How To Keep The Kids Busy On Long-Haul Flights

Raise your hands if you hate to be seated next to a child, and that too a losing-his-mind, crying-out-loud, noisy, bored child, on an airplane?

Now imagine that you are the parent in this scenario and you don’t get to change your seats, or casually complain or simply put on your earphones and immerse yourself in the in-flight entertainment.

I know enough and more people (single friends or married without kids friends) who have unabashedly complained about reckless kids and careless parents whom they had to endure during their otherwise wonderful flight.

A few months ago, my family, which comprises of my husband, my easily bored 4-year-old daughter and myself were traveling to London. It was supposed to be an 8-hour flight. The longest non-stop flight we had ever boarded with our child.

We were quite aware of the challenges that it can throw at us, specifically in keeping my daughter occupied for all those 8 hours.

Also, we hate it when we are forced to feed her videos after videos to keep her engaged and out of our hair. Our guilt eats us up from within. Also, in this case, it wasn’t practical either. So we researched, asked a few friends with kids in similar age-group and decided to be prepared to best of our abilities.

Surprisingly, this flight experience turned out to be the best we’ve ever had! No tantrums, no boredom, no rolling of eyes, no irritation. And that’s just my husband. My daughter was an equal delight, as well.

So here are a few things that you can carry for your child on the next long-haul flight if videos and movies and games on the phone are not something that you like to encourage either.



Our daughter is in that phase where she loves to color. I would recommend carrying a new coloring book along with new set of colors so that your kid is not already “bored” by the book. The coloring books keep them reasonably occupied and pretty much independent.



Again, a supremely self-sufficient activity for the kids. They may need a bit of direction and mild-involvement, at times. As long as, they are not annoyed by the long travel and terribly tiny economy-class seats, it’s great!



Don’t know why, but kids love stickers, they can spend so many quiet minutes with them, that the stickers are almost the cheapest and most affordable nannies, ever! As long as you can ensure, that they don’t end up sticking these things on the seats or on the tray table, it’s one of the best options for in-flight, non-screen entertainment.



My daughter loves the story-telling time, at home. It’s part of her bedtime ritual. The trick is to pick storybooks that comprise of your child’s favorite characters, preferably- something they love reading again and again or something new that can capture their attention because it’s new.





Kids just like adults, love to show off their knowledge. Also, they love to involve their parents in most of their activities, if they can help it. Picking books that require them to look for specific things in pictures, asking them questions with specific answers are some of the things that they would deeply enjoy.



Whenever they are on a parent-chosen mission, a certain irritation kicks-in, by default in kids. As they grow up and learn to share their opinion, they will let you know that they don’t approve of this plan, entirely. In those moments of “genuine misery” and “heart-felt hopelessness”, their favorite action figures remind them of home and all things familiar. Left alone with the toys, they can come up with detailed storylines to keep them truly occupied.




Whether it’s hand-puppet or stamp set or similar things, they would require some sort of imagination from parent’s side as well. But it’s usually worth it. This will ensure at least 20 minutes of screen-free and guilt-free fun, if not more so!



There is something exciting and quite engaging about creating something physical, colorful and pretty. I have spent a lot of time playing with my daughter with building blocks and legos and making fun shapes with clay etc. As a parent, I have to admit, it’s mildly entertaining for me too. Win-Win, I say!



I don’t know why, but my daughter loves to comb my hair, decorate it with her pretty pink clips, and in general loves to pretend as if she’s my mom, getting me ready for school. Lately, we have come up with another activity- pretend make-up, where we take one of my make up brushes and use it to doll each-other up, without the actual make-up products, of course. If everything fails, this should suffice, for sure.


I hope these ideas help you to take the plunge and feel less scared about the long-haul flights.

It’s always good to carry a backup of downloaded videos of your child’s favorite shows, of course.

Also, very important, DO NOT let them know, about your inventory, right away. Let everything be a tiny surprise, one after the other. Full disclosure in this case, can be detrimental to your plan.


Happy traveling!

One Reply to “How To Keep The Kids Busy On Long-Haul Flights”

  1. Kids on long haul flights are surely a handful. Very relevant ideas, have personally used some of them already and they have been very helpful. And as she said, most important – the inventory should remain a secret 😉

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