John T. Peters

My View on Traveling with Children

 

 

Traveling with Children

Traveling with Children

I have a feeling I’ll catch some heat on this.  However, before you throw stones at me, read the whole post.

 

 For years, I’ve been traveling on planes listening to screaming, misbehaving and crying kids. I must admit something very dark; I hated kids on planes. Just the sight of them made me cringe.  I would spy them in the waiting areas and try to judge how misbehaved they’d be and what my odds were they would be sitting within one row of me or worse, next to me.

I recall one flight, I was sitting next to a man (he in the aisle and I in the middle seat – so I was already pissed) and the two little brats, er, I mean children behind us wouldn’t shut up. The man next to me continued to read his Wall Street Journal as if there was nothing wrong.  As the kids bounced and yelled, he kept reading.  Then the kids started playing “go fish” as they threw their cards and proceeded to slam the tray table connected to my seat repeatedly.  All the mother did was kept repeating “Calm down, you are bothering the nice man in front of you.”  (Ya think?) However, after one hundred times of saying this, I’m sure all the kids heard was “way to go, make more noise.” One last slam and I turned around and said to the mother “I normally am a nice man, but the fact you continue to sit there and do nothing while your children bang on my chair is unbelievable to me.”  Her response? “Sorry, but they’re only children.”

The slamming stopped for a few minutes and I commented to the guy sitting and reading his newspaper.  (Note: he hadn’t moved and, to my amazement, was still calmly reading.) “Do you believe this?”  His response? “I’ve got four kids at home. This is nothing. I honestly don’t hear a thing.”  I couldn’t believe his response and thought for a moment, he might have been their father; you know, a dad who travels with the family but acts as if he doesn’t know them.

As for me at the time, I never thought I could deal with kids on a plane. That is, until my wife became pregnant with our first child. I knew, at that moment, I was going to have to grow up and get with the program.  One thing I was sure about was 90% of a child’s behavior on the plane was in direct proportion to the effort put forth by the parents. Yes Mom and Dad, your children are your responsibility on planes or in hotels or anywhere else for that matter. Ignoring them in your own home is fine. However, ignoring them while they slam my tray table isn’t.

Fast forward at least eighteen years. I now have two children under three years old. Both are avid flyers.  My wife and I have, over many flights, put together a list of things we do and bring to make sure we have a good flight, not only for us, but for the people around us.  It’s not a foolproof plan, but it’s pretty good. So, here goes.

