Do you think there should be an age limit for kids on public transport?

This may sound like a harsh question or point to make, but after experiencing a screaming baby for the entire 4 hours of my trip down from Edinburgh to London, followed by 2 screaming toddlers sitting 3 rows behind me on the following journey from London to Paris (all by train), I feel I am justified for at least asking the question!

I’ve read articles in the past by people who travel with babies and young children full-time, and the general response that most of them make is that babies cry, and we as the other passengers should be more understanding. Maybe I will think more like that if I ever have kids and have to make a journey somewhere by public transport, but if I’m being completely honest I don’t think it’s fair on all the other passengers who have to put up with constant wailing for their entire journey. Especially for any journey which can last a number of hours.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those people who looks disapprovingly at a mother who’s toddler is screaming or who’s baby is crying. I appreciate that babies cry, toddlers act up, and it is no reflection on the parents ability to parent. It’s just what babies and toddlers do. I get that part of the equation entirely. What I don’t get however is parents who take the young children on long distance journeys when the kids are clearly too young to be able to last that long without getting tired, agitated, or bored, therefore resulting in them crying, getting crabby, and/or just wanting a bit attention.

The automatic reaction I have found of some people who do travel with kids, when this issue is brought up, is to just immediately say that someone without kids can’t really understand because they don’t really know what it’s like, or to say something like “babies cry. get over it”. Having experienced a particularly bad journey for babies crying however, I no longer think this is an acceptable response. I personally think that until kids are at least 4 years old, they shouldnt be allowed on long distance public transport. There’s no reason why parents can’t take their kids on long distance journies in the car, where they can be strapped in, left to sleep, but where you can also stop as and when they need for a bit of fresh air, to change nappies, go to the toilet, or stop for something to eat and a breather. Until they are at an age where they can last longer on public transport however, and are old enough to respond to instructions, I really don’t think it’s fair on all the other passengers. Either that or they need to make a screaming baby carriage. Either way, if you’re paying the same price as me for a seat and you have a screaming baby or terror tot who is going to make my journey hell, I don’t think that’s very fair.

Another factor to this issue is that many people also feel like they can’t even broach the subject for fear of some sort of backlask. On my Eurostar carriage, around half of the people in it walked out and tried to find another carriage to sit in peace, with many only discussing the issue in hushed voices between one another. Nobody felt they could say anything, myself included, and although I’m not going to go up to any parents with screaming children on public transport anytime soon, I do feel like we should at least be able to discuss the topic. Personally, I don’t think an age limit, or a kiddie + parent carriage is that bad an idea. What do you think? I’d appreciate any opinions on the subject, regardless of whether your views are similar to mine.

6 Responses to “Do you think there should be an age limit for kids on public transport?”

  1. your mum says:

    as an older parent of you and your 3 brothers, we travelled on loads of long distance journeys by train, car and plane. planning was a big part of getting anywhere without totally destroying everyone else’s journey. busy kids (even toddlers) are happy kids. we went armed with food, drink, games and soothers. we also spent the whole journey making sure you were all catered for and we never had a major problem. in fact, we ended up entertaining other people’s kids as well as ours. the problem is you don’t notice the good kids. It’s not the children’s fault if they are bored on a long journey. but far more irritating is sitting next to someone who hums along to an ipod that buzzes, or who keeps wanting out to the toilet or teabar. why not offer some help to the distraught parent who is trying to soothe the child, or help occupy the toddler? the point about public transport is that it is public. there is always the option of investing in first class tickets, or buy yourself a good set of headphones!

  2. I do think parents who travel with children have a responsibility to other passengers – I do not travel alone with my child anymore – something I did when they were under one and easier for me to deal with in a small space- and we never had any problems – even got compliments from business men sitting in my row. I know, now that LO is mobile, I need help.

    But wouldn’t more people just fly? I know we fly frequently and I can tell you some airlines make it very clear that babies are not welcome. Delta, for example, has no changing tables on transatlantic flights. Worst flying experience yet – and LO didn’t cry at all. Slept the whole way.

