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In-flight madness with the kids

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By Christina Bell

We are now reaching the end of the American school schedule, which means that, in the next few weeks, hundreds of expat families will pack up their toddlers and board planes bound for summer vacation destinations. They will also carry with them enough gear to open a daycare center, in the hope that something, anything, will stave off the misery that comes with flying with children.

If you’re reading this and hoping for wisdom from me, I have to warn you. I have only 4 words for you, and I’m not sure they are particularly wise.

It’s going to suck.

Forget all of those articles that you’ve read by someone in the States who was gearing up for their six-hour flight to Grandma’s house. I’m sure that the goodies in their bag of tricks actually will get them to their destination without a minimum of trauma. It’s about hour seven that things start to get ugly.

Think of it this way. Imagine that you’re a child with minimal comprehension of what people are saying to you and even less ability to express yourself. What makes sense about being strapped to a chair for the equivalent of an entire day? Even adults hate it, and they understand why they have to sit there and hold their pee until a little light gives them permission to stand up and take care of their needs. However, adults have enough awareness of the people around them to not sit in their seats screaming at the top of their lungs for 12 hours.

The best defense is to remember every in-flight horror story you’ve ever heard. Everyone has one. I have friends whose kids have projectile vomited all over not only them, but the people sitting behind them. My own daughter has screamed for the better part of a ten-hour flight from Seattle to Tokyo. Take all of those visual images of in-flight nightmares, roll them into one, and expect your next flight to be worse. That way, if it’s even a tiny bit better, you’ll be relieved.

Just for the sake of not being completely useless, here are my limited suggestions.

Dramamine. I’m always surprised by how many people don’t know about Dramamine. I guess it either doesn’t exist outside the U.S. or has different names in other countries. The air pressure on the plane can make little ears hurt, which makes any bad situation worse. Dramamine is an antihistamine that helps alleviate air sickness, opens kids’ little ears a bit, and also makes some kids sleepy. You have to give it a test run at home, though, because it makes some children hyper, which is something you and your fellow passengers definitely don’t want. It can be ordered through Expat Express.

Overnight diapers. Something about sitting upright causes regular diapers to spring leaks like crazy. The seat will get soaked, and the only thing worse than being a spectacle is being a spectacle that reeks of urine.

At about 3 years of age, kids are old enough to use a special harness that’s sold by KidCares. Instead of lugging a car seat on board, you can use this little set of straps that goes over the back of the seat and has a 5-point harness. It is FAA approved, but some flight attendants don’t know about it yet and get snarky when they see it, so carry the literature that proves that it’s FAA approved. The harness can be ordered online.

That’s all I’ve got.

So, in less than two weeks, I’ll pack up my two sweeties and a bag of toys and stickers that they can reject for 12 hours. I’ll bring snacks that will end up as crumbs all over our seats and the floor. My daughter will refuse to sleep until the last 2 hours. She might scream the entire flight.

It’s going to suck.

But, I will still love my kids when we get off the plane, and every year will get easier. We chose this lifestyle, and along with the considerable perks come the approximately 24 hours per year of in-flight madness. I’ll take that deal.

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Children who are too young to pop their own ears shouldn't be taken on airplanes. It causes pain to the children and their crying annoys other passengers.

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"It's going to suck"

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

"Children who are too young to pop their own ears"

How the heck do you pop your ears?

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How the heck do you pop your ears?

Swallow or yawn intentionally as the plane ascends and descends.

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Mark - I've tried that. I've also tried chewing gum. None of that works for me. What works for me: Bufferin!

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They should have storage area for little brats that scream their lungs out. There should be no excuse. If something you bring annoys about 200 people at the same time, that should be dealt with. I mean, some kids come up with most inhuman screams! I will never forget my overnight flight to Hawaii (you absolutely have to sleep on that flight to enjoy 1st day of your vacation) where this brat was yelling as if somebody was dissecting him. I looked around, not a single person in the cabin was asleep and everyone had that serial killer look on their face.

How about that for business plan: make a new compartment for kids, hire extra flight attendant to look after them (babysit), and increase fare for passengers with kids.

What this would solve?

200 people will get some sleep during flights. More employment opportunities (need for flight attendants) Extra income for airlines.

How about that? 3 birds with one stone.

