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Momof4boys Jul 28th, 2008 08:49 AM

Keeping kids happy on a long flight
This question's probably been posted a thousand times but here I go...

I'm travelling to Europe with four children (boys) under 12 years old. They will sleep some on the plane but I know they'll be too excited to sleep much.

Any special suggestions? I think electronics will have limited battery capability and bringing DVD movies may not be an option.

Ryan Jul 28th, 2008 11:22 AM

Hope for one of the airplanes with personal seatback videos in coach. Check with the airline about that.

I might also suggest you check with your pediatrician on their view of dramamine.

suze Jul 28th, 2008 11:44 AM

What is it the kids usually like to do to entertain themselves? Any chance they are avid readers?

As above, hopefully you are on an airline (like BA) with the individual seatback entertainment screens. They run movies and TV shows continuously for most of the flight.

For other, I'd think same as adults, some magazines, favorite snacks, etc.

boots08 Jul 28th, 2008 12:17 PM

I would try to not give them food that contains sugar, caffeine or food coloring. I know that's hard to implement, but the less they have, the less wound up they'll be.

dfr4848 Jul 28th, 2008 12:18 PM

1) take an airline that serves free booze. For you, not the kids. On second thought....

2) as noted, hopefully you'll have individual IFE in the seat backs - makes a big difference. Otherwise, as you referenced in another thread, use the ipods. I really don't think electronics should have limited battery capacity; we've never had a problem with that.

3) pack some surprise bags in your carry on and give them one every 2 hours or so. My wife excelled in finding some inexpensive items - removable stickies that made games/pictures, small puzzles, child magazines, kids books on your destinations (let them pick some things they'd want to do), etc.

4) and yes some snacks. You're just not going to get much of that from the airline.

BTW - I give you an A+ for doing this. They'll never forget the trip.

GBelle Jul 28th, 2008 02:06 PM

One of the things we brought onboard a long flight were pipe cleaners. You can pick them up at any craft store or even places like Walmart for a larger sized package.

They are easy to carry, light, inexpensive,and can be made into lots of different creatures which can let them use their imagination beyond the electronics.

Ryan Jul 28th, 2008 02:42 PM

Go to Amazon and type in The Boys Doodle Book.

We picked up one for our son (and the girls version for our daughter) before our recent trip 7 hour plane trip from NYC to Ixtapa.

It has 100 pictures that ask them to use their imagination to complete the pictures. We gave each child a crayon pack and they stayed busy for at least 2 hours each (when not sleeping.) The pictures include things like "What does this aliens town look like?" and "what's in this castle?"

There are also small, compact travel games that have magnetic pieces. We have checkers and backgammon.

Momliz Jul 28th, 2008 08:17 PM

hate to say it, but sometimes electronics can be your friend: ipods, game boys, nintendo DS or even a PSP. All of these would depend on the age of the guys, of course. Ipod shuffles aren't expensive, relatively, nor are game boys now. Just bring extra batteries, we always travel with a boatload, and you can get more everywhere, and a shuffle's battery will last quite a while. And why won't a portable DVD player be an option? My 12 year old twins travel with books, cards, and electronics and it works. We have played poker - 5 card draw, black jack, and texas hold 'em all through Paris, the Dordogne and egypt. You may prefer other games, but they work...

emilyjhon Jul 28th, 2008 08:29 PM

I agree with you Momliz. Children's have a good time pass with electronics. My nephews usually carry game-boy or PSP with them. Board-games are also fun to play.

Momliz Jul 28th, 2008 08:31 PM

and, mom, just saw your post on another thread, so one thing that I think is crucial is don't try to do too much. In that other thread I think the mom was planning on three cities in 2 weeks. That's insanity, especially with kids. 2 cities, maybe, and stay in an apartment, so they can spread out and play and everyone can have their space. I know this is off topic, but check Slow Travel for more suggestions.

phyllis_stein Jul 29th, 2008 09:08 AM

I applaud anyone who doesn't have to rely on electronic entertainment for kids. I'm not sure I could say the same -- when traveling with just one child -- myself.

Last year we managed a European trip without a DVD player or ipod for our son; this year may be another story.

What worked on the plane for us last time was having a plane _without_ seatback screens for the overnight outbound flight. Less distraction made it more likely our son would sleep a bit. (So did giving him a bit of pediatric Nyquil.) He slept for about 5 hours of an 8-hour flight.

Inflight distractions that held up for the awake hours going over and for the entire daytime flight going home: I read to him (he wasn't yet reading on his own). He played with a Magna doodle and some favorite small toys. We played some games out of an Usborne book of travel games. There are some great games and puzzles to print on sites like -- mazes and "madlibs" stuff keeps my son cheerful. So do the kind of books like I Spy, where he has to find certain things in a very busy or detailed image (like Where's Waldo).

I always pack a few new things: books, cheap trinket-y toys, and art supplies.

It was easy for me with one child; you'll have more on your hands, obviously. I suppose the main thing to keep in mind is to arrive prepared; don't count on the airlines for anything (not snacks, not entertainment). I never assume I'll be able to read a book or listen to my ipod myself; in transit, I feel my job is to keep my son content and occupied.