  1. Kill Germs. Airports and planes are dirty. Bring disinfectant wipes and wipe down everything around your child on the plane; arm rests, tray tables, wall, window shade – everything. Carry Purell and wipe/disinfect their hands and yours regularly. OK, germs killed.
  2. Bring extra supplies. The diaper bag has to be filled, complete with any supply that might ever be needed for any possible reason.  Extra diapers and supplies (30% more than you think you need – just in case of delays), paper towels, a cloth towel just in case you have to mop up a spill, plastic bags and ziplock baggies and an infinite supply of wipes.  Bring a little air-freshener too. Trust me, you may be used to your little-one’s spit-up smell, but everyone around you won’t appreciate it.
  3. Keep ‘em busy. Children’s attention spans are short at a young age.  I plan the 15-minute activity list.  You should have one activity per 15 minutes. Keep  them busy and they are less likely to aggravate you and the other people on the plane. Activities can be repeated, but only once an hour.  For us, these include: crayons on coloring books, regular hard picture book, sticker book, etch-a-sketch mini and one of those books with the special marker that reveals hidden pictures as you color.
  4. Go ahead, watch TV. Here, television IS your friend. For longer flights, get a portable DVD player or something where you can play Barney, the Wiggles or whatever else you child likes.
  5. Popping Ears. Infants cry during take-off and landing because their ears hurt.  So, make sure they’re drinking a bottle during those times to alleviate their ear-popping pain. It has worked like a charm for both of my kids.
  6. Extra clothes. Bring extra clothes for the kids…and for you. Sometimes, children get sick, so plan for it. Sometimes children get sick on you which my wife learned on one flight when my son threw up on her. From then on, we’ve each carried an extra t-shirt with us, just in case.
  7. Thou shall not kick. If your child is a fan of kicking the seat in front of them (why do they do this?), take off their shoes. One kick and it will hurt and they’ll stop doing it.
  8. Hear no evil. No matter how well-behaved you think your kids are, they may cry. So, as soon as the flight attendant comes around offering earphones, offer to buy a set for each of your seat-mates.  On our last Continental Airlines flight, they were being offered at $1, so I automatically bought one for the five people around us.  One man kept saying “you don’t need to do that” but for a buck, it was a good insurance policy, just in case.
  9. Thank you and Sorry! Sometimes your children are going to misbehave. It happens.  Yes, they are just kids (Okay? There, I said it.)  Or, they’ll be sick or something just won’t go as planned on the plane. You’ll make a few people miserable. You won’t want to, but you will. When we fly with our children, we carry a dozen gift cards (from Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks).  Most are for $10, but a few are for $50.  We use these as “thank-you” and “I’m sorry” for people that have either helped us (like the flight where my wife was flying alone with my infant daughter and flight attendant held my daughter when my wife had to use the rest-room.) On a flight that was delayed for three hours ON THE RUNWAY, our daughter spilled her drink on the man next to her.  It was just juice and she didn’t mean it, but she was fidgety. He wasn’t upset, but I felt I should at least pay for his dry-cleaning. He didn’t want to accept anything but was pleasantly surprised at the gift-card.
  10. Dads – this one is for you. Your wife has enough to deal with so help her. Help her even more than you normally would. Take turns taking your children to the bathroom. Do more than your fair share. Traveling with kids can be fun. My daughter and I love to look out the window on take-offs. We love to look at the clouds.

As you can tell, I’m a firm believer in over-parenting on flights. It’s the right (and polite) thing to do. Your children and your seat-mates will thank you.  I acknowledge that things always won’t go as planned, so you should plan for that as well.  It won’t be easy all the time, but you have to make the effort. Traveling with children can be a great experience.

For those parents who think that ignoring their misbehaved children on the plane is okay and the rest of us should just deal with it – well, no. You deal with your kids.  At least, please, make a real effort.  We understand they’re just kids, but you are the adult.

For the rest of you on the plane, including people like the anti-child-on-plane person I used to be, people traveling with kids (especially single moms) need help, so offer assistance. Every little bit helps.  You’ll see how much they appreciate it.  My mother always says, “Be nice to people and they’ll be nice to you.” 

Future airline fee ideas – just for fun.

So, the airlines are raking in hundreds of millions in airline fees from things like extravagant extra services (you know, like luggage and reservation fees).  I was thinking, maybe they need some help coming up with some future fee ideas.  Heck, I have dozens of them, so why not share them?

