July 30, 2020

How to enjoy a long flight with kids

Bored kids can make long flights seem twice as long – on you, more than anyone. To up your odds of enjoying the process, here are 12 tips to enjoy a long flight with children.

This post may contain affiliate links, from which I receive a small commission on any resulting purchases at no cost to the customer. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. It keeps The Koh Samui Guide ad-free, never sponsored and 100% independent. See privacy policy for more details.

12 tips for a long flight with children

An added bonus to your holiday, perhaps, is a long flight with children. Yea ... how much are you looking forward to that? Before reaching for sedatives, consider slightly less drastic action. When flying long-haul, especially at busy holiday times, you might have little choice but to take red-eye flights and – the dread of all dreads – sit in middle seats.

Screaming babies and bored kids can make 8-, 10- and 12-hour long flights seem twice as long – on you, more than anyone. To up your odds of enjoying the process, here are 12 tips to enjoy a long flight with children. Just remember, whatever happens, there’s a stiff drink waiting at the other end. For you, not for them.

Whether you’ve booked your flights or are still perfecting an itinerary – here’s how to make sure the only comments from your fellow passengers are compliments: “She’s so well-behaved!” or “I didn’t even realise there was a baby behind me!” Can it be done? Let’s see what we can do.

1. BYO-Bed

Pack: Kids' travel pillow/s and a BedBox

Sedate with comfort and squoosh. Depending on your children's ages, you might use a travel pillow sized. For toddlers and little kids, use a BedBox (or an inflatable airplane footrest to extend the seat into more of a lay-flat bed). Now’s also the time to bust out a favourite bedtime cuddly toy and extra warm socks.

For babies and very small children, many recommend the sleep-inducing trickery (and added safety) of using your his or her car seat on the plane. For older children, anything extra soft and snuggly might help send a child to sleep on a long or overnight flight. Even if for just an hour – that’s blissful time you can read, watch a movie or sleep as well. Your third-rate airplane rom-coms? They're waiting for you.

2. Sweet, sweet screen time

Pack: Portable phone charger and an in-flight phone/tablet holder

Screen time? No judgment at this time. Next episode starts in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1...

3. Board first, and settle in to play

Pack: Water Wow! activity books, Spirograph travel, airport sticker books, etc.

Take advantage of your airline's offer to board first and get your children settled. Once on the plane? It’s Tactic Time. Bring all sorts of in-flight kids’ games, books, comforts and distractions to keep your children happy while flying long-haul. Many of these you’ll want to keep in your own carry-on to control delivery times, but have a starter pack ready to keep everyone happy and occupied for the hour or so for boarding time through to meal service and movies. This way, you've already won gold.

4. Bedtime stories

Pack: All About Thailand and Thai Children's Favorite Stories

If you're happy to turn your children into a science project, see if you can achieve subliminal "you're getting v-e-r-y s-l-e-e-p-y" success with a pre-bedtime ritual: tooth-brushing and a change into PJs.

5. Assume Murphy's Law can fly

Pack: Seatback Organizer

Consider adding a few bits to your own carry-on for whatever "you've got to be kidding me" scenarios could find you mid-flight:

Extra credit: A dozen packs of earplugs for nearby passengers, should you suffer the ignominy of the plane's screaming baby being your baby.

My most genius tip of all? Put this "Oh Sh*t Kit" in a handbag organizer, or any quick-access pouch with lots of pockets and a hanging loop. As soon as you reach your plane seat, either put it in your seat-back pocket or hang it from the hook on your tray-table. That way, it's totally ready – guaranteeing you won't need it once.

6. Creative activities make the time fly

Pack: Wikki Stix, Scratch Art and Foil Art

These creative activity sets suit a range of ages and have a long list of attributes perfect for kids on a plane: they’re quiet, they don’t make a mess, they don’t require batteries or have parts to fall on the floor, roll under a seat and disappear. Your children can work on them over the course of a few hours (and doodle during a movie). Wikki Stix and Play-Doh will make a creative space out of the plane’s tray table.

7. Pack a big kids' bag

Pack: Ride-on suitcase or PaddlePak

Even a very small child can cart their own travel pillow, comfy bits and a few toys or books.‍It's a toy, a seat, a ride and a suitcase: Trunki ride-on suitcase performs all kinds of magic as a ride-on toy, a seat while waiting in queues and as a toddler-sized carry-on suitcase. It even meets the carry-on size requirements for Bangkok Airways. Used as a ride-on toy, the Trunki ups your odds that they’ll tire out en route to the plane.‍

Hands free to be held: Trunki PaddlePak – A backpack means you can keep hold of your children’s hands while they do their own carting. It’s waterproof, too, so works wonderfully as a beach bag.

8. Gate-check your buggy/stroller

Pack: Car seat travel belt and gate-check stroller bag

If your babies are still stroller-size, hang on to your equipment until the last possible second. A gate-check stroller/buggy bag means the only germs returned on landing are your own. As well, the bag keeps straps and delicate parts safe from getting caught in anything. Gates at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK) are miles apart, so make sure to keep your stroller with you until you board.

9. Reward with in-flight bribery (regularly)

Pack: Sticker Art Book

Fill a carry-on bag with wrapped presents – each earned with good behaviour. Within? New books and games – including things like toy dinosaurs, a Barbie or matchbox car, a tub of PlayDough, and even things that might teach about your destination. The key is variety and choosing toys that are silent (or can be made silent). Nothing is more annoying than a video game or kids’ show at volume.

Sharing is caring: Want to play iPad games, or watch a movie together? Just tuck a headphone splitter in your bag.

10. Play a game together

Pack: Melissa & Doug Travel Hangman

All of the above: (A) require just 2 people to play, (B) have no loose pieces to lose and (C) can be played in relative quiet sitting in your plane seats. Perfect!

11. Colouring books

Pack: The Anti-Boredom Colouring Book

Throw in some new crayons, felts or coloured pencils and you’re golden.

12. Enjoy your layover

Pack: How Airports Work

If your long flight is actually two or more flights, check in advance where you'll find play equipment or kids’ areas in your transit airports. Failing that, luggage carts and moving walkways tend to hold a fascination.

13. Bring amazing snacks

Your very best tactic = distract with food. Use lollipops as a crucial tool; they're “please don’t scream” prevention, especially during take-off and landing. For the remaining 8+ hours, if you’re happy for the plane food to be treated as a science project, snacks that take time to eat are prized distractions – your first line of defence. Ziplocks or spill-proof containers filled with Goldfish crackers, pretzels, gummy snacks, etc – and plenty of them! Flight attendants can fill up your spill-proof water bottles or sippy cups (just bring them empty through security).

What's next?

As for right now? Start looking forward to what happens after your flight – like things to do on Koh Samui with kids and how to pack for Thailand. Enjoy!