Never Apologise When You Get On A Plane With Kids

soldiers in line to get in a plane

by Amy Borg | Amy Borg is a digital content producer based in Manchester, UK. She runs a website called Seat Kickers and an online community for parents of small kids, full of tips and advice aimed at making traveling easier and more fun. Follow Amy on Instagram @sidekickers_

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I’m British so let’s face it, I say sorry a lot, (4380 times every year according to a survey by The London Post). And since having kids, I feel like it’s multiplied a thousand times. ‘Sorry’ when they’re running riot in the supermarket, ‘sorry’ when they jump the queue for the swing, ‘sorry’ when they’re tantrumming in the street, damn it I’ve even looked at my other half with ‘sorry’ expression when they’re both bouncing off the walls at bed time and he’s giving me that ‘remind me, why did we have kids?’ look. 

There’s certain places that I won’t apologise for them and one of those situations is when we are boarding a plane for a much-needed holiday and fellow passengers are glaring at us with their looks of anticipated bad behaviour. 

And my reasons are a little more complex than ‘because no one deserves a holiday more than this tired mama’ although obviously that’s the first thought that flashes through my mind.

As a young adult, I travelled a LOT and I’ve seen it all: The person who takes ages in the bathroom despite the increasing queue, the one who constantly calls for the air hostess, the smelly one, the snorer, the drunken stag party. And rarely have I ever heard a single one of these adult humans utter the word sorry.

When I set up a travel community for parents of small kids it was because I wanted to empower other families to travel – even if only on a short-haul package holiday – because we all need a break and there are so many benefits to taking kids on holiday: experiencing different cultures, different foods, different languages and the simple things like sunshine and beaches to name a few. I understand though, that it is easy to feel really daunted by the process of airports, security and the confined space of a plane.

For the most part however, kids are actually really well behaved and for the most part, other travelers are generally polite and helpful. And that’s why I won’t apologise just because my kids are on a plane. We’ve all paid for our tickets and I’m not going to say sorry for something that MIGHT happen, when it also might NOT. 

When my facebook community first started out, I learnt about kindness bags. They’re like a party bag you make up with things like gum, eye masks, earplugs, sweets and an apology note. You give them to people on the plane, in the seats nearest to you, as a kind of advanced apology. ‘Sorry my child MIGHT cry on takeoff, here’s some sweets so you don’t shout at me about it’.

It’s a cute idea, but it is not something I’m buying into. There’s enough stuff already, to think about, when packing for a holiday with kids. It also seems a little unnecessary when most people won’t actually find your kids offensive. In fact, you’ll possibly even find some who adore your kids. We’ve even had the empty-nesters who comment on how they wish their kids would still be seen on holiday with them. 

Traveling with kids can be stress-ridden, from wondering if you’ve booked the right hotel to packing everything-but-the-kitchen-sink. Airports aren’t relaxing any more. There’s no ‘chill with a Bloody Mary’ once you have babies. It’s more constant checking that you’ve got everything and everyone you left home with, checking-in of the luggage and car seats, frenetic buying of forgotten essentials and a quick baby change.

As I’ve learnt in my community group, the flight is the part of the holiday that gives parents the most anxiety. But babies and kids are nothing if not unpredictable, and the plane – like everything else In parenthood, can be planned to a certain degree – with clothes changes, snacks for days and a trusty iPad. Still nothing is guaranteed. Like that time your baby once fell asleep and slept peacefully in her pram while you had lunch out together, the plane journey might be smooth and event-free, as kids like to keep us on our toes, they might be restless the whole journey and there’s nothing you can do about it, which again is why you shouldn’t stress and shouldn’t say sorry in advance, only if and when it happens.

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Over the years we’ve had many, many eventless flights. There WAS one hideous landing where my daughter’s ears were clearly bothering her and she screamed the whole way down. Of course if anyone caught my eye, I gave them the ‘I’m so sorry’ look, because right then I WAS sorry. In that moment, I was actually sorry I’d ever thought having kids was a good idea. But because of the many MANY great flights we’ve had, I will not apologise when I get on a flight.

A child in blue jeans, and a white printed t-shirt, sitting in a seat on a plane, with her toys laid out on the pull down table. The author, Amy Borg supplied photos of a family trip on a plane with her kids.
Photo Credit: Amy Borg
A child in a colorful polka dot dress with mouth open and black eye glasses about to eat a snack. The author, Amy Borg supplied photos of a family trip on a plane with her kids
Photo Credit: Amy Borg

The first time we flew with both kids – our then five-year-old daughter and her six-month-old sister – we took our seats and realised we had a group of young lads in front. They turned around and gave me that look – ‘oh you’ve got kids, GREAT’. I didn’t apologise, I smiled. And I waited. My baby had fallen asleep in the sling in the airport. She slept as we boarded and I lowered her onto my knee. She slept for the entire flight, while my eldest quietly watched a movie with her headphones on. After landing, before we disembarked, two of the lads turned and congratulated us on our extremely well behaved kids. 

Photo Credit: Amy Borg

There’s plenty you can do to prepare for a flight with a baby or child. Like getting them involved in packing, buying their own little case, pre-ordering essentials into the airport, booking flights that coincide with their routine, buying ALLLL of the snacks… But my main recommendation is to remember you’re going on holiday and to treat the flight as part of it.

Have fun, relax, enjoy and only apologise if you absolutely have to. If it does get stressful, remember, eventually they will calm, eventually they will sleep, eventually this plane journey will end. Everyone will get off, and the child-free can head straight to the pool, grab a beer, chill and forget your kids ever existed. You however…… well…… that’s a different story.


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