For years I had my daily schlep within the baby and children’s product industry, advising parents on various topics and the such, and one of the things I would hear every single time a customer needed help with their holiday purchases would be ‘Oh god what do I do on the plane?’. I mean let’s be fair, the thought of being in a small space and pretty much shackled to your toddler with no escape for anything between 2 and 14 hours in pretty horrifying. At least at home you can move about right?
Despite that, plane journeys are not that scary when it comes to having your toddlers or even young children with you. There are so many things on a plane that can entertain a child, and so many things you can do to ward off the old temper tantrum, and you know what, even if they are hellish, you can’t do anything about it, you’re 35,000ft in the air so you just have to plough through and so does everyone else. I remember being so nervous breastfeeding Edith on a plane because I was sat next to an older gentleman, and when he realised what I was doing he saw me look embarrassed and hastened to tell me he had 3 daughters and a wife, that babies need to be fed and just to imagine he wasn’t there. It was such a relief. We also had similar with the boys, whilst I was busy feeling stressed and thinking that they were disturbing the whole plane, we were told afterwards that they were amazing. It’s just a case of trying to relax a little bit more and accept that they might not be perfect but you are doing the best you can.
With that in mind, I have put together a few suggestions for how to entertain the kids on a plane.
Here are my 10 top tips for flying with children:
- Take the electronic device – what are you, a martyr? Geez, dude, if they use an electronic device TAKE IT. Unless you intend to spend however many hours without looking at a book/social media/playing games on your own electronic device, then don’t assume they should. Just take it. Forget what people think. If your kid’s aren’t used to it then that’s a different matter but honestly, if they use a tablet or hand held gaming device like a Nintendo DS at home, TAKE IT. Also take headphones because no one wants to listen to angry birds. If you don’t have a device then don’t dismiss the inflight entertainment systems. Gone are the days of one or two films on repeat, now you have brilliant entertainment systems for adults and kids.
- Pre-download everything – you can now pay for wifi on planes but if you think that you are going to be streaming anything like youtube or you are going to be able to download new apps then you are WRONGGGG. It’s not fast enough to stream, or download so do it before you set off.
- Sticker books – are great for any age, although I wouldn’t take colouring books for toddlers unless you know they will stick to the book. Too often have I heard a mama shout on the plane ‘No don’t draw on that!!’ be safe and go for sticker books if you aren’t sure… the stickers will peel off the back of the seat. We often take Melissa & Doug reusable sticker pads – they are ingenious. We have used them on planes before and I can’t sing their praises enough, the only downside is that they are big.
- The old unwrap a gift trick – take blind bags, small toys like schleich animals or mini toy cars, and wrap them in gift wrap for the kids to unwrap at intervals on the journey (this is especially fun if you have a long plane journey). We work to one every hour and at 9hrs for Florida at £1-2 per toy, we spent around £35-40 on little toys. Yep, totally cash you don’t have to spend, BUT do you value your sanity at around £30? I doooo!
- Utilise the info packs and things that are in the back of the seats on the plane – Kids love to investigate new things, they love to take in new information, be it pictures or words for older kids. Try something like a find it game, or I spy.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it – On your own but need too eat? C’mon, ask! People aren’t that awful and if I saw a mama (or Dad) struggling I’d offer up the parental paw of solitude and try to help.
- Pocket games are SO fun – Dobble is a great one! Probably my fave but there are so many – pocket top trumps, pocket who’s who. so. many. I would grab a couple and just keep them set aside for when they are bored out of their brains.
- Don’t take everything with you on the plane and show them it – Have you ever been stuck in a shop between 3 or 4 pairs of shoes? Too much choice is a killer. It’s the same principle on a plane for kids, too much choice is overwhelming and they will have everything out at once. If you keep anything you bring set aside until they start to get bored you are onto a winner. We’ve got iPads, sticker books and a toy to unwrap every hour. We have games too but again, these stay in my handbag so it’s not up to them when they come out.
- Watch the movies if you have older kids – Make sure you take ear phones for them, it will save you having to buy them on the plane.The boys have some from Primark and they LOVE them.
- Take a blanket, or if you are on long haul flights these are given out, because your kids will probably fall asleep, especially if they are under 4. Both my boys used to sleep for about an hour on the plane – it’s great (though they are never synchronised!).
