5 tips to get your kids to sleep on the flight

It’s every parent’s dream: the kids sleep through the flight and touch down happy and jetlag-free. Here are our top tips for a slumber-filled flight.

  • Janine Eberle
  • September 2018

1. Time your flight right

First things first: when you’re booking your flight, try to choose a time that fits in with your kids’ sleep schedule. You have a much better chance of getting them to sleep on the flight if it coincides with their normal sleeping hours.

Start the usual bedtime routine at the airport to help them transition into sleep – changing into pyjamas, brushing teeth, etc – and if you normally read them a story before bed, do that once you're on the plane.

For older kids, try to stick to their normal home routines too. If they normally have a period where they can read or play on their devices before lights-off, keep to those same rules – while remembering that powering down at least 30 minutes before sleep time is vital to avoid the detrimental effects of blue screen light on sleep quality.

2. Choose your seating carefully

Think about the best way to arrange your seating. You might want to put younger kids in the middle or window seat, to keep them protected from aisle-seat knocks, and also shield them from other passengers – they’re less likely to sleep if they have a stranger sitting beside them. If you have more than one child, placing yourself in-between allows them to use you as a travel pillow and may comfort them to sleep.

Try to avoid sitting near the galley and toilets, where there’s more likely to be noise and disruption during the flight. Remember, it’s cheaper to choose your seats when you make your booking. If you’ve already booked, you can add seats later simply by visiting Manage booking.

3. Get them settled and comfy

As soon as you board, get everything set up to minimise disruption during the flight. Make sure you’ve packed everything you’ll need – entertainment, snacks, extra clothes – in your child’s own bag and stow it under the seat in front of them, so you don’t need to rummage in the overhead lockers during the flight. Take out anything they might need to use a lot and tuck it in to the seat pocket in front of them.

Neck pillows can be a good idea for extra comfort, and it’ll make your kids feel grown-up to carry their own. Bring on snug extra layers, even a light blanket, so they can snuggle up and snooze. If they have a special toy or blanket they always take to bed with them, make sure you’ve packed it in carry-on. If you can convince them that wearing eyeshades is fun and cool, that will block out the cabin light and help them sleep.

4. Feed them well

Kids won’t go to sleep on an empty stomach, so make sure you’ve prepared yourself to keep them fed and happy. You can pre-order them an in-flight kid’s meal, but make sure you bring on plenty of snacks, too – it’s good to have a back-up, especially for always-hungry kids and picky eaters.

If you want your kids to sleep, avoid sugar-packed treats and opt instead for slow-release carbohydrates that will promote sleep: oats, bananas and almonds are particularly recommended. Make sure you keep them well hydrated by drinking lots of water – avoid sugary soft drinks and juice.

5. Keep them occupied

If it’s too early to try to get them to sleep as soon as you board, make sure you’re prepared with goodies to keep them busy (and hopefully tire them out a little) before ‘bedtime’. Go with interactive activities – colouring, sticker books, games that you play together – that are more likely to wear them out than more passive activities like reading. See Top ways to keep your kids entertained on a flight for more ideas.

If they have some excess energy, let them burn it off by roaming the aisles when it’s safe to do so, or for younger children, go with them. Better still, let them run around in the airport to their hearts’ content before you board, so they’re exhausted and ready for sleep as soon as they reach their seats!