    I do totally think your idea of having a parents/kids car would be great for all involved. I know on the Swedish trains there is a ‘play area’ car where a lot of the kids congregate – and it is the reason why a lot of parents take the train when traveling.

    For us, the bonus of traveling by train is that we can walk around and LO can move around more, in a car they are constrained the whole journey. But if they were as miserable as you described in your post, we would not be traveling by train again in the near future.

    Sorry this was so long, am planning a trip this week with LO and trying to figure out a ton of ways to keep what you described above from happening, because I know a lot of people feel that way, and I feel they are justified.

  3. Maggie says:

    I totally agree with you that kids can be a nuisance on public transport. I fly frequently between Hong Kong and London and it is very distressing when you board the plane at a ridiculous hour for a 13-hour journey only to sit in front of a toddler who not only cries, but also kicks the back of your chair. I understand that kids are allowed to travel too blah blah blah, but I also think that parents have the responsibility to make sure their kids are not causing other passengers trouble.

    Perhaps an age limit is a bit too much to ask, since there are circumstances where it is necessary beyond doubt to travel with your child on public transport (e.g. journeys that can’t be undertaken on the road, and you must bring your child with you e.g. migration), but I do think that your idea of having a kids-parent carriage or even just a designated area for kids and their parents is excellent. It will keep the noise away from the other people and the kids can roam and play with other kids as well.

  4. Rease says:

    I don´t have children, but I do work with kids, particulary preschoolers (3-4 years old).
    I don´t think there should be any written restrictions on traveling with children, that is simply too much of an intrusion on people´s rights.

    That being said, I do believe parents should be incredibly aware of all the complications that traveling with a child involves. They should take into consideration the time and duration of the trip. For example, I once was on a bus that left at 1am and there was a crying baby. Well, of course it was crying, it was likely woken up just to get on a bus!

    Of course parents should bring all the toys, activities and snacks needed as well. They should always do their best to keep their child from bothering other passengers. They may not be able to stop a baby from crying but they can certainly stop a toddler from throwing things or kicking the chair in front of them.

    It all comes down to common courtesy, which, unfortunately, not everyone understands.

  5. Stark says:

    If an age limit isn’t feasible then I definitely agree that a dedicated area/carriage for parents with small children is an excellent idea. I’ve lost count of the amount of journeys where my sanity has been pushed to the brink by screaming children.

    It’s nice to see some responsible parents on here that try to mitigate the disruption their children might cause but with that being down to the individual parents, it’s hit and miss. I’ve been on plenty of long journeys with screaming, shouting and generally noisy children whose parents made no effort to calm them down.

    Within the next few months I too will be entering the realm of parenthood and my mother-in-law has suggested that we can take the baby to visit the family by train or by bus, I immediately told her that won’t be happening.

    Neither I, nor my partner drives, but we will have to learn because I refuse to inflict a potentially screaming baby on the general populace for 7-9 hours to keep my in-laws happy. The same goes for the 3-4 hours to see my own family. Until one of us does drive, family will just have to visit us instead.

    It’s easy to talk about interfering with people’s rights but surely the people without children have an equal right to enjoy their costly journey in peace. If people don’t have the social conscience to keep their children quiet, then I’m all for policies making it a requirement.

  6. Sarah Smith says:

    After sitting behind a noisy toddler on a long distance coach the other day, I suggested to the coach company that they don’t allow children under 5 to travel for longer than an hour.

    It’s not fair on the child or the other passengers.

    I’m aware that sometimes young children and babies MUST travel with their parents, by plane for example, but where the coach journey was concerned, the little girl’s mother (assuming she doesn’t have a car) had the option to take her daughter by train – still not ideal, but at least they could have sat near the buffet car, and the child could have been taken for walks on the train and had more roomy seat, plus a table for books, drawing and games. On a coach, you’re confined to one small seat for hours on end – just what was that mother thinking?

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