I once had to hold my nine month old daughter on a 7 hour flight where she cried from before the plane took off until we touched down. It was a disaster, for us, and for the rest of the passengers on the plane. The culprit? An ear infection.
While we've never had to manage that much in-flight crying again, we have had to deal with our share of whining, boredom, and exhaustion when we fly from point A to point B. Cranky kids on flights are difficult for everyone involved. Is it possible to keep the kids entertained and engaged when they're restricted to their seats?
Arts & Crafts
Brand new coloring books (with your child's favorite characters), crayons, stickers, washable markers, glitter glue, and multi-colored construction paper or sheets of card stock can provide hours of entertainment for crafty kids. The important thing is to make sure that these items are new and a surprise -- their novelty will keep kids entertained while you're en route to your destination.
Snacks & Drinks
Never walk onto a flight with children empty-handed, whether you're flying for 2 hours or for 12. If you're in a rush, even pre-packaged snacks from an airline shop are a better choice than nothing at all. I often make sure to bring along snacks that I don't let my children have on a regular basis: lollipops, fruit snacks, cookies, and juice boxes (small or purchased after I go through security) are ideal for entertaining little ones while you're flying.
At home, we're often too busy to do much reading other than our bedtime stories. A flight provides an opportunity for my daughters and I to start that chapter book they've been dying for me to read aloud. Don't scoff - even older children sometimes love being read to by mom or dad. If you're traveling with teenagers, consider bringing along a book, magazine, or comic book they've been wanting to read, instead of a book from their summer reading list from school.
Movies & Video Games
Hand-held devices have revolutionized travel, whether your child is three or 13. Bring along your smart phone or hand-held gaming device for your next flight. Favorite videos and games, especially those that you wouldn't normally let your children tune out to for hours on end, can help the time fly by when you're up in the air.
Cranky kids and flights don't have to go hand in hand. By boarding prepared and entertaining your kids on the way to your destination, you can start and end your vacation without a headache.