Tips for Long Flights with Kids

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Let’s face it, a long flight with a young one is not anyone’s favorite part of a trip. A means to an end, yes, but I know that my kids are a total crapshoot when it comes to enjoying a long flight. Sometimes they will hunker down with their headphones, giving you hours to relax. But when the boredom (or hunger) sets in, it is best to be prepared!

Best tips for surviving a long flight with children. #travel #tips


My kids have flown a lot. They’ve been lap infants, I’ve lugged car seats, even once rented a CARES harness for little man. We have been through all the stages of child airline travel!

Despite flying often, for the first seven years of my son’s life (and probably over 50 flights in that time) we stuck to flights that were 4 hours or less. Usually less.

But last August, we headed to Hawaii. Survived the there and back and I can proudly pass on what I learned about long flights with kids.


Entertainment (Electronic): This is the most important thing to plan for – keeping kids entertained! We are pretty brand-loyal to Delta, and on longer flights, there is in-seat entertainment. Before flying to Hawaii, I checked the website to see what type of plane we would be on, and what type of entertainment was offered. Of course this is always subject to change.

For the kids, I always bring their own headphones. (And for the grown-ups too!) Since toddler-hood my kids have used Kidz Gear headphones and I highly recommend them!

Best tips for surviving a long flight with children. #travel #tips

The ease and variety of choices with in-seat entertainment has come along way and could easily occupy a child for hours. But again, you never know, so I also pack both kids’ iPads. Right now they have old iPads that we bought refurbished. My son’s iPad is about 6 years old and still going strong. But when we need to replace I am probably going to get them Kindle Fires.

For a long flight I will download at least one new movie from iTunes. For our Hawaii trip, I downloaded Zootopia on each iPad, along with a few Peppa Pig episodes. I also downloaded a few new, free games for each kid.

Many carriers now offer Wi-Fi on board. My husband will use the Wi-Fi for work, to send emails or surf the Internet, but I’m not sure you can really watch YouTube or stream movies. On shorter Delta flights, they offer free streaming movies, but I have not had luck activating this service. If your flight offers this, be sure to download the GoGo Entertainment app before you fly or check the device requirements ahead of time.

PRO-TIP: Pack your ipad chargers in your carry-on, most longer flights have outlets on board.


Entertainment (non-electronic): My kids can pass a ton of time on an iPad, but even the most technological kid has their limits (and we don’t limit screen time on long flights). So it’s always good to have a literal bag of tricks of non-battery operated ways to keep kids entertained.

Best tips for surviving a long flight with children. #travel #tips

When we arrive at the airport, each kid is presented with a drawstring bag of items just for them! We used old drawstring bags that we have picked up for free in various places, you know you probably have those sitting around the house! To fill them, I went to Five Below and Michael’s to purchase new goodies for each kid. Here is what the bags contained:

Best tips for surviving a long flight with children. #travel #tips

For the 8-year old boy:

Kidz Gear Headphones (we kept the iPads in our carry-ons)

United States Workbook

U.S. Presidents Workbook

Math Word Problems Workbook

Four small party tins of Play-Doh (Make a mess on the tray table, who cares, can throw away when finished! Keep unused tins to play with at your vacation rental.)

A new pack of markers – buy a two pack HERE

MLB Spot-It  <– EVERYONE Loves these games!

A deck of playing cards

Travel Spirograph <– This is my kid’s favorite travel activity! Keep them entertained at your destination as well!

Extra pens

Blank paper to draw



For the 5-year old girl:

Kidz Gear Headphones

A pack of Shopkins

Sticker Dolly Dressing Book  <–We love all the books from this series, and if you live near a Five Below, you can get these for $5!

Four small party tins of Play-Doh

A new pack of markers

Frozen Spot-It

Go Fish <– Love this set, the cards in the shape of FISH!

Old Maid

Extra Pens

Blank Paper to draw



Food: Okay I admit, I love to eat. As does my family. My kids will get hANGRY if they are hungry. So I tend to over pack in the food department. I’d rather be over prepared and have choices, than starving at 10,000 feet.

When traveling to Hawaii, we left JFK around noon and arrived in Maui at 8pm local time. Twelve hours in the air, two hours at LAX (if there were no delays), crossing five time zones and two meal times. I literally packed an entire Vera Bradley duffle full of food!

Best tips for surviving a long flight with children. #travel #tips

P.S. The duffle doubled as a beach tote when we were on the islands.

