It’s easy to plan a great holiday for families with kids, but it gets a little harder to figure out how to keep everyone entertained during the flight to get there. We’re no stranger to horror stories, we’ve all heard them; restless kids who make flying a nightmare for their parents and the people around them.

I once flew with two children under 4 from the UK to New Zealand, so could have used this article before going woefully under-equipped with just iPads. Kids can have their own hand luggage so other than the essentials of drinks, snacks, baby wipes, and a change of clothes, fill it with entertainment.

Some planes have in-flight entertainment, and you can use your own headphones in most cases. But it’s best to not rely on this as the main time-filler.

So whether you’re visiting family in Europe, or you’re flying out for that dream family holiday in the Caribbean, our top games suggestions will help change your journey from mundane to memorable.

Tablet or Mobile Phone

Tablets and mobile phones can come in handy, especially for longer flights with kids. You must prepare your tablet or mobile phone ahead of time with downloading the right games/shows in advance, as it will most likely be your child’s main source of entertainment during the flight. 

In addition to this, you may be surprised to know that in your destination Disney, Amazon Prime, BBC iPlayer and Netflix restrict your viewing options once out of the UK. This means those favourite TV programs will be used then too. While these are downloaded on the apps, they will take up storage space, so you will need to plan properly. Amazon Prime for example do have limited shows available.

You could have a few audiobooks queued up of your kids’ favourite stories narrated by famous voices or pre download some family-friendly podcasts. Music playlists can also be downloaded from Amazon or Spotify.

Make sure your devices are fully charged beforehand if possible, and that you have games and other forms of entertainment downloaded before taking off. While some aircrafts have charging ports (so take those chargers), it’s best to have your devices fully charged before your trip. If the battery dies, then you will need to resort to plan B.

kid colouring in on plane

Colouring Books

Colouring books can be a therapeutic and fun way to pass time when travelling with children. Make the activity even more exciting by bringing lots of crayons, colouring pens and pencils. Also bring a variety of colouring books with different themes, including holiday, beach, movie and cartoon scenes. 

Colour Wonder Markers and Pads

An update on classic colouring books is Crayola’s Colour Wonder markers and pads which work like magic but only work on their special pads to prevent mess. 

Plus, there’s a variety of themed pads to choose from, including Cars, Disney princesses, Toy Story, and even blank drawing pads.

There are also so apps and games which work the same using your finger, so might be worth exploring before you commit to a new purchase.

Pen and Paper Pad

You would be surprised how a simple pen and paper can go a long way when travelling on a plane with kids. As simple as it may seem, the games that could be played are more versatile and entertaining than what you may think. You can create your own game with your kid, or play classics such as dots and boxes, tic-tac-toe, or hangman.

The upside about pen and paper games is that they don’t take up any luggage space and if you misplace or forget any of the items, you can easily get more pens and paper to continue with this game.

Child plays in airplane

On-The-Go Mini Game Pad

Sometimes all you need is a Mini Game Pad and some pencils for your kids to have a good time. The Mini Game Pad has sheets for the alphabet game of categories, connect five, and tic-tac-toe.

Language and Word Games

Playing a language or word game on an international flight is ideal for kids, especially if your travel destination has a different native language from your own. This is the perfect opportunity for your children to learn some local words and phrases in a fun manner.

If you’re going on holiday in a country where English is the native language, then switch up the game by focusing on various places, locations and local foods in the destination country.

Magnetic Board Games 

Magnetic Board Games

Another great option for flights with kids are magnetic board games, with many family favourites having travel versions. It’s also a fun way for the family to be entertained by playing a game together with the middle seat of a trio as the centre. Plus, there are many options to choose from including classics like Yahtzee, Chess, Battleships and Checkers. 

One of the benefits is that the pieces can be kept together, although they can be prone to being knocked under the seats. Of course finding them can be a real pain as it’s dark and not a lot of room. Personally, I prefer games where a lost piece doesn’t make the game unplayable.

Memory Games

Memory games tend to be super interactive and fun, so it’s definitely a great way for kids to pass time during a flight. You can incorporate concepts from your holiday in the memory game, for instance things that you’ve packed and plans that you’ve made for your destination. This is another game that can be played by the whole family as a group to get everyone even more ramped up for the family vacation.

Card Games

A deck of cards doesn’t take up much space in your luggage, most importantly, can come in handy during a long-haul flight. There will be plenty of time to enjoy some of your favourite games with the kids. There are plenty of card games to choose from, so entertainment is guaranteed. All you need is a standard pack of cards or special packs for games like Uno (which now have a variety of kids versions) 

Card Game Versions of Classic Games

Enjoy classic games without all the small pieces wherever you go. Get card game versions of popular classics such as Monopoly Deal, Cluedo, and Guess Who? It can be great fun for the whole family to enjoy while waiting in the airport or when flights are delayed.

Quizzes

Quizzes are a great flight option for both kids and adults alike. The best way to prepare for this game is by purchasing a quiz book or downloading a phone app. Alternatively, make your own ahead of the flight. You can even make the quiz destination-themed to wherever you’re headed to. 

To better keep the interest of younger kids, purchase quiz books that are specifically for their age group as hard questions ruin the fun.

Nintendo Switch

Nintendo Switch

Okay, so not a budget option, but deserves a place all the same. Easily convert Nintendo’s newest console to a portable system by detaching it from the dock. So games like The Legend of Zelda, Super Mario Odyssey, and Mario Kart 8 can easily come along with you for the trip and keep the kids entertained and busy. You can even use it when they are asleep to relive that youthful nostalgia.

Bananagrams or Boggle

Think of these games as portable versions of Scrabble, without the need for a game board. With Bananagrams, take turns spelling letters with the letter tiles. Make things a bit more competitive with Boggle, as it comes with a 90-second hourglass sand timer for added pressure. These games are perfect to play on the plane, or even during your holiday when there’s a rainy day.

Books

Don’t forget about books; you can never go wrong with some reading. Before your trip, get your child to come up with a list of books they would like to read. Make sure to have enough books for the flight to your destination and the return flight, but take note that they can weigh down your hand luggage.

Airplane Scavenger Hunt

A super way to build a child’s power of observation while having fun is a simple airplane scavenger hunt. It can be a great way to get them out of their seat and moving about the plane when the seat-belt sign is off.

Come up with your own airplane scavenger hunt or download a free printable from the internet.

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