That’s it really! It’s honestly not as daunting as you might think. Can it be hellish? Sure, but your attitude can have a huge impact. I remember being so angry and frustrated with Reuben’s bad behaviour coming back from Florida that I lost my shit on more than one occasion, which in turn just fuelled him. There is nothing worse than everyone being aggravated, deep breaths. This will pass and it’s such a small part of the holiday.
Haha I wonder if these would work for me, I am the worlds worst traveller – I need to have something to entertainment to make it through.
Wow, great tips. I serious love this one “Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. On your own but need too eat? C’mon, ask! People aren’t that awful and if I saw a mama (or Dad) struggling I’d offer up the parental paw of solitude and try to help.” it’s true just ask, the worst someone can say is no but most people would likely help than see you suffer. I remember my first plane ride was to Jamaica and I was 6, for me it was more the excitement on being on a plane but I had this nice man next to me who even let me swap sits and sit at the window and he had a laptop – well in them days LMAO it was a big thing, he helped my nan to entertain me! x
I think you have the right idea. I think we only took the kids on a couple of short flights when they were little. They did pretty well but even the short flights can be boring.
Brilliant post. We took the iPad, few notebooks and crayons with us for the kids when we travelled to Thailand last year. But we were lucky that there was a TV on the back of the seats on our place so the kids were happy watching films 🙂 xx
I can barely keep myself entertained on a plane never mind if I had kids. I find by the time I’ve watched a movie that’s a good portion done then plenty of reading/ eating snacks and maybe a nap x
This is a really useful post with some sound advise. I used to take with us that toy called magic slate, you can draw and wipe and no need for paper and pencils.
I always admire parents with children on a plane and think ‘how do they do it’. It’s hard work! Definitely think having choice but not too much choice is key.
I don’t have kids and admit to hoping any children on the seats near me are well behaved. It must be a real challenge to keep them entertained.
Yep, this pretty much covers it! I try to not use the iPad unless its absolute meltdown time as we try to keep things screen-free and also I try to reduce the amount of radiation my daughter is exposed to. But so far its not come to that and colouring, watching the built in entertainment systems (Air Canada’s are brilliant) and sleep seem to cover our long-haul flights. So far…
We did the unwrap thing on a long car journey once and OMG what a bad idea! Never again! My no 1 tips is iPad and earphones (for you and your child – haha)
Lots of good ideas – asking for help is utterly vital! I’m forever being handed people’s children on flights.
Long flights can get quite boring for kids, i think its great to take a variety of things on board to keep them occupied x
Having travelled with my kids across the Atlantic for last 13 years( grandparents in California ) – your article is great and covers pretty much everything. From very young ( 2-3yrs) I let mine have their own case to take on board- a very small roller case
– they really loved having their own case and in that they would have blanket,neck pillow, headphones( plane ones don’t always fit)magazine/book/game /toy/ stickers ( I wrapped up toys when they were younger too) and most importantly a selection of snacks – healthy ones and treats (11 hrs is a long time on a plane ) i also work in the industry and am amazed at the amount of parents who have nothing for their children on long flights…..although food is provided( mine are not partial to airplane food) I never leave for a flight with my children without snacks- regardless of length of flight….they can carry them in their case….things like grapes/apples nuts( now they are older) carrots/cucumber /cheese cubes and of course crisps and cookies/ choc as a treat. My children love and always have loved packing their own cases and choosing what they would like to take( within reason of course) Hope my couple of extra tips have been helpful to your already great article!!
Thanks so much Sarah for your comment and the extra tips! Those are great suggestions and it’s funny because Roo really likes helping to pack too! He is only 3 so I have to aid him a lot, but he knows what he wants to take and I know what he needs to take so we make a pretty good team!
Snacks are so important on a long (or even short) flight. You can guarantee that as soon as you don’t have something your children will want it!
I’m so pleased you found the article helpful, I’m running a series over the next few weeks… it’s really just my way of organising myself and I can look back on it when I’m packing for our trip, but hopefully others will find it useful too!
This is a great article! I run a small online toy shop that sells mess free, portable toys to try and help entertain kids on the go and would love to link to your article from the site so my customers can see your tips.
If you need travel toys take a look at http://www.takemetoys.co.uk!