How To Survive Short-Haul Flights With Kids

3 August 2015
Read Time: 3.5 mins

Unless you can afford Business Class, along with most people you probably dread long haul flights. But short haul flights can be pretty unbearable as well – especially on budget airlines.

They usually don’t feed you or provide in-flight entertainment – well, not for free anyway – even on 3-4 hour flights to popular family holiday destinations such as Fiji or Vanuatu.

So that family holiday that everyone has been so looking forward to can be spoiled on the way over by whining children and stale soggy sandwiches you just paid $10 for.

How do you not become that jack-in-the-box parent that’s rummaging in the overhead bin for the fifth time, run ragged by their kids, and instead drift serenely through the airport, on to the plane and off again looking for all the world like Mary Poppins with angelic kids in tow?

Here are some top tips from the experts at Bound Round, the travel app for kids, by kids.


1. Planning

A little planning helps – and not just the night before – or even the weekend before, but when you choose your flights.

Check out what the airlines offer in terms of entertainment, food options and upgrades. Some airlines provide a ‘light meal’ or ‘snack’, others will charge you for everything.

Some will have limited in-flight entertainment (one TV screen hanging from the ceiling every 5 or 6 rows); some none at all.

2. In-Flight Entertainment

Some budget airlines just don’t have any, but don’t assume you’re safe with a premium airline, because they often reserve their older aircraft for shorter and less popular routes, or less popular flight times.

This is where (if any) your ‘entertainment’ is limited to one channel on a screen that’s in the ceiling six seats away. Some budget airlines, including Tigerair and Virgin Australia, provide as much varied entertainment as you need, if you BYO your own device or rent a tablet from them, (oh and by the way they only have 12 for the whole plane) so get in quick or bring your own.

 It's usually best to bring your own (All images: Getty)

So arm yourself with a tablet, one for each child, and make sure you know how to use it, or at least make sure your child does. Make sure all devices are fully charged.

If you need to download a couple of movies on to them, or the airlines in-flight movie App, do it the weekend before, not at the airport on the flaky free Wi-Fi.

While you’re downloading – download Bound Round so the kids can learn about the destination they’re going to. And organise chargers, headphones and maybe a case to protect them from drops and scratches.

3. Food

After a big feed, lions can go for three days without feeling hungry. Such a shame we can’t do the same, as the time from leaving home to finally getting into your room can often be more than half a day – even on a 60-minute flight.

It doesn’t help our eyes and noses being assaulted by the sight of krispy creams and aroma of fresh coffee, as we try to get from security to the gate without being lured into the dreaded ‘retail area’.

 Don't be caught waiting for the trolley

The answer is pretty simple: pack a lunchbox. The same kind of lunch box that you’d pack the kids off to school with. Only add a few treats – you are on holiday after all.

And pack one for yourself – a grown up one with adult treats. Oh – and choose food that won’t stink out the plane.

4. Checking In Online

Always, no exceptions. It’s best to check in as a soon as on-line check in opens. You’ll have ensured you have seats together, window or aisle, and that you’re not right next to the toilet queue.

What’s more, when you arrive at the airport, you won’t be the ones standing in the line that stretches out of sight – you’ll be straight to ‘Bag Drop’, through security and setting up camp at the departure gate enjoying the contents of your lunchboxes.

 Bliss - but don't rely on it

5. Boarding

To board first or last – that is the question. If you’re organised it doesn’t matter. Just make sure that what you need for the kids (and yourself) is in a small bag that goes at your feet.

Everything else, what you needed to get you to this point, and what you need when you get off the plane is in the other big bag and that’s going in the overhead bin and staying there. No yo-yoing up and down to retrieve colouring pens, snacks or drinks.

Oh, and make sure everyone goes to the toilet before boarding.

 Get to that departure lounge early and get them settled

Remember, the fewer things you have out and loose on the plane – the less there is to lose. And don’t be hurried into getting off the plane with the mad rush. Most of those folks are already late for their meetings – so let them go, then you can gather up your kids and their stuff at a more leisurely pace.

6. Maintain Peace & Quiet

You’ll avoid arguments by making sure all the kids have their own devices but it’s also useful to teach the kids a bit of plane etiquette to ensure you don’t annoy the other unforgiving passengers:

  • Keep your voice down
  • Don’t kick the chair in front
  • Don’t put your tray up and down constantly
  • Don’t play games without head phones on
  • Don’t eat smelly food

So now it gets to the point where you’re sitting comfortably on the plane and all around is calm. You even have time to pull out the in-flight magazine and have a flick through.

About Bound Round

For more recommendations on holidays with kids, check out Bound Round, the kids travel app for kids by kids. The app is full of fun facts, games and video destination guides to all the best activities and attractions, narrated by local kids, the experts on what’s fun in their home town.

Visit your local Flight Centre store or call 131 600 for more advice and the latest deals on travel.

Deborah Dickson-Smith

Deborah plays the mother role in a blended family of seven. She's a travel blogger, diver and passionate eco warrior. She has lived in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Edinburgh, London and now resides in Sydney’s northern beaches with her Brady Bunch-style family - all seasoned travellers. Follow Deborah on Twitter @where2nextblog or visit her blog, Where to Next?, all about travelling with teens and mid-life style.