Bribes On A Plane: How to Make Nice With Your Fellow Passengers When Your Baby Goes Insane


A young traveler on a plane.

It must have been the meatloaf. Something about garlic and my 18-month-old daughter doesn’t mix: instead of scaring off vampires, Lucy transforms into one. And I made the mistake of feeding her a slice of heavily seasoned meatloaf before a recent flight from Florida to New York. She started off as an angel.


But as soon as the flight took off, she was inconsolable—breakdancing on my lap, trying to pull the hair of the woman in front of us, karate-kicking her seat back. And even though I had loaded up my iPhone with Elmo and Dora and her little sidekick Boots, Lucy got tired of watching the videos and started wailing for Mickey. How could I have forgotten Mickey?


Suddenly, I was the person whom I’ve always loathed during my many years of solo travel: the passenger from hell with the baby from hell in Row 27C.

My husband had the brilliant idea of buying a round of drinks for everyone around us. And it got us thinking: for future trips, we need to pack an arsenal of payola to appease our fellow passengers. Here are 13 bribes that should stop people from looking at you in disgust.

1. A Ziploc bag with earplugs and a heartfelt disclaimer saying that it’s the first time your baby has flown—even if it’s a lie. Bonus points for a lollipop in the bag.

2. An official apology from the baby in crayon on a heart-shaped of paper. I mean, who can resist?

3. $5 iTunes gift cards, which come in packs. And that $100 you spent on gift cards doesn’t need to be exhausted on the plane—there are plenty of places where you can offend people when you have a baby.

4. Offer to pay for movies (and headsets) for everyone in the immediate area. Think of me as the Blockbuster of row 27C.

5. Mad Libs: Why not create bonds among your fellow passengers? A noun is a noun is a noun. Better yet, make up your own Mad Libs. The (insert noun) was going well until the (insert noun) started (insert verb).

6. Trashy celebrity magazines to share. Need I say more?

7. A grab bag loaded with mini beauty products or samples from department stores, to be passed around. Encourage your fellow passengers to swap with other people on their row. Suddenly, everyone is in it together.

8. Scratch-off lottery cards.

9. Plan snacks wisely. Carrots are a wonderful thing if you have health-conscious seatmates. Cookies are even better. Bonus points for Girl Scout Thin Mints.

10. Not that I’m encouraging lying, but you can tell everyone it’s your baby’s birthday—nobody gets angry with a baby who is celebrating her birthday!

11. Circus peanuts—who doesn’t love those neon-orange pillowy treats?—and SnoCaps nonpareils. I always travel with these two classic candies because, inevitably, someone will like one more than the other.

12. Offer to call a game of Bingo for everyone, with valuable prizes.

13. Little Valentine’s Day hearts with “I’m Sorry” spelled out or candy necklaces that say “I Love You.”

For guaranteed forgiveness, have your toddler deliver the bribes to your fellow passengers. And if all else fails: drinks on me. Just not literally, please.