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it's going to suck for the poor souls sitting near you too

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Why do parents bring car seats on the plane? I mean it is not a car so why bring it? The only thing it does is make the seat in front of the kid easier to kick. I had a child behind me in a car seat kicking my seat (IN MY HEAD) for 12 hours once. The mother was so fat she couldn't even reach over and stop the kid she had a face like "what you gonna do" everytime I told her to stop her kid doing it.

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A mild sedative can help calm children.

Airlines should also consider developing soundproof plastic capsules to put screaming babies and children in.

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First, you have to take kids on planes at any age and it makes no difference about ears. The rule is after 3 months you can fly. Second, of course parents feel the pain that the other passengers do. We don't want to be there and don't want a screaming child. the only relaxation we get is when the child finally falls asleed and then the stupid fool next to me turns on his light to play on his laptop. To me these people are the msot annoying. get over yourself and put the laptop down.

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"Airlines should also consider developing soundproof plastic capsules to put screaming babies and children in"

And they should make them transparent so that the kids can see Altria making faces at them, ha ha ha!

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nisegaijin completely support your proposal and I ain't an English teacher nor single.

dano 2002 If you don't want to be there and don't want a screaming child, just don't fly. You will help yourself and hundreds of people who paid serious money to have a quiet flight.

After enduring selfish parents (like in the article above) who can't control their kids I have had it. I don't pay for being in a screaming chamber and sitting on soggy seats and I make this very clear on check-in in recent years: I demand a seat in a cabin without kids under 5. If they can't provide it I won't fly with that airline again. Airlines should have a separate sound proof cabin for people with kids and make them pay for it.

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How about people who don't like flying in the presence of young children pay extra to be away from children? I have yet to see an airline ticket which reads that the holder is entitled to a "quiet" flight.

If it annoys you so much fork out the extra money for business or first class? Children have every right to fly, and as long as parents make some effort to entertain/keep them quiet then thats all I can ask. Sometimes though kids are going to cry and there is not much parents can do about it.

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Snowden, I don't know how they have handled families with young kids in the last couple of years because I now refuse to fly with JAL. They used to move those passengers with the youngest toddlers up to Business Class to give them more room to handle the inevitable noisy and smelly problems.

I paid for the Business Class seat so I could relax and work. The parents didn't and they gained and I lost.

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If it annoys you so much fork out the extra money for business or first class?

Are kids banned from Business and First Class?

It would be a better solution if parents with screaming kid flew business class, becuase they'd be annoying a smaller number of people.

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give em half an Ambien...cheaper than giving everyone else on the plane a full hit

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Snowden at 01:34 PM JST - 5th June How about people who don't like flying in the presence of young children pay extra to be away from children? I have yet to see an airline ticket which reads that the holder is entitled to a "quiet" flight. If it annoys you so much fork out the extra money for business or first class? Children have every right to fly, and as long as parents make some effort to entertain/keep them quiet then that's all I can ask. Sometimes though kids are going to cry and there is not much parents can do about it.

I think somewhere in terms in conditions it says you can't annoy other passengers. Little screaming brats do just that. What would you say if I start running around cabin yelling and pissing all over the place? I think I will be subdued and there will be cops waiting for me at arrival. It doesn't matter if I am 3 or 32 I should be arrested if I disturb peace during flight.

Kids in Business class: I hear BA separates travelers with kids and without kids into 2 compartments. In 747 passengers with kids would get the upper deck.

gogogo, i had a kicking brat behind me once too. i don't think i have experienced anything as annoying as this.

dano2002, what the hell is your problem with laptops? Are you jealous because you can't afford one? It's not like they are tapping away on their laptops with SPEAKERS ON!! Stop point at other people, you are the one with a loud brat. it is you who is guilty, not the guy with laptop.

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It's a tricky problem. One aspect is that many people traveling are too young to have kids yet or have chosen not to have kids. If people had more kids then it probably wouldn't be such a problem!

Once you've had kids this problem seems to melt away. For one thing you really get used to crying kids! A few months ago I was on a trip for work, got my seat on the plane, settled down with Newsweek and read it cover to cover. After I finished I looked around, saw numerous angry sullen faces and then realised that a kid had been bawling her eyes out for ages in the seat in front. I'd barely noticed.

On another occasion my son was crying and the guy in the next seat suddenly shouted at me "Shut that *** kid up!". It was a bit brutal but to be honest I could completely understand his feeling and I might have said the same thing when I was younger. In my defense I was trying to do something about it at the time so it wasn't a particularly helpful comment. I just said sorry etc and actually the guy later made an effort to be friendly later in the flight so it seemed he kind of regretted his outburst. But I think such outbursts are perfectly justified if the parents are making no effort to distract or console a crying kid... that's just rude to all the other passengers.