The morning of departure, little man and I walked over to our favorite bagel store (Town Bagel for my local friends) and picked up sandwiches for everyone. This was the lunch that we ate when we got on the plane.

Additionally, we packed some hefty snacks. If we made it to LAX on time, we knew we would have plenty of time to grab some dinner. But if we were running to reach our connection, I didn’t want to be stranded without food.

Editor’s Note: we made it to LA on time and hubby and I had overpriced and underwhelming burritos from the food court. The kids ate from our pre-packed snack bag. This was also the first time we ever denied purchasing them fresh fruit as they each asked for a banana – with a $5 price tag. Hell, no!

In our duffle I packed protein bars, bagged snacks like pirate booty and chips, fruit (apples and oranges, less messy than grapes or berries), sabra hummus/pretzel packs, cheese sticks, and delicious muffins I purchased freshly baked at the bagel store.

PRO-TIP: Pack extra napkins in your food bag!

Since we were arriving late at night, and staying in a condo, I packed little boxes of cereal for our first breakfast AND a pound of Trader Joe’s coffee with a Ziploc bag of filters! I knew jet lag would equate to a pre-grocery store trip, early wake-up! Sometimes I even surprise myself with these genius ideas!

As for drinks, we always travel with our own Camelbak water bottles (P.S. Amazon has the best price on kids’ Camelbaks). Keep them empty as you go through security and fill them ½ way at a water fountain near your gate. The pressure on ascent/descent can cause these to leak, but I found that if you don’t overfill and open the top straw, you should be okay.


Sleeping: Now on our flight TO Hawaii, I realized I should not have let my kids sleep as long as they did… but baby girl slept the entire 5 hours from California to Hawaii. (Working on a follow-up post about how to handle jet lag with little ones).

But sometimes you want them to sleep, like on a red eye.

We bring with us travel pillows for each kid (these are SUPER CUTE, but you can also get a plain one for $5 at Five Below). I also have several eye masks that the kids think are fun to wear. It does help with blocking out light.

We  always dress comfortably for any flight, but for a red eye or night flight will just have the kids travel in pajamas. A sweatshirt can also double as a blanket or pillow, so we normally travel with these in our carry on!

Best tips for surviving a long flight with children. #travel #tips

Pre-Departure Tips: Hopefully you will have plenty of time in the airport –  you are on time and not sprinting to your gate!

In the airport we passed the time doing two things: this AWESOME scavenger hunt AND competing to try to get in as many Fitbit steps as possible!

My kids loved this scavenger hunt. Pin it, and before you go, print out LOTS of copies! They each did one in JFK and one in LAX. Now every time we talk about flying they ask if they can do the scavenger hunt!

Best tips for surviving a long flight with children. #travel #tips


UPDATE: Click HERE for a new scavenger hunt from Have Diapers, Will Travel

Personally, when I fly solo, I like to get to the gate early, preferably with a magazine and a coffee and start winding down before boarding. But with kids who are going to be sitting and plugged into a device for a long flight, I like to get them up and moving as much as possible before take-off. Since I had just bought a new Fitbit, we literally did laps up and down the halls of JFK to try to get as many steps in as possible. Luckily dad didn’t mind waiting at the gate with all of our stuff. Either way, leave the workbooks, ipads, etc. to be played with once you really get on board and underway!

PRO-TIP: Unless you REALLY need extra time to get settled, or are jockeying for precious overhead bin space, I like to board the plane LAST, why spend even MORE time sitting?


Mom Essentials: Moms, don’t forget your own earbuds, a magazine or two, and a good book. And for the family, be sure to pack wipes, hand sanitizer, a change of clothes, tissues, a a plastic bag or two, and a pack of gum to help with popping ears!



Like any travel scenario, this is how we do it, and it works for us. I’ve come to realize that the best advice is to pick and choose from lists like this and make it fit your family’s needs. And with everything, bring your patience! Expect the unexpected and be flexible. And if need be, at least they serve wine on long flights!

hover over image to pin for later:

Best tips for surviving a long flight with children. #travel #tips


Flying With A Baby

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Wanderer’s Fashion Basics, Part II

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  1. We haven’t done anything over 5 hours yet, but I think it’s about time for a long haul flight for us. I love the idea of going to 5 Below! I wouldn’t have thought of that.

  2. I loooove the drawstring bag of treats idea. I will be doing this on my next flight but I will need to find some fun things that will amuse little Travis ! Thanks for this and the other awesome tips!

