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How To Keep Kids Busy On A Plane

By Edited Mar 13, 2014 3 5

Keeping Kids Entertained While Traveling Can Be Tough

How To Keep Kids Busy On A Plane

When I was ten years old, my parents drove my brother, sister and I to Disneyland. It was the worst road trip I can remember. Living in British Columbia, Anaheim is a long way off, and my parents had not even considered how to keep their kids entertained while traveling. We fought, kicked, yelled, and endured at least one hundred empty threats to turn the car around.

Road trips are tough, but flying can be even worse. It's not longer just you and your family that will be irritated by incessant whining, crying and noise. It's every single person on the aircraft that will have to endure it. There's no pulling over, no stopping for a while or taking them to the bathroom, there's no escaping a bored or unhappy child on an airplane. Do the coach-class flyers of our world a favor, and plan how to keep kids busy on a plane before you even buy a ticket.

If you live in Canada or the USA, flights to places like Europe, Australia and Asia can be more than 16 hours long. That's a long time to control an infant, or a toddler or child for that matter. Below are my 5 best tips for keeping kids entertained while traveling by air. They are also valuable tips for road trips or travel by bus.

How to keep kids busy on a plane

1. Bring games

Kids often want attention, and they tend to get bored easily. Bring some simple games that you can play together or they can play amongst themselves. A deck of cards for some go fish or a trivia game work well. Try to find games that are small and will easily pack into your carry-on luggage. This is a traveling parent's first line of defense against a bored child. Check a local toy store and tell them that you're looking for fun travel games for kids and they will be able to help you find some good stuff.

Simple, Classic and Reliable

Playing Cards

Bicycle Rider Back Poker Playing Cards - 2 Decks
Amazon Price: $2.56 Buy Now
(price as of Mar 13, 2014)
Playing cards are a great way for you to keep your kids busy and interact with them at the same time. You likely remember a time before cell phones and playstations when playing cards were just what you had, and it was great right?

2. Books

If your children are old enough to read, why not bring along a good selection of books? Books are easy to pack in a suitcase and can keep a kid busy for hours if they're into it. Consider some books that you used to enjoy when you were a kid and bring those or others like them.

3. Movies

Many large jets now have individual screens for each passenger. This can be a huge blessing for a restless child while flying. There's a good selection of movies on many airlines now as well as television, music and sometimes even games! I know that many parents are averse to appeasing your children with a screen, and that is why this one is #3 and not #1 even though it may work much better.

Consider that you're only flying for a short time and your child is likely going to be experiencing the outdoors for the next week or two while you're on holidays. If it's what gets the job done, then let everybody else sleep while your kid quietly enjoys his/her favorite show!

4. Toys

Bringing along a few age-appropriate toys for your child is a great idea. If they are into puzzles or other strategy toys like rubiks cubes, you can keep a child busy for a long time with something like that. Traveling with kids on a plane can be hard and some well-selected toys can make it much easier. Again, make sure you pick small things that fit easily into your bags and won't be a burden on the rest of your trip.

Your kids will love a world map jigsaw puzzle

World Map 100 Piece Jigsaw Puzzle
Amazon Price: $16.99 Buy Now
(price as of Mar 13, 2014)
An airplane ride is a great time to break out some classics like a good old jigsaw puzzle. Your kid will love the challenge while learning some geography!

5. Sleep

Why not take a flight where your kids are likely to sleep? Lots of international flights leave late at night and that can be a perfect way for your kids to sleep their way through the whole flight, or at least a good portion of it. If there's anything specific that helps your kids sleep like warm milk or a certain toy or treat, bring it along. If it's liquid, remember you will have to purchase it after the security gate because of the new regulations.

6. Ipad or other tablet computer

This is the mother of all strategies for keeping kids entertained on a plane. The reason it's #6 is again, that many parents don't like using a screen as a babysitter. This method however, for most kids will be the single most effective thing that you could do.

Ipad and Android tablets have loads of fun travel games for kids as well as educational and startegy games. There's movies, drawing apps, social media and some planes now have access to the internet...how cool is that? If you travel a lot, it may be worth purchasing a tablet just for this purpose. Your kids will stay quiet and entertained for hours with a tablet to play with. 

If all else fails...

Apple iPad with Retina Display MD510LL/A (16GB, Wi-Fi, Black) 4th Generation
Amazon Price: $499.00 $400.00 Buy Now
(price as of Mar 13, 2014)
No kid can resist the constant entertainment that an ipad offers. With power plugs on virtually all commercial planes and wifi quickly becoming more popular, your child can have hours of fun with movies, educational games, social media, writing, drawing and more!

These are the best ways I have found for how to keep kids busy on a plane. I can't overstate that you need to plan ahead for this. If your child screams their way from Vancouver to Sydney, or Los Angeles to Tokyo, it not only embarasses you, but it ruins the travel experience for everybody else on the plane.

Do you have any great tips for traveling with kids on a plane, or know of any great travel games that you want to share? Feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments section below!

You may also be interested in:

Tips For Packing Luggage

Best Things To Do On The Big Island

Early Flying Machines - Pioneers Of Aviation



Feb 21, 2013 11:07pm
Yep - iPad with all the right apps on it. That is the thing to have. Can load it up with books from the library before you go, too, so you don't have to worry about losing or forgetting to return regular physical books to the library.
Feb 25, 2013 8:09pm
I completely agree, thanks for reading!
Mar 23, 2013 12:13pm
Great advice. Kids are more advance than we are with technology. They may teach us a few electronic card games with an iPad. Thanks for sharing your tips.
Mar 23, 2013 2:17pm
Thanks for reading and commenting!
Mar 25, 2013 7:35pm
Thanks,I think I will bring a few along, I have no kids but just in case I run into one who is giving problems and the parents have not read your tips. I remember my last flight to New York, I was 'literally' a 'babysitter' to this grouchy child and have to endure the 4 hour flights from west coast to NYC.
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