Mild sedatives have been mentioned. There is one kind of "kampo" type sedative/sleep medicine sold in Japan that is good for kids and I have used on flights... it worked really well! The kids were sleeping fitfully for hours! I can't remember the name but it is tiny little silver balls in a small tube. If anyone knows the name please share... it really does work well! It tastes pretty bad so it's a bit of a trial to get the kids to swallow it but once that's done they will be settling down to a nice nap and you can watch the in-flight movie.

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As someone with a small child I totally agree that people with children should all be in one area of the plane, preferably at the back. But I've seen people in first with children, asleep at the time I was there but still capable of caterwauling with the worst of us economy class scum.

Last year on the way back from blighty, his second flight, they upgraded us from world traveller to w.t.plus without warning. It could have been very nasty, as they'd placed us in the 2 middle seats of the middle 4, with an option of either of the 2 baby-seat tables. Fortunately the British man in one end seat overheard my exclamations of dismay and swapped, or it would have been ridiculous. BT are obviously not the most cunning of flight operators to try such a silly trick!

But why make parents pay extra? The rear of the plane should be cheaper, and everyone taking advantage of the low cost would only have themselves to blame when they got deafened! We don't need extra staff to babysit either, and being able to see other tots would actually help our kids to stay happy. Really, there's a lot to be said for keeping the tiny ones together.

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Snowden

Airlines are a business not a public service. It is a product people pay for and have justified expectations about. I can assure you that the airlines see it my way: loose a small annoying minority or accomodate frequent flyers and the majority. Usually when I request a "quiet" flight, I am accomodated by most airlines in the most forthcoming manner. I simply insist on my rights not to be tortured by any fellow passenger small or large for hours and they are aware of the problem.

As you think that little kids should have the same rights as adults, they should be treated as such - no discounts for kids. If the kids scream for extented periods put the guardians on a no-fly blacklist which is common with most airlines for annoying passengers.

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Never was an issue with my children. As babies they are either hungry, needs to be changed, just tired or needs to be burped and holding them usually helped. A little older and they can get restless so I would walk them down the isles of the airplane. Feed them and they sleep. Video games and movies also entertained them. Never a problem for me nor others. No more then oversized Westerners who might have eaten too much all their lives or those people who have an overdeveloped sense of their own importance. They aren't that important. I would take a child any day and they are always welcomed. Scary world when children are no more then a nuisance.

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dano: The guy turned on the laptop probably because for the previous 6 hours he had been trying to sleep, but could not bec. of the screaming brat. So now he was fully awake and had to pass the time to arrival somehow.

I also wonder why they can't place all the families with kids in the same compartment.

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Dammit,

Thanks for the common sense. I am not generally against kids on a plane even if my above posts might suggest it. But what is getting me riled up is incompetent parents who can't or won't control their kids and let them scream on for hours. And with an attitude of shut up everybody I got a right to take my screaming kids on a plane.

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My kid is well-behaved on planes (though wasn't always the case) and I object when Japanese carriers place us with other families. When he tries to go to sleep he is (along with everyone else) kept awake or disturbed by the racket of several kids screaming altogether. It's annoying but what can you do? Make families stay at home? I'm glad noone has ever told me to "shut that kid up" as I would probably chin them - did that person actually think you wanted your child to make that noise?

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Mz: No one told you, but didn´t you see them laser-tasering you and your whole family with their eyes?

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LostinNagoya, hmmm, you're probably right ;-)

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"How about people who don't like flying in the presence of young children pay extra to be away from children"

How about the parents, or if the parents can't or won't do it, the cabin crew administer sedatives to the offending screamers/kickers?

"the worst of us economy class scum"

Heh heh.

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I am in favor of a Valium for every 12 hours of flight, via milk bottle or candy. eheh.

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oneforall: your last sentence misses the point a bit...kids aren't a nuisance, per se, but in the situation we are talking about, kids screaming non-stop on a 12-hour flight, they most certainly are...when i'm woken up thru a sleeping pill and a bunch of drinks, that is just wrong

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Just do what I do: 2 double voldkas in the airport bar 30 minutes prior to takeoff, pop a couple of over the counter sleep aids, tell the flight attendant that you are terrified of flying and you need a drink as soon as possible to help avoid a panic attack, sit back and enjoy the euphoria of intoxication, pass out in the middle of the first movie, wake up an hour before landing after sleeping through all meals and all noises and all emergencies or catastrophes well rested and ready to start your vacation.

