22 Tips For Surviving Long Flights With Kids

Parents share their tried and true hacks and advice for flying with children.
Peter Cade via Getty Images

Flying with kids is generally not an easy, breezy experience ― especially now. But there are ways to alleviate the stress.

We asked the HuffPost Parents Facebook community to share travel tips and hacks that have made long flights with kids more bearable.

Naturally, many parents offered some funny joke responses like “Put your children on a different flight”; “Buy the middle seat between two strangers” and “Vodka!” But others shared their real kid-tested wisdom.

Here are 22 travel hacks that have helped parents survive long flights with their children.

1. Get The Kids Involved In The Process

“Treat it as an adventure and get them involved and excited. Brainstorm on fun things they would like to do on the flight and then have them pack their backpacks accordingly.” ― Marie Nicole Feanny

“We had our daughter pick out her own activities. ... I truly think if the child is old enough to participate in the preparation, that gives them ownership and buy-in of the process.” ― Patty Bucklin

2. Use A Foldable Wagon Or Travelmate

“Get a foldable wagon for the airport. You can check it at the gate. It’s awesome for carrying all the stuff and the kids.” ― Colleen Turner

Go-Go Babyz so their carseat doubles as a stroller to get through airports easier.” ― Courtney Mae Klaus

3. Choose Your Seats Wisely

“When flying on Southwest or another airline where you get to choose your seat as you board, I try to sit next to a ‘grandma’ who makes eye contact and smiles when she sees my kids. They are usually a lot more likely to not mind if your kids cry at all, and are often even willing to lend a hand with helping (which is especially useful when flying solo with your kids).” ― Amanda Couture

“Try for the front row, so your kid doesn’t kick the seat and can sit on the floor and play.” ― Lauren Elizabeth Metzel

4. Take Care Of Their Ears

“Make sure they are suckling, drinking or chewing something during takeoffs and landing, to avoid ears hurting.” ― Isa Yosoyesa

“Depending on age, a pacifier, bottle for taking off/landing, lollipop, throat lozenges or gum can help relieve pressure.” ― Beth Spiegel

“For babies, have bottles and pacifiers for take off and landings (or nurse).” ― Marc Strawderman

5. Carry On Extra Clothes

“Always have an extra change of clothes for everyone, yourself included.” ― Victoria Acosta DeFelice

“When my daughter was younger we used to pack changes of clothes in Ziploc bags. In each bag was a nappy, a change of clothes and socks. Then, if there was an accident I could take out the Ziploc, change her and put the dirty clothes straight in the Ziploc and seal. It was also easier to grab hold of when in a hurry or in a confined space like an airplane.” ― Ellie Henry

6. Don’t Board Early

“We find it’s harder to keep them entertained on long flights when you sit for an additional 30 minutes while others board, so we wait towards the end of boarding to get on.” ― Heather Heavlin

7. Pack All Of The Snacks

“You can never have enough snacks.” ― Victoria Acosta DeFelice

“We pack a lunch box (minus the drink) so she has an actual ‘meal’ ― sandwich, chips, fruit. A few treats are also good.” ― Patty Bucklin

“For toddlers, bring plenty of snacks such as puffs.” ― Marc Strawderman

8. Engage In A Little Bribery

“Bribe them for good behavior. Granted this doesn’t necessarily work for babies. With that, just pack what you need, cross your fingers and hope for the best.” ― Marie Nicole Feanny

“Buy a new special small toy and tell them you have a surprise for them, but they only get it halfway through the trip, and only if they behave.” ― Jessica Kohoutek Behzad

9. Pick Up New Toys And Books

“I liked to pick up fun things, like small toys/games, stickers, books, etc., leading up to the trip. I would pack my son’s favorite stuffed animal and a blanket in his travel backpack, along with all the new things he had never seen before. We usually had enough fun things in there to keep him happy and occupied both to and from our destination.” ― Julie Turnbull Syers

“For my toddler, I always make a trip to the dollar store and buy $15-$20 worth of throw-away toys that she’s never seen before. Each time she’s getting restless, I pull out something new. I almost never make it through the whole stash.” ― Erin McDaniel

“Save prizes from Happy Meals or pick up some silly cheap ones from the dollar store.” ― Erin Columbare

“Activities and toys that haven’t been seen before or in a while are good.” ― Lisa White Polakowski

