AIR TRAVEL: A PRIVILEGE OR A RIGHT?
Once upon a time, air travel was a novelty. Women "dressed" for it – hats, travel suits and travel cases were the norm. Now, flying is affordable and common and many people consider it just another form of public transportation. While I agree with that on some level, I also feel that not everyone should choose to travel this way. It’s not always necessary, and I do feel it should be viewed as a privilege, not a right.
I recently read an article about parents traveling with young children who would hand out “goodie bags” as apologies to other passengers on their flight. I have no real opinion on that, although last week's flight to Mexico did have lots families with children under 5, and honestly, they were pretty miserable. I didn’t necessarily feel I deserved a goodie bag, but I do feel that I deserved a civilized flight.
Although this may be an unpopular opinion, I think families with little ones should think twice before packing up the crew and boarding a long flight.
Of course, there are some families that have no choice. Maybe it's a visit to relatives who can’t travel, or a job relocation. I am speaking to the families) who choose to bring their 2 or 3 year olds for a faraway vacation. Maybe they are joining their friends who also have 2 and 3 year olds. Maybe they are also heading to Mexico for fun in the sun. But first, there is a that 5-hour flight that they most likely will spend screaming their little towheads off because they have no idea how to handle the pressure, pain or boredom.
Ok. Admittedly, I may still be reeling from an all-too-recent experience. On our flight, there were a couple of families who fit this description and were traveling together. One had a set of twins that alternated screaming fits one right after the other. I know, children can't help it. But that doesn't make the sounds any sweeter. The parents did do their best to help each other out – kids were passed around; they were allowed to shift from seat to seat (although not always obeying the seat belt indicator). They shared snacks – which allowed for moments of distraction before said snacks ended up mashed into the carpet and on the bottom of everyone’s shoes. There were iPad movies. Coloring. And Play Doh! (Oh yes, Play Doh. Green. In the hands of a 3-year-old. Good times).
One had a set of twins that alternated screaming fits one right after the other. I know, children can't help it. But that doesn't make the sounds any sweeter.
So did I feel badly for the parents? I did. But honestly, I mostly felt sorry for myself and my family. I paid for this flight too, and I felt it was little unfair that instead of enjoying it at all I was making my noise-canceling headphones work extra hard for all those hours. These families didn’t have to put their kids through any of this. Sure, they wanted to go on a fun vacation. But is it ok to do that knowing their kids' behavior may disrupt the experience of everyone else on the flight?
I have kids, and once they were small. I did travel with them. In a plane. My daughter spent one of those flights miserably ill and I can’t apologize enough for it. We went to visit her godfather who was living across the country at the time. We chose later evening flights in the hope that the kids would sleep (my son was 6) and they did the majority of the flight. If we could have driven, we would have. So again, I’m not speaking to family trips that have to happen. But do you HAVE to take that family and friends trip to Mexico with your toddlers? No. Do you deserve it? Maybe. Is it fair that you have to “put your life on hold” for a couple years and choose vacation destinations you can get to by car? Maybe not. But hey, remember the beginning of this post? I think we should consider air travel a privilege, not a right. At least until we're old enough to contain our screaming. ;-)