15 Tips how to survive long flights with kids

Planning a family holiday on the other side of the globe with your kids? It’s normal to fear how it’s gonna come out or if everything will be as expected.

We’ve just returned from a one month holiday in the States. Flight of total 24 hours, two stops (three planes). It was a few hours shorter on the way back. I have to say, it was challenging.
We were flying with our kids almost two years ago from Skopje to Chicago with only one transfer, this time we had two transfers and longer waiting time on the airports. Our son has flight even before but shorter flight in Europe.

I would like to share my experience of this part of the holiday, which is usually the hardest one. Here are 15 things to pay attention to when preparing for a long flight:

1. Teach your kids to fly from an early age

Teach your children to fly as early as you can. Our kids are such great flyers as our daughter has been flying from a baby and our son since he was 5. They know the flight procedure, what to expect and how to manage themselves, I’m sure it will be even easier in future flights.

2. Walk the Aisles

The kids like anyone else needs to stretch their legs, especially during daytime hours when meals are not being served.
In fact, get your kids moving in the airport as much as possible before ever getting on the flight so that at least your first few hours aren’t too restless.

3. Changes of Clothes

Do not board a long-haul flight without an easily accessible quick change of clothes for every member of the family. I recommend to pack the clothes in different bags for everyone if possible, another option is to use plastic zip bags with labels for everyone separately. This makes them quick to grab and the baggie can double as isolation for any dirty clothes that need to be contained.

4. Backbag for hand luggage

My top tip for flying with small kids is to have a backpack as hand luggage so that you have both hands free. That makes it easier for you to carry them, or hold their hand, or show your passports or whatever else you need to do at the airport.

5. Never travel without a tablet or extra smartphone

Load your tablet with games, songs, TV shows to keep them entertained for as long as possible. Even tiny babies can be distracted for some time by a cartoon with a catchy song and it can be just long enough to enjoy your in-flight meal or avoid a tantrum. Take your chargers in your hand luggage.

6. Favorite cuddly toys

Make sure you hold back a favorite teddy that you bring out on the plane and keep one in reserve for the way back. There is always the risk of losing a cherished companion in transit, which is heart-breaking, have an extra toy for any case.

7. Time your sleeping

There is a rule for easier adjustment to the different time zones, when traveling from East to West you should stay awake as far as possible, and when traveling from West to East you should sleep as much as you can. Just check what time of the day you should arrive at the final destination if you are arriving in the morning is good to sleep while flying, or if you arrive in the evening you should stay awake so you could sleep when you arrive.

8. Order a special meal 

If possible order vegetarian, kosher, halal – whatever is available. Those meals are usually brought first, which means kids get fed first.

9. When traveling with a baby

Notify the airline that you are traveling with a child under the age of 2. Reserve a bassinet for the baby, plus bulkhead seating for yourself. At check-in ask for a window seat with the bassinet, which provides privacy for breastfeeding.

10. Taking off and landing

Ask them to drink water or suck a lollipop on takeoff and landing. It helps regulate the ear pressure which can be painful especially for babies and smaller kids. Some companies offer gummy bear candies to the kids, however, is good to have some with you for any case.

11. Good and bad toys

Good toys include crayons and paper, stickers, crafts, a toy phone, finger puppets, and books. Bad toys include anything that rolls when dropped on the floor.


12. Embrace the snacks

This is the time to loosen your healthy food rules. Let’s face it: You want to get through the flight, not win Parent of the Year awards. Just as you abandoned your screen time rules above, if that translates to a gummy worm stuck to the teeth for a few hours, it’s worth it.

13. Make regular toilet stops

Make sure they go to the toilet immediately before getting on the plane. Don’t give them too many fluids either or they’ll be up and down to the toilet all the way to your destination – extremely annoying for the person in the aisle seat!

14. Take care of yourself out there

Don’t forget to look after your own wellbeing and comfort. Take care of yourself and the rest will take care of itself. If you are in good form, you’ll be far more able to cope with every situation during the flight and your unforgettable holiday.

15. Flexible attitude

Last but far from least, the most important thing to pack is truly a good and flexible attitude. Surviving a long flight with kids may not always be pretty, but as long as you can remain calm and adjust to their changing needs, all will be OK.

I truly hope this will be helpful. Comment if you have some other tip that I haven’t mention and fill free to share your experience — how does your family survive long flights with kids?

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