Teaching kids airplane etiquette: how to create good fliers

We’ve all been there, either as parents or innocent bystanders caught in the crossfire: a disastrous flight during which kids are causing more than their share of trouble. Sometimes it’s unavoidable: a tired baby a parent is trying to console, a sick child, a long layover. Other times–and I know you’ve seen this–kids behaving badly on planes when it’s avoidable with a few lessons in manners. When teaching kids airplane etiquette, we suggest the following while flying with kids:

Kids Airplane Etiquette:

1. Find your seat quickly. I don’t know if it’s just my kids, but there’s always a lot of debate over who’s going to sit where in our assigned seats. I’ve taught them to go straight to the seat listed on their ticket first, to get out of the aisle, and to swap places after the rest of the passengers have gotten on.

2. Wheel your rollie-bag properly. No carry-on luggage wars in the terminal, kids! Games of chicken and extreme rolling are not permitted in our family…anymore. I’m tired of my toes getting rolled over and the looks of disgust issued by business travelers.

3. Clean up trash. I instruct my kids to place snack trash into their cup, then hand the whole thing to the flight attendant. Getting out of the habit of putting anything–including trash–into the seat pocket ensures we don’t leave anything we need behind, like chargers or iPods.


4. Say hello to flight attendants when you board. Thank them as you deplane. Required. Enough said.

5. No kicking the seat in front of you.Whoa boy, is this a big one. And sometimes, it’s not the kid’s fault, if his or her legs are just the right (or wrong) length. Our kids know to tuck toes down or even sit ‘criss-cross applesauce’ to avoid the seat kicking issue. It’s a toughie.

Tips for parents:

1. Try to board early. Even if your kids are out of the age range that (sometimes) ensures pre-boarding, line up as soon as you’re able to based on your seat assignment. This will give you more time to stow carry-on baggage in the bulkhead while the main cabin is less crowded.

2. Prepare kids with a great eBook: Monsters Don’t Ride on Airplanes. Check out the screen shot of this adorable book below! We read it recently, and I think it’s a great tool to use with young kids. The simple story shows various silly-looking monsters on airplanes, doing everything wrong. Then is shows a girl and boy doing things right, with the message that well-behaved kids get to ride on airplanes and go to fun places (while monsters are left behind).


3. Avoid red-eye flights unless you know your kids will sleep. No one likes a crying baby. There’s little that’s more miserable on a plane than a red-eye during which young kids cannot sleep. We’ve been tempted by lower cost red-eye flights, but because our kids are not good sleepers on airplanes, we’ve learned to avoid them. Fly when your kids are at their best. If that time happens to be when they’re asleep…hey, we don’t judge!

4. Help security flow more smoothly. We almost always fly carry-on only, which means everyone has toiletries that may have 3 ounce containers. To make it easier on everyone when we go through security, I consolidate these items so they’re all in just one quart-sized bag. (Everyone’s tooth brushes, hair ties, and other non-liquid cosmetics and toiletries can remain in each person’s carry-on.) When we go through security, each kid knows he can place his backpack and his carry-on onto the belt without getting anything out.

5. Eat on the plane. Hey, it’s something to do, and it keeps kids happy. We’ve found that in most cases, purchasing a meal on a plane is no more expensive than purchasing a similar meal in the airport. And this way, we don’t have to carry a bag of food onboard. My kids love simple meals like fruit and cheese plates or snack baskets, and I love that they’re entertained by the novelty of airplane food for a few minutes. Plus for parents: Alaska Airlines flights offer complimentary local wines and craft brews for the adults!

6. Bring a headphone splitter. For some reason, it highly annoys me when parents set their kids up with a movie or cartoon on a plane, and subject the entire cabin to the audio. Are there worse things? Sure, but this problem is easily solved by buying a cheap headphone splitter and using kids headphones.

What are your top tips for airplane etiquette?