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Dear Parents: Stop Apologizing for Your Traveling Children

Feb. 26, 2019
6 min read
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A recent story about a mom traveling on a 10-hour flight between Seoul (ICN) and San Francisco (SFO) with her 4-month-old baby has taken the internet by storm. The first-time mom reportedly went above and beyond by preparing an excess of 200 goodie bags filled with candy and ear plugs to pass along to every single passenger on board.

Passenger Dave Corona, who also traveled on flight with the mom and baby, shared a post on Facebook stating that it was a "touching gesture":

The note inside of the goodie bag read:

“Hello, I’m Junwoo and I’m 4 months old. Today, I am going to the US with my mom and grandmom to see my aunt. I’m a little bit nervous and scary because it’s my first flight in my life, which means that I may cry or make too much noise. I will try to go quietly, though I can’t make any promises. Please excuse me. So my mom prepared little goodie bag for you! It was some candies and earplugs. Please use it when it’s too noisy because of me. Enjoy your trip. Thank you."

Apologetic Airline Goodie Bags Aren't New

The practice of parents passing out inflight goodie bags when traveling with babies is not a new one. There have been several similar stories over the past few years (though usually just involving neighboring passengers, and not for the whole flight ... which seems incredibly ambitious). Though the gesture stems from good intentions, I tend to have rather mixed feelings about this phenomenon.

While the idea of handing out an inflight “goodie bag” to your fellow passengers containing ear plugs and candy is certainly a nice gesture that shows you’re thinking of those seated around you, it’s unnecessary to preemptively apologize for having a child with you on a flight — or anywhere, really.

My daughter and I flying business class together. (Photo by Angelina Aucello)

Should Parents Feel Apologetic in the First Place?

This silly idea that we must apologize for traveling with children is slowly becoming the norm in some parts of the world. The strange trend of parents insisting on passing out “inflight goodie bags” always seems to garner attention, but it’s a ridiculous practice that needs to stop. Or at the very least, it shouldn't be something parents feel they need to do.

As a mom of two, I always encourage people to travel with their children, and I don’t feel sorry for bringing them out in public — you know, into the real world — and that includes flying. Babies and children are pivotal to society, and whether we like it or not, young children will always share public space with others.

It took a plane to get us to paradise. (Image courtesy of Angelina Aucello)

The big question is, should parents have to apologize for flying with their children?

Of course there will always be varying opinions. It’s a sensitive issue because every family may need or want to travel together, but it’s also the airline’s responsibility to ensure that every passenger has a comfortable inflight experience.

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But this is where parenting, not apologies or candies, comes into play. In my experience, most decent parents will do whatever they can to make sure their young children are behaving and comfortable on the plane. Of course, in the example of the 4-month-old baby on the Seoul to San Francisco flight, it's impossible to predict how a baby will respond to a new experience, like flying (thankfully for all, babies tend to sleep well on planes).

Image by Darren Murph / The Points Guy

As a parent, it's important to be 110% prepared whenever flying with little ones. That means packing enough food, milk, snacks, entertainment, extra cozy clothes, etc. to ensure the child is as comfortable as possible on the flight. Parenting doesn't stop or change significantly just because you are in the air -- other than the lack of an easy exit strategy.

I don’t remember the last time I was given a chocolate bar (or even a nice drink) for sitting next to a poorly behaved passenger -- and there have been plenty of adults who fall into that category. So, it doesn't seem necessary to receive a treat for being seated near a young passenger who may or may not make some noise while we are flying through the clouds together. And of course, that's why noise canceling headphones were created.

Bottom Line

At the end of the day, we’re all up in the sky together, so let’s continue to show respect and just be courteous — tolerance and a positive attitude will get you a long way. Parents, what your fellow passengers want from you the most is just for you to be ready to meet your kids needs at 36,000 feet. As sweet as goodie bags are, I promise they aren't necessary.

What are your thoughts about parents that go the extra mile by handing out inflight goodie bags on a flight?

Here are some non-goodie bag resources to help you prepare for your next flight with little ones:

Angelina Aucello covers family travel for TPG and blogs at Angelina Travels. Follow along with all her travel adventures on Twitter and Instagram.

Featured image by Getty Images