  3. Totally agree with your tips! Technology and snacks are how we’ve dealt with all our long haul flights (our very 1st flight with a nearly 2 month old was a long haul one – we’re crazy we know!). It was so much easier at that age..I travelled with a diaper bag then and now I need a large backpack just for snacks! Lol!

    1. harmskills Author

      I had a blog when my son was that age, and its now private. I hope to recycle some of its content this summer, like these types of tips! 9 months is a REALLY hard age, because they dont understand they have to sit still. I would never buy him a seat at that age, but would bring the bucket car seat on board in case there were ANY free seats and then have some switch with me to get it. I was very aggressive about this. If he was in my lap, I would nurse alot. He would usually fall asleep with the motion and the nursing. But not always. Then you need snacks, puffs, little toys and a TON of patience!

  4. I like the idea of using your beach bag as the snack bag for the plane – clever thinking! I know on Lufthansa, at least, they often have a kid bag for long haul they receive once they are on board – it had a toothbrush, toothpaste, a kid-sized eye mask, a toy plane, an activity book (in German, but most of it was mazes and things you don’t need language for), and cute plane socks. I think there were probably a couple little snacky things but those disappeared immediately so I don’t remember what they were!

  5. Terrific tips! Snacks are essential on long flights. Each of my children carry their own backpacks on our trips and are responsible for all of their busy stuff.

  6. Bri

    I hate flying enough as it is but throw kids into the mix, I couldn’t imagine haha. Bookmarking this for when we have kids because I know I could use it! 🙂

  7. All good tips. My kids are all grown now , and we did way more road trips than flights when they were little, but the few flights we did take went pretty smoothly.

  8. Kelly

    I’ve been traveling with kids for years as a military momma (having been stationed around the world). The scavenger hunt is the best idea. I am going to make one for the plane too, or like an airplane bingo where if the fasten seatbelt sit goes in you can mark it. Amazing thanks for sharing!!!

  9. Wow! Great tips and explanations for everything. I havent traveled by air with my little one yet, but I will definately use some of these ideas if the occasion does happen!

  10. This is so helpful! I don’t think we will be taking ours on flights any time soon for the simple fact that I do NOT want to drag around 3 car seats. haha I can’t even imagine it honestly. Maybe once they are out of car seats, I will do it!

  11. It’s been a LONG time since I travelled by air with my kids so I’ve (conveniently!) forgotten how tricky it can be. This brings back good memories though and I love your practical ideas, especially filling a drawstring goodie bag.

  12. These tips are great! We often take long road trips, so many of these are good for the car, as well. We always try to bring many things to do, and we also add new things that have never been seen before. The “newness” does help hold their interest. And don’t forget the snacks! Extra napkins are also a good idea!

  13. I LOVE the ideas of the drawstring activity bags and airport scavenger hunt. Your kids must feel like Christmas has come early with those bags – especially if they don’t know what’s inside them until they open them. Great tips – I will definitely remember some of these for the future!

  14. I recently flew a transatlantic flight from North America to Europe and when I got to my seat (and I feel bad for this) I cringed a little when I noticed that I would be sitting next to a three-month-old baby. I was SHOCKED nine hour later when we landed and the baby hadn’t cried even once! It was adorable, the parents were first-time parents and were amazed themselves! Your tips are fab for those that are less fortunate… Ha!

  15. I don’t have any kids but I will have to share this post with my sister!! And then I can use it if I ever fly with my nieces and nephews ! That is full of awesome information!

  16. I love the idea of goody bags for the kids! So simple but I can see how they would be really effective. My kids would love the airport scavenger hunt too – definitely pinning that one for our next trip! #familytraveltips

  17. Some brilliant tips, great idea with giving them their own bag full of things to keep them occupied – and packing ALL the food helps too! I love the scavenger hunt and the name of it did amuse me. For us, a scavenger hunt is where you have to collect all the things on the card rather than ticking them off. I have visions of your children triumphantly carrying a man in red trousers onto the plane! Thanks for linking up to #familytraveltips

  18. Snacks are always a good idea- you can never have too many. Ordering child meals help if they are older and some airlines have the sky nannies for feee like Gulf Air and Etihad. Singapore and Qatar airlines are also excellent. Ours have travelled since they were 10 weeks on long and ultra long flights (hubby is Australian ) so agreed, preparation is key. I found the 6 m and under the really easy stage but even after they have been great little flyers.


    1. harmskills Author

      oh yes, i should add that. delta now serves meals on cross country flights, so we did order kids plates for our little ones. I had never heard of in flight nannies! All airlines should have that!


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