While there is no “one size fits all approach” to keeping kids happy during a long airplane flight, parents who come prepared can generally make the experience more comfortable for their kids, themselves and fellow fliers.
Snacks and Treats
The chewing and swallowing of gum and snacks during takeoff and landing helps children maintain proper ear drum pressure. Consider packing favorite snacks, which could include fruit snacks, gum and crackers.
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 nap time 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.
Surprises Can Maintain Order
For really young children, it’s also important to bring along a few surprises to break the monotony. Special treats for a mid-flight reveal – including stickers, crayons, coloring books, small cars and dolls – can go along away toward regaining control of cranky kids. Consider letting children pack their own travel toys bag with the pre-flight understanding that they can get access later in the flight only if they maintain good behavior early on.
Bored kids can become extremely 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 TV shows, which may only hold a child’s attention for so long. An iPhone or iPad loaded with apps for children can fill several hours of flight time. Don’t forget to bring your own kid-sized ear buds, as those offered by the airlines are usually adult sized and may not fit well in little ears.