Take the device-free flight family challenge

Ditch the screens, make your flight a family bonding experience and get your holiday off to a fun start.

Father and son on an airplane.
  • Janine Eberle
  • September 2018

Trying to cut down on your kids’ screen time (or your own)? At first glance, a long flight might not be the best time to start. But in fact, there are plenty of analogue entertainments to keep the whole family occupied for the entire journey. And you might even have some fun.

Woman reading a book while on flight.

Actual books made of actual paper

Some kids just love books and if that’s the case, you should have no trouble getting yours to settle down with their latest favourite. For younger kids, there’s no reason you can’t read to them just as you would at home – this can be especially effective if you want to send them off to sleep with a bedtime story.

But it’s not just words on pages that can be great in-flight boredom busters. Colouring and activity books are something that your kids can really immerse themselves in and keep busy for hours – buy new ones for the flight for an added sense of specialness. Sticker books are a big favourite, and you might even be able to find books that are themed around planes, airports and travel to help build excitement about the trip.

In fact, this can also be a good opportunity to get them excited about where you’re going, and maybe even learn something about it. Lonely Planet produces a comprehensive set of destination-themed books for kids, as well general travel-themed activity and colouring books.

Little girl drawing something while on flight.

Artistic in-flight pursuits

If your kids are crafty types, they can get stuck into their latest project and let the hours fly by. Keep it simple – this is not the time or place for crafts with fiddly little pieces. Colouring-in and drawing are ideal – just pack some paper and crayons or felt-tip markers and let them go for it. Play Doh works well for younger kids (just make sure you bring some wet wipes to clean up the tray tables when they’re done).

Playing cards and travel board games

A simple deck of playing cards is a treasure trove of activities. You might have your own family favourites, but Go Fish, Snap, Cheat and Spit are (depending on your kids’ ages) some tried-and-tested fun card games, especially good if you have two kids to play together. And of course, there’s the all time family favourite, Uno.

There are magnetic versions of a surprising number of board games, everything from chess and checkers to Monopoly. Pack a mini-whiteboard and some dry-erase markers and you’ve got a writing surface for tic-tac-toe and Hangman. And any games you bring on the plane could come in useful for whiling away downtime on your holiday, as well.

Happy children traveling by plane.

DIY games

Now let’s get really radical. For the truly adventurous family, why not try to make your own fun, totally from scratch? They may have been largely forgotten in a sea of iPads and Minecraft, but there are loads of classic ways to create your own entertainment, from Rock Paper Scissors to Thumb Wars (which your kids no doubt already know) and I Spy to Celebrity Head.

See our article Old-school games to keep you amused on your flight for more ideas, and gear up for the most fun flight ever.