One benefit to having four, though, must be that they can play together a bit?

There are some terrific suggestions here. Pipe cleaners, Doodle Books, magnetic board-type games; I'll look into those. And I'll keep checking back to read more suggestions.

Thanks for posting this.

W9London Jul 29th, 2008 09:18 AM

Call me a luddite, but what's wrong with a simple pack of crayons or picture books? Our policy is not to purely entertain the kids with DVDs and portable games just because they are on airplanes. Do you let your kids watch TV at home for more than 3hrs in a row?

Surely individual video screens work, though contents are more for 6yo and above than real young ones. Also young kids often have difficulty keeping headphones in place.

Oh, and btw, I travel frequently with two of my under-6s. My son is just happy with the safety instruction seat in the seatback. I've taught my daughter cats cradle and she can spend 1hr just entertaining herself. I'd rather teach them how to keep their minds engaged proactively.

The only criteria we have for in-flight toys are 1) no sounds, and 2) no small bits that can get lost.

Momof4boys Jul 29th, 2008 03:06 PM

No, the kids don't (usually) watch TV for 3 hours straight but I'd be more than happy to let them watch their brains out if it kept them content on a plane and not bothering anyone else on a flight across the pond.

The older boys (12 & 11) will be fine with reading, IPod, etc. It's mostly the 3 year old I'm concerned about and to a lesser extent the 8 year old.

The electronics I refer to are all rechargable-battery driven as opposed to disposable battery. No way to recharge on a plane after 2-3 hours.

Thanks for the great suggestions, I will pick up magazines, download and print some mazes, I-spy/Waldo book; I'll try out the pipe cleaners and complete-a-picture book as the two younger guys will probably enjoy that very much.

Thanks for knocking me on the head with the "limit the sugar" advice. I would have probably gone crazy with a bunch of junk food and made them miserable. I'll stick to nuts, trail mix, crackers.

The hubster and I are realists and know the limitations of travelling with the "crew". Therefore, we will not be visting 10 countries in 10 days or anything nearly that insane.

I also will not be medicating my children with Benadryl as was suggested to me.

sashh Jul 30th, 2008 11:04 PM

My mum would never fly when we were kids so we would drive from northern England to Spain - took 2 days.

She would make up a 'surprise pack' An A4 envelope filled with small toys, pencils, notebooks etc with a list of things we had to look out for written on the envelope.

things like "A red car" or "A boat", whenever we could tick off something on the envelope we could ave ONE gift from inside.

Obviously flying you would need to do different things, maybe "count 10 different planes" at the airport or "speak to the flight attendant in Spanish".

One plea from a solos traveller with no kids - if you do take electronics please use headphones or turn the sound off. Thank you

LucyFrance Aug 7th, 2008 04:24 AM

We typically come over prepared for our 2 children (6 and 10) with the online movies (we bring a DVD player too just in case), video games, snacks, tablet for drawings, cards. At this age they are certainly easier to keep entertained than a toddler.
My kids ONLY get their video games on long trips/flights or as a reward for something. Same with movies. We do not watch a lot of TV in our house so movies are used as a reward. Bring along a few eye masks too. They will eventually go to sleep.

Barbara_in_CT Aug 7th, 2008 11:28 AM

For the 3 year old, line up the dining room chairs and play airplane. Make sure he knows what is expected (staying in seat when the seatbelt sign is lit, using inside voice). You can test his understanding by reversing roles and having him be the flight attendant. At times, have the older boys take over the 'practice.' It will reinforce the rules for them too.

bratsandbeer Aug 7th, 2008 12:27 PM

One of the problems that young children have is with the ears. I remember the doctor telling me how to clear my ears both going up and getting ready to land. I don't remember what he said but you could ask your doctor about that.
Better than having a child cry because their ears hurt.

Momof4boys Aug 20th, 2008 06:17 AM

Thanks for the ear advice. I will talk to our doctor. I remember on my first flight, I felt like my ear drum was going to explode.

Bad memory.

LSky Aug 20th, 2008 01:44 PM

Try earplanes- ear plugs made for air travel. For the whole family.

TokachiM Aug 21st, 2008 02:33 AM

I just flew Japan/US with my two kids, and yes, the seatback TVs are a blessing. What did I do pre-TV? Surprise packs, as others have suggested. I found play-doh to be very useful, and my kids were pretty careful to keep it on the tray (not in the seats!).

Let them take walks every now and then, and if you can schedule a flight that leaves in the evenings, that may help (although they may be sleepy at the destination).

Singing songs quietly always helped pass the time.

Make sure you include gum or chewing candy in your snack packs.

Oh, and hydration is important. They probably won't let you take bottles of water in . . . but no one stopped me from taking an EMPTY water bottle into the airport. I filled them up at the water fountains.

And this may sound crazy, but surgical masks really help keep the air hydrated, which helps keep everyone happy. Especially on a long flight. I had one lady ask if I was sick! But, better to fend off questions like that than to actually get sick because of cabin air.

Have much fun!

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