Air travel can be a daunting experience for anyone, but it can be particularly challenging for parents of young children.
I know from experience that keeping kids entertained on flights can seem impossible. However, with a little planning and creativity, turning an otherwise stressful experience into an enjoyable one is possible.
In this article, I’ll share my ideas to keep young kids entertained on an aeroplane, from packing the right snacks and toys to taking advantage of in-flight entertainment options.
Whether you’re a seasoned traveller or a first-time flyer, my tips can help ensure a smooth and stress-free flight for you and your little ones.
Further reading: Single parent holidays: 6 Easy ideas to get away.
Pack their favourite snacks
Children get hungry … a lot.
We all know that kids tend to get cranky when they’re hungry, and no one wants to deal with a cranky kid on a plane. In fact, food is a clever way to keep kids entertained on flights
If you spend 12 hours on a long flight, you need to be armed accordingly. Your child may not like aeroplane food and refuse to eat it. So it’s better if you have something you know they like
That’s why we never fly without a bag of our favourite snacks. Snacks that aren’t messy are ideal. The last thing you want is to clean up a mess in the middle of the plane. And think of foods that your child can graze on so they take longer to eat and use up time!
It’s worth checking with the airline you are flying with or Australian Border Force to see what you can and can’t take onboard. Some flights won’t allow fresh produce, and liquids on nearly all flights must be under 100ml.
Bring the devices (with everything downloaded)
While you pack for your trip make sure that all their favourite movies and series are also downloading.
Streaming websites like Netflix allow you to download your favourite movies and series.
This could keep your little one entertained for the entire flight. They wouldn’t even notice the lack of WiFi.
By following this one tip, you can pretty much ignore the rest of my suggestions!
Having everything downloaded can make or break your trip. Because we all know that once our kids get their hands on a tablet or a phone, that’s the only time we can have a break.
Give them the window seat to keep kids entertained on flights
As much as I love staring out the window as we fly, I know my child would love it even more, and a window seat is excellent entertainment.
Use the opportunity to point out landmarks on take-off and landing and discuss the wonder of flying above the clouds. Staring out of a plane window is memorising at any age.
Bring comfort toys or blanket
Be sure to pack your child’s favourite comfort toys and blanket because they can provide a sense of security which will help your little one feel more at ease while flying.
It can also help them sleep better on the plane, a godsend for long-haul flights. If they’re used to sleeping with a comforter at home, having one with them can help them feel more relaxed and comfortable enough to drift off.
Plus, the temperature on a plane can be unpredictable, and being too hot or cold can make my children uncomfortable and restless. We all know that in-flight blankets are scratchy and thin! Bringing a familiar blanket for your child to snuggle under will keep them warm and comfortable throughout the flight.
Pack books and other travel games
Having only one way to entertain your kids just wouldn’t do. They could get bored of just watching movies or playing with toys.
Another way you can keep them entertained is by engaging them intellectually. You can pack books that interest them or create games to challenge them.
There are already a lot of travel games out there but who says you can’t create your own? You can try to make it educational. Stimulate their brain while they’re having fun.
For me, books have been a lifesaver for long-haul flights. Just one book can keep you entertained for hours. My son doesn’t quite agree with me, so I’m still stuck downloading movies while I pack.
Make use of the in-flight entertainment system
The in-flight entertainment (IFE) system can be a valuable tool for entertaining kids on a long-haul flight.
They offer a range of movies, games, educational content, and interactive features which can help keep kids occupied and engaged throughout the journey. They can even track their flight and see what countries they are flying over. My kid’s are always fascinated by this.
Some airlines offer free access to their IFE systems, while others may charge a fee for access or certain features within the IFE system. In some cases, the cost of using the IFE system may be included in the ticket price, while in other cases, it may be an additional cost. Some airlines offer different tiers of IFE access, with more features and content available at higher prices.
It’s always a good idea to check with the airline beforehand. Many airlines will have this information on their website, or you can contact their customer service department for more information.
Don’t forget their headphones
I’ll repeat. Don’t forget their headphones. The important piece of equipment to keep kids entertained on flights
It won’t matter if your kid is acting like an angel. If they’re blasting whatever they’re watching without headphones, they would be disturbing the other passengers.
So without your headphones, you have two choices, you can be the jerk letting their kid blast music on their phone, or you can deal with your bored hyperactive kid during the flight.
Either way, it sucks. And I know what you’ll say, “don’t they have headphones on the plane?”. Yes, they do, but they’re mostly catered for adults, so there’s a possibility they may not even fit your child.
And don’t forget an adapter if you need one.
Most modern airplanes have a standard headphone jack to accommodate standard 3.5mm headphones. If your child’s headphones have a standard 3.5mm plug, you should be able to plug them directly into the airplane’s headphone jack. However, some airlines may use a different type of headphone jack or a proprietary IFE system requiring a specific adapter type. In this case, you may need to purchase an adapter to use the headphones.
Encourage them to write/draw in a journal
Journaling on a flight is a fantastic activity for kids. It can provide a multitude of benefits that go beyond just passing the time.
Journaling allows children to document their travel experiences, which can be incredibly valuable. Travel can be a transformative experience, and keeping a record of it can help kids remember the sights, sounds, and feelings of their journey for years to come.
In addition to memory-keeping, journaling can be a creative outlet for kids. They can write stories, draw pictures, or create collages using boarding tickets, etc., reflecting their experiences and impressions of the journey.
And think of all the time it would use up during the flight!
Make it fun
I have always made flying a fun and enjoyable experience for my kids, and now they are well-seasoned travellers who love nothing more than hopping on a plane for a 12-hour flight!
To get yours in the same headspace, talk to your kids about the trip and get them excited about the destination. Involve them in planning and packing to give them a sense of ownership over the journey. Explain to them the wonders of flying and how lucky you are to have this experience.
Remember to show them how excited you are about the journey. If they see you are excited, they won’t be able to help but feel it too.