While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to keeping kids happy during a long flight, parents who come prepared can generally make the experience more comfortable, and less stressful, for their own families and fellow flyers.
Pack Snacks and Treats
Chewing gum or chewing and swallowing snacks during takeoff and landing can help alleviate inner ear discomfort sometimes caused by pressurization changes in the airplane’s cabin. Consider packing fruit snacks, crackers, bubble gum and other favorites. If you’ve got extra time, make some fun, sweet and savory treats in advance. Check out these demo recipes to make delicious no-bake white chocolate cranberry cookies, s’mores popcorn balls and cheesy herb-roasted chickpeas.
Fly While Sleeping
Try to coordinate the time of your flight with your child’s natural sleeping patterns to help make a long flight seem shorter. Traveling during naptime is often optimal for younger children. Overnight flights can offer the advantage of natural sleep time for both children and adults versus trying to keep kids entertained for several hours during a daytime flight.
Maintain Order with Surprises
For young children, it’s important to bring along a few surprises to break the monotony. Special treats for a midflight reveal — including stickers, crayons, new coloring books and storybooks, small cars and dolls — can go a long way toward regaining control of cranky kids. Also, consider letting children pack their own bag of travel toys with the understanding that they can only play with these toys later in the flight if they maintain good behavior early on.
Load Your Carry-On with Gadgets
Bored kids can get antsy on long flights, so pack a carry-on bag with small toys and hand-held devices. Many airlines offer in-flight entertainment including kids’ movies and television shows, which may hold a child’s attention for only so long. A smartphone or tablet loaded with apps for children can fill several hours of flight time. Don’t forget to pack enough kid-sized headphones for all your little ones.
Know Before You Go
Reduce departure-day stress by learning what to expect at the airport’s security checkpoint. The Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) rules are slightly different, and sometimes advantageous, when traveling with young ones. For example, kids ages 12 and younger do not have to remove their shoes, light jackets or headwear when going through the airport security screening. That means you don’t have to worry about untying and retying your kiddos’ tennis shoes in addition to your own. Simply leave those laces tied and send your kids through.