How To Stay Sane On A Plane While Traveling With Kids

There’s no way to sugarcoat this: flying with little kids sucks. There, I said it.

It can feel like hours of pure torture trying to keep them entertained, buying their silence with bags of candy and pulling out all the stops so they’ll please, for the love of God, just stop kicking the seat in front of them. It’s pure survival mode, and if you’re a parent, you know exactly what I’m talking about—sit down, eat these gummy bears and zonk out on some more Paw Patrol, baby because mommy needs a minute!

But because I’m not the type of parent who is going to assemble a bunch of Pinterest-worthy goodie bags —with free earplugs and a pre-apology letter in the likely event my kid cries—for grown adults either, I’ve instead put together the ultimate stay-sane-on-a-plane guide with all the tips and stuff for them so that you won’t have a meltdown. Hey, maybe you’ll even get to read a couple pages of that new murder mystery book you bought. Doubt it, though.

Pack A Ton Of Snacks

You’re going to want options. Lots and lots of options. If they’ve got food in their mouth, that’s one less second they’re whining or trying to cut flips down the aisle. I suggest stocking up on your kiddo’s personal faves (pre-packaged stuff works great to toss in one big gallon zip lock) and packing an emergency candy stash for when you need them to just STFU. 

Pirate's Booty Aged White Cheddar Cheese Puffs
Pirate's Booty

SmartSweets Variety Pack Sampler

Annie's Organic Berry Patch Bunny Fruit Snacks
Annie's Organic

Invest In A Tablet

What is this phrase “screen time” that you speak of? All rules go out the window when we fly because I value my sanity, and you should, too. Simply download your kids’ favorite TV shows or games the night before so they’re all set and ready to watch for the duration of the flight (here’s hoping!).

Fire HD 8 Kids tablet

Volume-Limiting Kids Headphones

Kids Portable Charger


Stickers Are Your New BFF

You’re going to want to buy a stupid amount of stickers and window clings. I’m talking the jumbo, 200+ variety sticker packs in their fave theme and a travel-sized sketchbook or two to decorate. Hot tip: book a window seat and let your kid kill some time with cute window clings you can use again and again.

Sticker Collection Book: Princesses, Tea Party, Animals, and More
Melissa & Doug

Mini-Sketch Spiral-Bound Pad
Melissa & Doug

Unicorn Rainbow Window Gel Clings


Wow Them With Coloring Books

Because, sadly, at some point your kid will probably get bored of TV. I love these reusable Water Wow books because 1.) your kid can’t color the plane seats and 2.) they dry fairly fast so you can whip them out for more coloring fun later in the flight. The Color Wonder Mess Free Markers and Pads are lifesavers, too.

On the Go Water Wow! Reusable Water-Reveal Activity Pads
Melissa & Doug

Nickelodeon Color Wonder Bundle

Book A Morning(ish) Flight

If your kids are like mine, they won’t pass out on the plane until you’ve already touched down at your destination (true story, my daughter just did this). A flight time between 9 to 11 AM seems to work really well for my crew, as everyone is generally well rested and in a good mood. If you can, I also recommend boarding the plane last to get all the wiggles out before being stuck in one place.

Elizabeth Mitchell Kadar
Elizabeth Mitchell Kadar
Elizabeth Mitchell Kadar is a seasoned freelance fashion, beauty and lifestyle writer and also a mom of three littles living in sunny California. Her work has appeared in Brides, YouBeauty, SheKnows, The Fashion Spot, Maisonette and more. When she’s not busy writing or taking orders from tiny people, she enjoys frying her brain with all the trashy reality TV.