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KaptainKichigai; Getting hammered on the plane just turns me into a dry prune with red eyes and cracked lips... the way I do it, is stay awake for 24 hours before you get onto the plane, you will be so tired and sleepy you'll sleep really heavy throughout the entire flight and avoid all jetlag because you slept on the plane.

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one of my favourite family stories - my parents took me on a relatively short flight (8 hours) when i was about 8 months old. luckily for them, the lady next to them was terrified of flying and was thrilled to babysit me whilst my parents napped.... judging by the posts above, those days are well and truly gone. how sad.

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Two words: "Ear Plugs" - get decent ones and they work wonders to tone down the noise and are much cheaper than a business class ticket.

I have travelled without kids (a wonderful soothing experience) and two weeks ago I flew Tokyo to London alone with a 5 year old, 3 year old and pregnant. It was 12 hours of living hell. But as a parent I completely agree - there is much that can be done to calm and entertain a fractious child, and it is the parents who do nothing that deserve to cop everyones anger. I can't say I blame the other passengers without kids for getting upset - I used to be one of them.

I took books, coloring pens, stickers, and the Virgin on demand DVD and game consol was a god-send. I also had dramamine on hold for emergencies but didn't actually need it. It was tough, but we got through it. Peeing right before you get on the plane helps stave off toilet breaks until the seatbelt light goes out, and we regularly went for walks around the cabin. Ordering a kids meal means they get their food first and don't whine about being hungry, and take plenty of water and snacky things.

My kids were pretty good actually, a few people commented on how good they were. You just have to put in superhuman effort as a parent. They tried to kick the seat in front but I immediately stopped them and apologised. They whined so I shoved a lollipop in their mouths - this is not a time to worry about tooth decay. The one hairy moment was when my 3 year old - SO tired - starting crying loudly. I went to the toilet and shut the door without locking it (so the light didn't come on) and rocked him to sleep in my arms away from the other passengers. When I came out a few people said thank you.

Generally I think people are reasonable about parents flying with kids, as long as they see you making an effort and trying to be reasonable with them.

I object though, to the flight I once took to Osaka when my daughter was 3, and the guy sitting right next to her opened up a porn mag right in front of her eyes with no attempt to hied it whatsoever. Soemtimes parents aren't the only inconsiderate ones.

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active headphones for single travelers and some bread dipped in red wine for the kids if you are traveling with them.

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Can you actually get any decent sleep aids over the counter here? I was under the impression that all the usually effective stuff (sudafed, nyquil, etc) was all illegal.

I'd love to have some chemical assistance when I need to make those transpacific flights.

Kids don't bother me on planes, usually, even when they're screaming their heads off. I'm sure I was the same way when I was a wee one; you don't know any better then. I do get mildly miffed if the parents make no effort to quiet the kids, but sometimes the kids have ear problems or are just scared and it can't be helped.

Air travel is just to be endured and not enjoyed, anyway.

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it's usually a reflection on the parents. 12 hour flights to Europe and my two sleep pretty well, and if they don't, I walk around and play with them till they sleep.

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How about kids in the cargo hold or pay full fare or double for their trouble to others instead of half.

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i like scoobydoo's suggestion. And to Mz up there, families should be placed together. Why spread the misery to the rest of the aircraft? "What can you do?" Yes, make families stay home. Please stay home, have the grandparents come to you. If not, administer a sedative.

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Dramimine is known as Gravol in many places. It's one of the most common OTC drugs around.

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Flying to destinations is a two way street. As mentioned n the posts above, you have your good and out of control kids. I have sat next to both experiencing the max drama on some flights.

Get to the local pharmacy and pick up cough syrup with Braun it it. You will be sleeping like a baby with a drink or two. Or just give it to the noisy children and they will be out for a few hours. I wish I had some two years ago going to the US. The mother with two children next to me let her infant child scream, kick, etc for 9 hours straight (no joke). She put on headphones and slept ignoring him. She only woke up to feed them when the meals came and when she needed to go to the restroom.

Oh well, there are bad parents in the world and upgrades to business!

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it's usually a reflection on the parents. 12 hour flights to Europe and my two sleep pretty well, and if they don't, I walk around and play with them till they sleep.

