Dora or Drugs? Survey Reveals Shocking Ways Some Parents Manage on Planes


According to a new Yahoo Travel survey, 74 percent of respondents cited “screaming children” as a top annoyance when flying. (Photo: iStock)

This story is part of a new Yahoo Travel series, #StressFreeTravel, dedicated to making travel better in every way possible.

Traveling over the holidays can be stressful: dealing the crowds, the weather, the traffic… and kids. A recent Yahoo Travel survey of more than 2,700 travelers showed that 74 percent of respondents cited “screaming children” as a top annoyance when flying. Top survey results for flight annoyances also included “bad body odors” (82 percent) and “not respecting personal space” (81 percent). So if you have a screaming, poopy kid climbing on your arm on a flight this season, congratulations, you’ve achieved the ultimate trifecta of traveler misery.

But this is the holiday season, so it’s likely there are going to be kids on your flight — either your own or someone else’s. So how do people deal with troublesome tots on flights or long car rides?

Related: Thank God! Women More Likely than Men to Pray Away Holiday Stress

Would you rather sit next to someone taking up your personal space or a screaming child? (Photo: Thinkstock)

One in five parents surveyed found traveling with their own children “difficult,” with one in 10 wishing they could sit apart from their kids. No doubt other people on those flights also wish those children would sit elsewhere, like, say, at home, or on a cruise on the Titanic. People surveyed said they would rather sit next to someone taking up their personal space (42 percent) rather than a screaming child (37 percent). If you’re stuck in that situation, it may be worth politely ask a flight attendant for a seat change (for yourself, as they probably won’t be willing to stick that howling baby in the galley, unfortunately).

So what to do if you’re stuck next to that noisy kid? Of parents surveyed, 59 percent dealt with the issue with “electronics” (which I take to mean video games or movies, not a shock collar). The effect of putting a video in front of a kid is hypnotic (and for many adults as well, let’s be honest). Ideally the video would be something wholesome and educational, but if that’s not available on a 12-hour flight to Tokyo, sorry, I’m giving the kid a whole season of Game of Thrones — it’s long, and educational in its own way. Pro tip: bring along headphones for the kid, as well. If there’s anything more annoying than a screaming kid, it’s listening to a single episode of Dora the Explorer on repeat for hours.

Related: 3 Essential Tips to Avoid Christmas Travel Stress

If Dora doesn’t work, there’s always drugs. Nearly one in five survey respondents (17 percent) admitted they’d be willing to drug their kids if it’d make them go to sleep. Millennials lead the dosage pack with a 24 percent willingness to dope up the screamers. And in one instance at least, we saw a flight attendant drug a noisy 19-month-old with Xanax. My young parents, back in the day, tried giving me sips of beer to quiet me down, but unfortunately even then I was an angry drunk. But these all seem like really poor ideas, especially given that over a quarter of parents surveyed say their kids love flying.

Some parents say they would happily drug their kids to keep them calm while traveling. (Photo: Thinkstock)

Snacking is another popular method the surveyed parents cited as a way to manage a cranky child. Nearly half (49 percent) of parents say they supply their kids with food to keep them occupied, as it’s hard to holler when your teeth are stuck together with a fruit roll-up.

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Some other things you can do? Even young toddlers (and adults) will enjoy a journey more if you try to make it a fun group activity, rather than a painful interruption in your life to be endured. Go low tech and bring some paper and crayons. Pull out a map and follow your progress. Think of some age-appropriate activities that help transform the journey itself into the destination. When we were kids, my sisters and I actually looked forward to starting each day on a seemingly-endless family road trip because it offered another installment in our ongoing game of license plate bingo.

But if all else fails, the videos, the snacking, the games, the talking, some exasperated and embarrassed parents have resorted to one final strategy: Buying gifts for other passengers. Six percent of respondents in the survey said they would give something to fellow passengers as compensation for their nuisance children. So potentially, those naughty kids can turn out to be nice for you.

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