Upset Kid On Your Flight? You Can Kvetch or Help

Getting on a plane with an upset child … even worse an upset child that isn’t yours … it is something every traveler fears. No one likes being locked in a pressurized metal tube with a screaming kid. We’ve all heard the phrase “it takes a village,” and when traveling that same principal applies.


Last week I settled into seat 2A for my three hour and twenty minute flight from New York’s LaGuardia Airport to Kansas City International Airport on board a not-so-comfy regional jet. Not long after the wheels when up I heard the sounds of an unhappy little traveler from the back of the plane.  When I say I heard these sounds, I mean I heard them over the noise of the aircraft, coming through my noise canceling headsets with Iron Maiden playing at close to maximum volume.


The reaction of many on board the flight was the same as on other flights … shut the kid up … but if you’re a parent who has ever been anywhere with an unhappy youngster you know you may be helpless, especially when sealed into a flying metal tube.  You may sit in your sear and think “this kid is annoying me,” or you can do something to try and assuage the situation making the little flyer happier, giving your fellow flyers a better flight and allowing you to get nestled back into your seat and relax.


For me, I did what I frequently do, and have written about before.  I reached into my bag and pulled out a pack of triangle shaped crayons.   I have frequently packed Crayola triangle crayons in my bag over the years for just such an occasion of encountering an upset kid in the sky.   Why triangle shaped crayons?  They don’t roll off the tray table, which is likely to start another tantrum.


Triangle crayons in hand I made my way back to Row 17 to find bored three year old who just didn’t want to play with an iPod any longer and handed them the crayons with a sheet of paper.  Less than a minute later the kid was quiet and focused on drawing.


Does this always work?  No. Hell, sometimes the parents think you’re a weirdo, but more often than not it brings the noise level in the cabin down and gives everyone a more enjoyable flight.


You know the phrase “we’re all in this together“?  Well on a plane, we are!


Happy Flying!





  1. I second the triangle crayons – I learned that trick very quickly when my toddler began wailing on one flight when her crayons rolled off the tray table. A lot of restaurants that cater to kids give them out, so I snag a few and save them for later.

    Also, this post just goes to show those of us who are parents traveling with kiddos to be very well prepared to keep the them entertained. Here’s my pre-flight packing list with a three year old: triangle crayons with new coloring books, toys (Dollar Store or Target $1 section works well), iPad with at least one new TV show or movie and a few kid apps, kid-sized headphones, books to read, a wide variety of snacks including a few treats they don’t get at home, and juice/milk.

  2. Triangle crayons! Awesome idea just ordered several packs for our young one (and my business carryon)

  3. Actually, I am amazed on how many times I have sat next to a totally unprepared parent that had nothing for the kid to do. Once on a flight from LAX to SYD (~14 hours) upstairs in business I was across from a mom who had absolutely nothing for her 3 year old to play with. Fortunately, I had a carry on full of toy gifts for my Australian cousins. I ended up getting them out and giving them to the little boy when he started whining. I am sure the whole business class section was relived. Thanks for the tip on the crayons; I’ll be packing those and maybe a coloring book. What a great idea!

  4. Now THIS is a brilliant idea! And what a generous way to approach a usually “annoying” (to some) situation. Going to buy a few boxes of triangle crayons (maybe even some fun paper!) before my next flight!

  5. Having always traveled with my kids, I never understand how a parent could not be prepared. I will never forget one day we had a flight delayed for 3-4 hours. My son pulled out his coloring stuff (crayons, markers, drawing paper) and by the end of the delay, we had almost every child on the flight sitting around us because we had something for them to do. And this was before iPads for movies. Now that my kids are older, I don’t have much tolerance for any parent that doesn’t think to bring a variety of things to entertain their kids, like the one sitting behind me from Rome the other day who was teaching his lap child that the tray table was a toy!

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