How To Entertain Kids On Long Haul Flights

Family holidays are always exciting but how do you keep the kids occupied on a long haul flight? Through trial and error, here are my tips on how do to this - and be a cool, calm mummy – ready for any situation which may arise from flying with kids.

Food and drink

Before you fly, order the kids food (we found that we could do this at the time we booked our flights. Closer to your flight, try visiting the airline’s website, or calling the airline to find out what food is being served during your flight, for you and the kids. If you think your kids are going to eat the food that is being served, great. If not, then you may wish to consider packing an additional meal for your kids to eat instead. And snacks. Lots of snacks. Bring snacks that aren’t easily squashed in a bag. Raisins, popcorn and chicken-in-a-biscuit are all good candidates. And Pringles chips – they’re easy to transport, hard to squish and time consuming for the kids to eat. Bring more than you think you’ll need – plane food can be pretty average and delays are common. As for drinks, you should be able to pick some up from the airport once you have cleared through customs.

Image: Lonely Planet

Food bribery

We like to pack treats and normally “banned” food. You know what I am talking about – those foods that can reward good behaviour or miraculously diffuse an escalating situation. We like treats that can be handed out a few at a time, like jelly beans and Smarties. For those worried about the sugar factor, we only give a small amount! You can’t obviously bring liquid on the plane, so you may also consider packaged food snacks like muesli bars and rice chips. The key here is to offer special treats that your children will find exciting – only you’ll know what tickles their fancy the most! Oh and you can bring fresh fruit, so long as you consume it before you leave the plane. 


Did you know most of your favourite board games come in fun sizes too? Perfect for popping into your carry-on luggage. The kids love the mini Connect 4 and us parents are partial to game of travel Scrabble while the kids sleep!

While we like to be screen-free as much as we can on land, when we're in the air it's a diferent story! On long haul flights we always carry an electronic device and a “busy bag” for each of our children.

With the electronic device, you’ll need to make sure your device is fully charged and loaded up with lots of apps, TV shows and movies before the flight. If your electronic device allows you to swap out batteries, bring extra batteries. BUT I strongly recommend that you don’t offer up the electronic device up until you have exhausted all other entertainment options. We have found that if we introduce electronic devices too early on in the flight, out kids aren’t happy with the other entertainment that’s on offer. For this reason, we like to hold-off on producing the electronic device until the final hours of the flight. You know the hours I am referring to – the hours where everyone is over it and when you need a break from entertaining the kids. Be sure to pack some headphones / earphones (we like to pack headphones for our kids as they are much more comfortable than earphones. And if you’re sharing an electronic device between multiple kids, being a splitter so that you can use the one earphone plug for multiple sets of headphones.

Tips for things for plane games to include in the “busy bag” are:

  • Small toys – these don’t need to be expensive (we pick up ours from the local bargain store) – preferably just brand new (kids more likely to be excited and entertained for longer with brand new toys that they have never seen before). We like to wrap up some of the toys for an extra-special treat. And we keep an emergency toy in our hand luggage, in case there is a major meltdown / everything just got too hard. The only toys I would avoid are small toys that roll around if they are dropped on the floor, and toys with lots of small bits.
  • A thin, lightweight beach sarong – the sarong doubles as a tent and blanket or invisibility cloak.
  • Washable crayons, coloring-in books and reusable sticker books.
  • Mini board plane games and card games (Battleship and Uno are family faves)
  • Books - read the books to your kids and ask questions about the content to keep them interested and engaged. Bring a brochure or book about your destination, and talk with them about all the fun stuff you’ll do together. If it’s a return flight you can talk about what you did on your trip and what parts they enjoyed the most.
  • Travel journal – kids can spend hours on these and travel journals are a wonderful keepsake from your travels. I like journals which contain lots of different activities (e.g. stickers, puzzles in addition to the usual journal format)
  • A stuffed animal - aside from providing familiarity and comfort, a stuffed animal is a great toy and can double as a pillow.

Don’t forget that the electronic device and the busy bag containing all the plane games are entertainment options in addition to the entertainment options available on the flight – like the in-flight entertainment, visiting the gully area for a snack, or visiting the bathroom (yes, even this can be entertaining)

So there you have it. Happy travels!

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