.

Have you ever been the annoying person on the plane? Have you travelled with young children? What was it like? Do you have sympathy for parents on flights? Or are they an annoyance?



See also: The anti-bucket list: 25 things no traveller wants to experience

See also: The 14 worst types of people to sit next to on a plane

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