Back to articles The Good, the Bad and the Stinky

Categories: Family Fun

If Murphy?s Law applies to you as much as it applies to me, then you know that whatever can go wrong usually will.

What that means in terms of travel with a baby or toddler, is that in spite of your careful planning and preparation, you’ll probably be presented with a mess to clean up or a meltdown to cope with. If you’re lucky (and I think we’ve already determined that you aren’t!) these “presentations” will happen in front of the smallest audience possible.


FACT:  at 11 months my daughter had never had a wet diaper leak until 5 minutes before boarding our very first flight with her.  FACT:  my daughter had never thrown up from eating too much until she gorged herself on peas from the hotel buffet.  In both cases, I was prepared for the cleanup, but in the case of the latter, I was absolutely stunned by the reaction of those around us.  Stunned in a good way. I actually don’t know what our fellow diners thought of our baby’s Exorcist impersonation, as we were surrounded in seconds.  As I cleaned up Megan, all evidence of the pea frenzy miraculously disappeared.  In fact, it was the genuine concern and kindness shown by the wait staff at our resort in Cuba that was the clincher in making me fall in love with the culture and country – but that’s another story… 


Dirty diapers, vomit, ear-splitting screams – this is the trifecta of unpleasantness that we parents must deal with from time to time, and usually (hopefully?) in the comfort of our own homes.  But not for Michael B. of Nashville, his son Andrew unleashed all 3 on a flight from Hell to San Diego.  Unfortunately, Michael and Andrew weren’t met with an army of cloths and soothing Spanish reassurances, they were subjected to eye rolls, loud sighs and, of course, the unsolicited (and possibly counter-productive) advice of drugging his kid with Benadryl.


Susie S. was headed home to Atlanta from Boston with her 2 boys, and couldn’t fit into the washroom to change her youngest son.  According to Susie, the diaper was “legendary” and having to change him out in the open created a reaction of nose-holding and gagging amongst her fellow passengers. She said they were all mad at her.  They should have been mad at the aircraft manufacturer for designing such an inaccessible washroom on the plane.


The only time I’ve read horrifically nasty comments on an article or blog post other than on breastfeeding in public or circumcision, is regarding flying with an infant.  Even the New York Times’ Frugal Traveler Matt Gross’s column was bombarded with anti-breeder/entitled-parent rhetoric that tries to pass itself off as what the majority of the traveling public is thinking, when he wrote about flying to Italy with his infant daughter Sasha.  But I believe these grouches are the minority.  Some people are actually helpful – and friendly!


The day before Thanksgiving a few years back (notoriously the busiest travel day of the year) fellow passengers created a circle around Beth from Santa Monica’s toddler son Chris to prevent him from taking off at the gate.  It had been a travel day from Hell that involved 4 layovers due to cancellations… Flight attendants came to the rescue with blankets and wet paper towels to help Lisa C. tidy up after her 1-year-old daughter threw up everywhere en route home to Honolulu… Flight attendants also placated Joan H.’s toddler with cookies and juice after a meltdown while boarding a flight.  Joan was close to suffering a meltdown herself as she was 6 months pregnant flying with her 3-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son – headed home to Colorado after her grandfather’s funeral… I’m pleased to say the tales of helpful people aren’t as few or far between as you might be led to believe.


My original intention for this article was to be a funny and light-hearted look at the embarrassing things that kids do and we clean up as parents, and how not to let that deter you from hopping on a plane with your tot and exploring the world together.  I’m kind of glad I just couldn’t get it out that way. 



Corinne McDermott is the founder of Have Baby Will Travel - your online guide to traveling with babies and toddlers.  For more information please visit or send a message to