  1. The POTTY: I know this idea has been mentioned before and Ryan Air was said to have been testing it, but really, a fee to enter the bathroom should be incurred for anyone who didn’t have the brains to go to the potty before boarding the plane.  I mean really.  Also, my idea is unique in that I would propose it be a timed fee, say $1 a minute, plus a $1 fine if you don’t wipe down the sink after use out of courtesy for the next passenger.  That fine would be on the honor system though; you could just leave it in that useless razor blade receptacle slot on the wall.
  2. Safety Announcements: Given we all still apparently need instructions on how to use a seat-belt (you know, because we don’t travel in cars or anything), I would be happy to pay for individual (yes, one-on-one, in person) training sessions on how to get off the plane in a hurry. By the way, does ANYONE not know how to use a seat-belt? If they’re so complicated, I would bet there’s a Velcro (err, I mean hook and loop fabric, lest I upset the trademark police) someplace that will hold someone in place in the event of turbulence. The securing mechanism is a lot less complicated to explain than those modern-day engineering marvels used to keep us in place, previously referred to as “seat-belts.”
  3. Smiles.  I like smiling flight attendants, but they are very busy taking care of all those (ugh) customers.  Like for a good street performer, you should have to pay for the pleasure of seeing a smile. That should be worth $.25 cents, right?  The unions would clearly want to put a cap on smiles per hour but that’s okay, we wouldn’t want the smiles to come off as phony.
  4. Guaranteed Pat-Down:  Last I went through security and set off the metal alarm, the man complimented my bracelet and my shoes and wished me a very pleasant flight.  Hey, this was a nice touch, so I say the airlines should get together with the TSA and charge for “positive experience pat-downs.”  $5 is not a lot for this service.  No matter how you look, they would lie to you and say you look great and say you’ve lost a few pounds. Unfortunately, you can’t request a TSA agent of the opposite sex. No joke here; you can’t. Just trust me.
  5. Guarantee View Fee.  If you want the window, you should have to pay $25, irrespective of weather (note to airlines, please research charging a fee in the event of a sunny day accompanied by pretty clouds that look like circus animals.)
  6. Guarantee Aisle Seat. If you want the aisle, you should also have to pay $25.  This fee however, would have to be bundled with elbow and knee pads to save you from the freight train of a beverage cart being pushed by the flight attendant who is pissed he/she didn’t get to the gym that day and is trying to get in a few minutes of cardio.  But those pads cost money, so make it $35.  If you bring your protective pads on the next flight, you could save the $10.
  7. Guarantee “No Middle” Seat.  What if you don’t care if you get the aisle or window, but want to make sure you don’t get the middle?  There’s a fee for that; $25, plus a $5 “indecisiveness” surcharge. Total fee $30.
  8. No-Baby Zone “NBZ” Fee – want to be outside the baby-zone (say by fifteen aisles)?  That’s another $25. If you want a window or aisle NBZ seat, that could be packaged for $49. If you want a GNMNBZS (Guaranteed No Middle, Non-Baby Zone Seat), that’s $100 because the accounting / booking code for the fee is very long and cumbersome to the airline staff.
  9. Oxygen:  Talk about supply and demand.  If those babies pop from the ceiling, they should be accompanied with a little sign that reads, pull this mask and your credit card will be charged $50.  You could argue they could charge $500, but hey, let’s not be greedy.

10.  Fee Fee.  I know, you’ve heard this one before but honestly, to charge fees, the airlines have to incur costs and it would be unfair to ask them to do so without remuneration.  Since most of these fees would be paid by credit card and the average credit card merchant fee is 2.5%, they should just tack this Fee Fee on top of any fee.

Have any more fee ideas?  Let me know.

From John T. Peters: “The Copycats”

I’ve spent the last ( nearly) three years of my life working to grow Tripology. Much of that time was spent traveling around the US and the world (London, Prague, Berlin, Athens, etc.) telling people about our business and model. I swear, between VCs, conferences, trade shows, webinars and other random events, I think I must have made a thousand presentations of one sort or another.

All of a sudden, in the past three months, I’ve been contacted by people from the US as well as overseas (specifically London, Moscow and Berlin – hmm, you think they were at my presentations?), looking to create the next Tripology. They say they’re “far along” but guess what? Yep, they have questions; lots of them. They all go on to make it sound like it will be so simple and I’m sorry, but I just have to laugh. They all say they have the code “under control” or “the team in India/Russia/ (insert any country name here) is on it” and it is clearly almost done.