10. Try The Raisin Trick

“We use lots of little things in plastic boxes or wrapped up in wrapping paper. One of our favorite things has been a small pot of raisins ― it can be a shaker as long as lid is secure, you can use it to count the raisins, you can give a few at a time to last longer, and smaller children will have fun taking the lid off and putting it back on again. We had this as the only entertainment for our 2-year-old on a very delayed flight which was only supposed to be a 79-minute flight and it kept her busy for hours!” ― Lorraine Calvert

11. Find Toys That Interact With The Plane

Window clings are great to play with on the windows.” ― Erin McDaniel

Toys that have to do with the airplane itself are great.” ― Colleen Turner

12. Invest In Mess-Free Coloring Books

Melissa & Doug’s Water Wow books are great for travel.” ― Lisa White Polakowski

Crayola Color Wonder is great as it doesn’t mark on anything but the special paper.” ― Molly Kilkenny

13. Break Your Screen Time Rules

“Let them watch the video screens or tablets. It’s fine.” ― Jamie Martin

“Download movies on their tablet and bring their own headphones.” ― Victoria Acosta DeFelice

“Make sure your electronics are fully charged! Otherwise, you risk having an exhausted, whiny kid in a 3-hour customs line! ― Tatyana Fisher

14. Bring Simple Yet Dynamic Toys

Pipe cleaners are good for at least an hour of fun ― making sculptures, inventions, and jewelry.” ― Cindy Rathgeber

“Fan favorites with our kiddos are painter’s tape and dollar spot Band-Aids ― fun to play with and they don’t damage anything when it’s time to clean up!” ― Julie Eberhart Morrow

“My son loves tape and string and things to attach. It keeps him busy and creative and within his seat.” ― Beth Spiegel

“Toys with buckles and clips are awesome.” ― Colleen Turner

15. Buy Sticker Books

“I bring sticker books (wrapped as presents).” ― Claudia De Alba-Larios

Melissa & Doug has reusable sticker books.” ― Jamie Martin

16. Use Pacifier Clips To Avoid Losing Toys

Paci clips for all toys for babies and toddlers.” ― Sarah Samad Callton

17. Give Your Kids Small Backpacks

“Let each kid carry a small backpack with the things they would want most so they can easily access their stuff ― books, stuffed animal, blanket, snacks, etc.” ― Victoria Acosta DeFelice

“Each kid should have in their own backpack a change of clothes, snacks, headphones and toys.” ― Aruna Radhakrishna

18. Forgo The Lap Seat If Possible

“No lap children. Transatlantic and transpacific flights have turbulence that’s hard to predict and prepare for. Don’t let your baby’s head hit the ceiling and risk injury. Arrange for them to have a carseat and their own seat.” ― Rachel Mace

19. Don’t Forget About Sleep Schedules

“Try to get them to the airport well rested, so they don’t get overtired and wired up during the boarding process. Then protect their ears during take off and hopefully they fall asleep quickly.” ― Isa Yosoyesa

“Try not to skip or delay naps because that’s when babies and toddlers are most likely to have meltdowns.” ― Erin McDaniel

“If your kids don’t sleep on planes, try to fly in their normal waking hours, and pay more for flights that are more convenient, with less stops.” ― Aruna Radhakrishna

20. Make A Peace Offering To Your Neighbors

“Funny little gifts for your neighbors on the flight, like a pair of ear plugs and some chocolate.” ― Colleen Turner

“I bought the lady in front of me a drink!” ― Tracy Deakin

21. Manage Expectations

“I feel like you need to prepare as much as possible and then go into it with the right attitude. Go into it thinking that it very well may be an exhausting rough day, and since you know that you are going to keep your attitude and mood positive and steady no matter what. And then if all little ones do well, you will be pleasantly surprised.” ― Jessica Kohoutek Behzad

“Don’t ever expect them to sleep on a plane, even if it’s a red eye or their normal nap time. If they fall asleep, FANTASTIC, but you don’t want to be unprepared on a super long flight because you thought they’d be sleeping most of the time. Make plans for what you’re going to do if they stay awake the whole time. That goes for babies too.” ― Tina Schumacher Gess

22. Breathe

“Relax. Know that other parents have done it and survived. ... And even though you want to be aware of the other passengers, your child has as much right to his seat (and space) as any other passenger. Staying calm is essential.” ― Claudia De Alba-Larios

Quotes have been edited and condensed for clarity.

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