Top ways to keep your kids entertained on a flight

Electronic devices, non-screen activities and good old-fashioned games – here are some top tips for getting your family holiday off to a fun start.

  • Janine Eberle
  • August 2018

Congratulations – you made it! Holiday booked, bags packed, and now you’re ready to hit the airport and start the adventure. One last thing: if you’re on a long-haul flight, you’ll need to put some thought into how you’ll keep the kids amused for the duration.

Thankfully, once your kids are a little older it’s much easier to keep them entertained, so the flight can be time for you all to relax and settle into your holiday together. (If you’re flying with babies or toddlers, see our article on having a happy flight with them.)

Woman and girl pointing out airplane window.

Here are our tips to keep everyone happy on the flight and get your trip off to a great start.

What to consider when you book

If you’ve already booked your tickets, it’s not too late to add extras to your booking to increase your family’s enjoyment levels. Would a little someone really love a window seat? Do you have enough devices to go around, or should you book some in-flight entertainment? Would a kid’s meal or activity pack raise the fun levels? (Jetstar’s activity packs include a puzzle, colouring set and card games.) Check Manage booking to see what’s available on your flight and get yourself organised, and remember that when you add extras in advance you’ll save money.

Devices – the flying parent’s best friend

If there was ever a moment to relax your screen-time rules, this is it. Tablets and smartphones are a godsend for making those hours fly by. Make sure they’re charged full of goodies – apps, games, films, etc – download everything you think you’ll need from your streaming service of choice, for offline viewing and listening. If your kids have a favourite movie they need to see for the 40th time, or a series they’ve been waiting to binge-watch, now is the time to break it out.

Kids are enjoying their gadgets while in flight.

Make sure everything is fully charged before you board. The Dreamliner 787 that service our long-haul routes have USB ports for charging your devices, but it’s a good idea to invest in a portable charger to avoid the catastrophe of a dead battery. (And it’s always a good idea to carry non-electronic entertainment alternatives.) Also make sure you have child-sized headphones or earbuds to avoid subjecting the rest of the plane to the soundtrack of Frozen.

Non-screen-based amusements

While your kids may be happy to spend the entire flight glued to their screens, variety is the best boredom-killer. Depending on your kids’ ages and interests, there are plenty of offline activities perfect for inflight amusement. If your pre-teen is a reader, pack the latest instalment of their favourite series or must-read new release. Activity or sticker books can keep younger kids amused for hours, and arty kids can get stuck into a craft pack or a set of felt tips and blank paper to draw on. For the littlies, Play Doh is a perennial favourite that’s plane-friendly (just bring some wet wipes to tidy up afterwards).

Little girl playing while on flight.

Fun and games for all the family

Before there were screens, people with time to kill and limited resources played games. Actual games, with each other. ‘I Spy’ might work for younger kids (many parents recommend using the duty free catalogue as material); for tweens and teens ‘Celebrity Heads’ (or ‘Who Am I?’) works a treat as an in-flight game and it’s super fun to boot – all you need is some Post-It notes and a pen.

See Old-school games to keep you amused on your flight for more ideas.

What is more fun than snacks?

Packing some snacks can help keep the kids free from an attack of the ‘I’m bored!’s. You know what’s on their high-snack-value list, but think small, non-messy and not too sugar-intensive (no one needs a sugar rush on a long-haul flight).

Young girls having meal on board of plane.

As with screen time, it may be a good idea to relax the junk food rules – if potato crisps or other delicious but non-nutritious snacks are normally off the menu, it might be a good time to make an exception. Otherwise, raisins and nuts are good, and it’s worthwhile packing some gummy bears or similar to help with reducing inner-ear pressure during take-off and landing.

In-flight entertainment strategies

Get the kids to take responsibility for their own entertainment and pack their goodies in their own carry-on luggage – but make sure apps are downloaded, devices are fully charged and nothing is left behind. Apart from that, it’s good to retain an element of surprise: have a couple of treats – a sticker book, a fun activity – packed away to pull out when boredom levels peak. For younger kids, help them regulate their fun by telling them they only get one new activity each 30 minutes or each hour (depending on how long the flight is).

Little boy waiting in the airport with his own baggage.

Try not to let them blaze through all their activities while you’re waiting in the airport. Use the time to explore the shops, check out the planes – give them the chance to burn up some energy while they’re still on solid ground. There’ll be plenty of screen time later.