The Most Fun Thing to Do With Kids on a Plane

I’ve told you before about the 3 Important Things to Pack for Airplane Travel with Young Kids. I call them the Trifecta of Airplane Actives: 1. teeny, tiny vials of bubbles, 2. cellophane tape, and 3. pipe cleaners, and you can read more about why here. But I’m telling you now, those are old news. History. Ancient advice. 

Because we just discovered the MOST fun thing to do on airplanes.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  1. A young child who’s not afraid of strangers; I used a 7-year-old, but this activity should work well for kids aged 4-10.
  2. Seat assignments for your family dispersed throughout 5 rows, only 2 of which are actually together.
  3. The Cal State Fullerton baseball team.**

Now, here’s what you do.

As you board the aircraft and usher kids to their seats, reminding them gently to use the activities in their backpacks and not kick the seats in front of them, you’ll notice your 1st grader – the chatty one with a little bit of crystalized cinnamon sugar around his mouth – will be seated in a window seat, surrounded by a sea of nice college men, all wearing their pristine nylon baseball warm-ups, all with perfectly styled hair, all with chiseled jaws and clean tennis shoes, on their way from Cal State Fullerton to play the University of Oregon.

MAKE EYE CONTACT with the young gentlemen sharing your son’s row and introduce him to them.

“This is Cai,” you can say. “He’s sitting in that seat next to you.”

Then it’s important to FOCUS ON THE ONE SITTING NEXT TO HIM.

The one in the middle seat.

The one looking a little shell-shocked to be suddenly playing babysitter on the flight.

A tiny bit unsteady.

The slightest bit unsure.

But trying – really trying – with good grace to be kind and welcoming.

Focus on that guy and say, “Don’t worry. Cai does GREAT on planes. He’s done this a thousand times, and I promise you, he’s really well-behaved and he only vomits a little bit after take-off.” Make that “little bit” symbol with your thumb and forefinger, and then think about it and correct yourself, “I mean, it can technically be a lot of puke, but it doesn’t last very long, and if you hold the barf bag steady for him, he should get it all in there just fine.” 

Of course, your child, who’s been stupidly taught to tell the truth, will immediately ruin everything by saying, “I do NOT throw up on planes, Mom. I NEVER throwed up on a plane. Not ever.” 

But I swear by all that’s good and holy in this world, that split second of sheer terror on that nice college guy’s face before your kid gives you away will be the most fun thing you’ve done with a kid on a plane. Ever. Guaranteed.

And all the people sitting around you – especially that guy’s buddies, who laughed until take-off – will agree with you. 


CalStateFullerton**Psst… you can try this activity with another baseball team or sports team of a different variety, but I think it’s important to have, say, well-groomed, clean-cut, gel-haired college people who care about not being ralphed on. Rugby players like my brother are more likely to yell, “VOMIT! YEAH, MAN!” and fist-bump the child in question as a form of harfing solidarity before being terribly disappointed to find out you’re joking. Choose wisely, is what I’m saying. 

And P.S., there was no puking. In fact, when we deplaned, several people complimented Cai on how well-behaved he was during that flight. Let this be a lesson to us all: if you set incredibly low expectations, you really can’t help but exceed them. 😉

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5 responses to “The Most Fun Thing to Do With Kids on a Plane”

  1. Oh Man!

    You can also make sure your husband sits with a group of Kona Iron Man Competitors and have the 50+ year old hostess chat him up for most of the flight….

    Of course that’s after you’ve had a stand off with the same hostess about why the airline she works for spread our four kids from one end of the plane to the other and no-where near a supervising adult.

    The flight attendant kept saying we should have booked seats together and after my fourth attempt at explaining how we hadn’t actually ‘booked’ these seats at all my mom (bless her) was the one who stood up from her seat, told the attendant to back off then appealed to the passengers by explaining our side of the story.

    That thanks to delayed and canceled flights our family had spent a total of 48 hours in San Fran airport being told to go from terminal to terminal.

    That we were surviving on four hours sleep and dealing with kids who’d dealt with 40 hours of non-stop hurry-up-and-wait, could someone please move so this mom (me) could sit with her three year old son and so these girls (our 6 year old twins) could at least sit together?

    What started off as a nightmare, ended as a total re-affirmation in humanity and after five hours we got to know many of the passengers as friends.

    Of course, major thumbs down to the airline for not giving a damn and an extra special thumbs down to the hostess who cared more about my Iron Man hubby than his four young children.


    PS: Hubby IS a TOTAL Iron Man. He just doesn’t need to run around a volcano or race sharks to prove it 🙂

  2. This one and the short shorts… yup, made Brian come in from the other room to see what I was laughing about. 😉
    Without even seeing anything he looked at the family pic and goes, oh, I remember them, late 80’s!

  3. In case you can’t finagle your way into a flight with an accommodating athletic team, make sure you also pack Wikki Stix. Similar to pipe cleaners, but with the added benefit of stickiness. They stick especially well to overhead bins and make lovely mobiles, and are reusable for the whole flight.

  4. That’s funny. I’ve lived in that area for much of my life, and worked around there until recently. I seriously could know the kid you freaked out because I’ve taught high school there for years, and plenty of my students have both played baseball and gone to CSUF. Anyway, good move. I thought you were going to say that it made him change seats, so your kid wouldn’t bother anyone directly. 🙂

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