All they want is some research, background, PowerPoint presentations and/or data (read LAZY). Now, I’m all for helping friends with anything they may need, really. As for copying us, I’m flattered. However, why on earth do they think I’ll just hand everything over to them? We’ve spent literally thousands of man hours developing hundreds of thousands of lines of code for some of the coolest algorithms I’ve ever seen. We’ve paid tens of thousands of dollars on research. We’ve mingled and schmoozed till we could hardly stand and we’ve worked like dogs to get where we are. So, please forgive me if I’m not about to wrap all this into a nice little package with a big red bow on it and ship it off to some stranger that’s managed to find me on LinkedIn or one of my blogs. Want some general info? Maybe some basic stats? Heck, want to do a partnership? I’m in. Outside of that, sorry, I can’t help you.

By the way, I don’t blame you for trying. I would have done the same thing, but with a lot more tact.

Social Media is not just for soft marketing efforts anymore

Ritesh Gupta just wrote a really cool article entitled “Social media is no longer just for soft marketing initiatives.”

Here’s an excerpt:

“For long, it has been acknowledged that for brands, social media is primarily about testing and learning.

It is definitely better for a brand to be in these spaces listening, engaging and responding than to underestimate the power of this platform as a new outlet for customers. It is vital to understand clearly why/who/how/what your brand and your people will do in social spaces and to balance sales versus service messaging. It is not possible for brands to opt out of the medium as customers are more powerful than ever before.

Being open and honest as a brand and listening and engaging with customers in a fair and transparent way should avoid failure. At the same time, it is critical to assess for how long one should wait to see tangible results.”

Read the entire article at:
http://www.m-travel.com/news/2010/01/social-media-is-no-longer-just-for-soft-marketing-initiatives.html

I along with Flo Lugli, EVP of Marketing of Wyndham Worldwide, Josh Steinitz, CEO of NileGuide are scheduled to speak at the forthcoming Social Media Strategies for Travel USA 2010 Conference. The two-day conference will take place in San Francisco (March 24-25).

For more information, click here:
Social Media Strategies for Travel USA 2010 Conference

So, you didn’t know I, John T. Peters, painted…


I’ve been painting and drawing since I was young. I remember my mom sitting with me, showing me how to do it, never correcting me, but always encouraging me.

I started by drawing with pencil, then I added ink. Years later in high-school, my art teacher, Cornell Ferrat, told me to try painting. I was so into it, I remember cutting other classes so I could go to the studio to work on my painting. It was of a rowboat in the Greek Islands. I’ll never forget it.

At some point, I got bored, so I started doodling these little faces. On a sheet of paper, I’d draw as many as I could. I realized they looked like “faces in the crowd” so that’s what I called them. Now, 20+ years later, I still draw them. I’ll get a sheet of paper 3 feet by 3 feet or so and just draw a thousand of these little, one inch faces. Each crowd scene is different; bullfights, concert, auto shows, Olympics and more.  I’d say each one takes about a month to complete because I obviously can’t finish a piece in one sitting; I don’t have that kind of time and I think I’d go blind.

Anyway, if you want to see something I’m very passionate about, go to http://www.johntpetersart.com/

Enjoy.
John

From John T. Peters – Skip the Handshake

So I just attended the World Travel Market travel show in London. WTM has been a favorite of mine for many years.  I was honored to have been invited to speak at the EyeforTravel Travel Technology conference.

WTM is also a great place not only to meet people but, if you’ve been in the travel industry for some time, catch up with old friends.  I write about this more on my travel industry blog for Tripology.

skiptheshake

John T. Peters of Tripology ponders "Skip the Shake"

You know what’s on my mind though today? All those people shaking hands in London that had a cold or the flu.  Okay, so if you know me you know I’m a bit of a germaphobe but am I wrong to think about it?  I know it’s a nice custom to shake hands, but think about it; 40,000 people.  How many sick people does it take to infect everyone? So, I started doing a little research and guess what I found?  A movement, yes a movement, of people who want to get rid of the handshake. Yes, “Skip the Handshake” as reported by TechCrunch, even has a blue silicon bracelet.

So, read all about it here and get your blue band today and stop spreading germs.  I think it is a great idea for large trade shows and conferences.  They should donate the money to charity though.