Long haul flights can be boring and tedious even for adults, so no wonder children can get so tetchy and hyperactive while flying. In an ideal world, none of us would need to spend so much time on planes, but sometimes we have no choice. Moving to a different country, visiting family or simply going on holiday to a hot destination – whatever your reasons might be for flying long haul as a family, you may be worried about how your children will behave on the plane. Many parents struggle with keeping their children under control during long flights and horror stories abound of parents being told off for children misbehaving, kicking the back of someone’s seat, crying or making a mess. You’ll be happy to know that there are actually all kinds of tricks and methods you can use to help your kids tolerate and even enjoy such journeys. Much of the problem is down to children simply being bored. And can you blame them? The good news is that with a bit of forethought and planning, you can keep most children entertained enough to be well-behaved for a significant part of the flight, if not all of it. This article should help you plan your next journey and make it as stress-free as possible.

Try to match their sleeping time

Overnight flights are great, because your child is more likely to sleep through them. Of course, the excitement, change of setting and issues such as turbulence, etc. may mean a bit of grumpiness when the child becomes tired yet refuses to sleep, but eventually he or she is likely to fall asleep and stay asleep for the majority of the flight. Of course, depending on where you’re flying to, this may mean the child (and you) will suffer worse jetlag on the other end, so plan carefully. It might be easier to keep a child awake and entertained on a plane than to deal with a jetlagged child for days afterwards.

Bring an assortment of toys and books

Sometimes you don’t get to choose your flight times, or your child wants to stay awake. Make sure you bring a whole assortment of toys and books with you and introduce them gradually. Children often have a short attention span, so a toy that entertains them for an hour may lose its appeal. Have enough entertaining things with you so that you can surprise your child with something new frequently throughout the flight.

Bring your own food

It almost goes without saying that you shouldn’t rely on dubious airline meals to keep your child happy while flying. Bring plenty of snacks to give during the journey. If you are trying to make your child sleep, avoid sugary snacks and opt instead for foods rich in protein.

Make use of the inflight entertainment system

It’s worth checking in advance to see if your plane is equipped with a seatback entertainment system. These often come with special programmes for kids, including games, cartoons and children’s movies. While it’s not safe to assume this is the case with your particular flight to the point where you don’t bring any entertainment yourself, if it’s there – use it. Your child may well enjoy the novelty and it may keep him or her entertained for many hours. Many airlines have special activity packs for kids too, with toys and activities. These are great as a backup plan and an extra gift for your child, but don’t count on them being there. Always bring your own.

Bring your own entertainment and gadgets

A laptop, tablet or iPad loaded with games and movies can be a lifesaver on a flight. Choose a selection of your child’s favourites, as well as new things to keep him or her entertained. These can act as the primary sources of entertainment throughout the flight. Make sure you bring headphones with you (preferably wireless ones) to avoid disturbing other passengers.

Do thing together

Activity books, colouring books and other educational activities can be a fun way to get your child engaged during a long journey. Choose games and activities that can be done quietly, as many fellow passengers will be trying to sleep during the flight.

Get up and stretch your legs

Children may feel trapped sitting in one place for too long, so make sure you get up and walk around with them every once in a while if necessary. Be careful of letting them run around on their own, though, as they could fall down and hurt themselves if not carefully watched.