Completely agree. It is not hard to stop a kid from crying/misbehaving - IF you know how to in the first place

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Brings back memories of school. As a young boarder (first year of elementary school), I remember that each evening we used to get a glass of "special" hot milk to help put us off to bed. The house master and a senior classman (high student) used to ladle it out from a special panikin. The milk made everyone feel warm and sleepy. It was only years later than I found out the milk contained a secret ingredient (rum). It was the biggest open secret there was, all the parents (many of whom were old boys had experience it themselves). Now you couldn't do stuff like that these days, slipping kids a stiff drink when they get on the aircraft.

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I always tried to avoid flights with my little son many years ago. I'm always wondered, why all the families had to go on a trip far abroad with their youngest, instead of having a holiday at home or in their homecountry with less stress. Of course, there were some drunken adults on flights, too, which make some noise. Or did you ever joined an italian flight? It's like a bird's cage. Well, I agree with some writers above. Childrens fare should be the same like for adults and there should be special places (incl. toilets) for families...

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The best way to handle the little bundles of joy is to leave them home. I fly frequently and these little buggers just ruin a bad flight to make it one from hell. BTW there is one and only one way to make your little beasties acceptable rub some scotch on their gums, puts them out like a light and therefore not a problem.

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Dramamine is not an antihistamine. It's an anti-nausea medication, so it does nothing for ears or sinuses. It does, however, make you very sleepy, which can be effective.

I've never been on a flight where I was next to a kid who was a real terror. My own was always well behaved, partly because of his personality, and partly because we made sure he was well entertained. For babies who are still nursing, nursing them during takeoff and landing works wonder for ear pain. The sucking seems to pop their ears naturally.

The biggest issue we had was the effect of lower air pressure on the little one's bowel function. It always seemed to cause a BM on the way up. Not a problem on international flight where the washrooms are larger and have a change table. On internal flights, where the washrooms are small with no changing tables, we usually had to wait until the plane emptied to change him, otherwise the smell would have emptied the plane on its own.

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I don't see this anywhere near as big a problem as the fabled myth it's supposed to be. As previous posters have said, up to 1 year old they usually either just need feedimg, changing, burping, holding, etc, and after that it's way more indicative of the parent than the child. If you want to let loose your anger, let it loose on the parent when you see them ignoring the child or whatever. Personally, I found travelling with a 2 year old make London to Tokyo seem much shorter than usual as you had to be entertaining and not simply watching some rubbish on the poxy TV or trying to sleep in the smallest chair you've ever imagined. As I said before I think children on planes and how bad they are is over-emphasised. I've travelled on countless long-haul flights over the years, in economy, and can not recall one instant of an infant disrupting my journey. I think the myth stems from other frustrations that people experience on long-haul flights, the obvious stress, boredom, farmyard atmosphere, terrible food, miniscule seats etc, etc, but these problems seem too expected on flights to complain about.

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The bag of toys has to contain toys never seen before...an old favorite toy as a sleep aid is great, but the toys they see every day are not going to hold their attention in competition with all the new sights, sounds and sensations of flying.

We were lucky, our son conked out 30 minutes into every flight and woke up only on landing until he was about 5..the engine noise put him to sleep every time.

Ever think of helping out? I buy a couple little toys (being sure they have no small buttons etc that could be swallowed) and give them to hysterical kids on flights. I've also played with kids. I never sleep on a plane, so will sometimes offer help to overwhelmed parents. Parents get all tense, the kids sense it, and can get even more upset. A new face, someone acting like a ding-dong for a few minutes can make a crying kid laugh a bit.

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I flew 10 segments in Business class last year. Saw an infant once, and it didn't make a peep. On a NRT-HNL flight there were some pre-teen J-Kids behind me, the parents were sitting behind them to keep an eye on them. For the most part they just played their Nintendo through the trip. It helps that a Business class seat has 60+ inches of pitch. There's no way for them to kick my seat.

A little walk about the plane to see Coach section, man, that's where the jumping and screaming kids were.

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We do this trip once a year and I'll tell you this last trip back to the States was pure hell. My son is almost 4 and he mostly played games, ate snacks and didn't sleep at all. No problem. My daughter is 18 months and let me tell you it was pure hell and the first time she made the trip. I vowed next year I'm sending grandma and grandpa tickets.

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Since when do you have to carry car seats on the plane. We just buckle the little ones with the standard seat belt and have nver had a stewardess say anything. If the plane crashes harnes or no you're screwed.

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As for sleep aids, both of my kids have food allergies so we always carry Benedryl, it worked for my son but not my daughter.

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