If your blood pressure spikes when you think about the words "kids" and "plane" in the same sentence, as you just did (sorry about that), then this story may have a calming effect.
A 2014 survey by Expedia found that 64 percent of airline passengers believe "screaming, whiny" kids and their permissive parents were the top annoyance. It was the No. 2 irritant behind "seat kickers," which, if you want to get technical about it, can also involve children.
But now, there are new solutions on the horizon. Airlines appear poised to start charging more for the youngest (and often loudest) passengers, a step that could force some families to consider alternate transportation. And the parents who remain are getting a new set of tools to keep midair conflicts to a minimum.
Levying a 'baby tax'
Brazilian airlines are reportedly asking their government for permission to start charging higher fares for kids younger than 2. Currently, "lap kids" on planes in Brazil pay 10 percent of the adult fare.
In the United States, lap kids younger than 2 traveling with a parent on domestic flights don't pay anything, but airlines are looking for more ways to increase revenue. So if the "baby tax" flies in Brazil, it could make its way over here.
"Parents are finding it more challenging than ever to travel with their children," says Rainer Jenss, president of the Family Travel Association, a trade organization. But help is on the way. The solutions range from pharmaceutical to new parenting and passenger strategies for dealing with the littlest passengers.
Katie Dillon, who runs the blog LaJollaMom, always flies with Children's Tylenol, which her doctor recommended for pain associated with a pressurized aircraft cabin, and Dramamine for Kids, for treating airsickness. "It's about being proactive and anticipating problems before they disrupt an entire cabin," she says.
Another fix being marketed to families is an oral rehydration solution called DripDrop ($10 for eight 0.35-ounce packages of dry powder), which, when mixed with water, enhances fluid retention and prevents dehydration on dry planes. The powder contains a precise ratio of sodium, sugars and electrolytes that, its creators claim, is a portable defense "against long lines, high altitude, jet lag and misadventures in unfamiliar cuisine." Plus, it comes in berry and lemon flavor, so kids are more likely to drink it.
Pack the right foods
Increasingly, savvy parents are also turning to the right foods to calm their little ones. For Corinne McDermott, a magazine editor from Toronto who also runs the website HaveBabyWillTravel.com, that means cutting back on the sugary treats she packs.
McDermott prefers red-eye flights because her kids sleep on the plane. To help them along, she offers them an oatmeal cookie. Why? Oatmeal is a slow-release carbohydrate that's well liked and digested easily. Milk is also a sleep-inducing food, she says.
Some airlines are also trying to help. Carriers like Alaska Airlines, Singapore Airlines and Virgin Atlantic offer special children's meals that have won raves from critics. Etihad Airways even flies with an in-flight nanny to help keep the children distracted and the cabin serene.
Perhaps the biggest hurdle, though, are adult passengers. Peter Altschuler, who runs a marketing company in Santa Monica, California, tries to sum up the adult passenger's side with a little humor.
How does he handle misbehaving children on a plane? "Ask the parents to do something," he says. "If the parents blow you off," he jokes, "ask a flight attendant to intervene -- preferably with duct tape and plastic ties."
But some passengers are warming to the idea that they can share a pressurized aluminum tube with children. Perhaps now, more than ever, these strategies for getting along will be essential to surviving a long flight.
Lee Richardson, a retired fourth-grade teacher from Indianapolis, flies with what she calls a "magic bag-o-tricks" containing treats, markers and a map of the United States that's designed to defuse any conflict with a juvenile. When she sees a child in the seat behind her, Richardson grabs her bag and introduces herself.
"I say, 'This is for you, but you have to promise not to kick my seat today,' " she says. "Only once have I had to turn around, shoot the kid my most evil-teacher stare and ask, 'Did you break your promise?' " Of course, that doesn't work for babies. "For those instances I bring a set of industrial earplugs," she says, "and drink coupons."