9 ways to entertain kids on a long flight

Make your next long flight a comfortable one.
Make your next long flight a comfortable one.

When it comes to travelling with little ones in tow, a long flight can set the stage for mid-air temper tantrums and meltdowns. (Any parent who's paced the aisle way with a crying child knows what we're talking about here.) To keep boredom at bay, try these clever hacks for entertaining your kiddos on a long flight.

Download a new movie

Kids are fascinated by what's novel. Splurging on a much-anticipated new movie is a great way to keep them engaged and entertained for a solid two hours. If a portable DVD player is too clunky for your carry-on, buy a flick on your tablet or iPad. If you plan on renting a film, be sure to do it the night before. (Some can take several hours to fully download.) And don't worry; your 24-hour rental won't begin until you actually press play.

Read more: 17 wizardy Harry Potter vacation ideas

Bring a ton of snacks

Hunger is a surefire way to bring on a tantrum. Think ahead and stock your bag with individually wrapped, non-messy treats. Granola bars, crackers, and pretzels are all great options. Just steer clear of super-sugary snacks, which will only dial up your child's energy. Another tip: dole out these goodies slowly. You'll be kicking yourself if you blow through your reserve too quickly.

BOOK IT NOW: Vietnam Family Adventure

Stock up on digital games

Handheld games are a powerful tool in the travelling parent's arsenal. The good news is that many of them are also educational. Devices like LeapPads and Vtech InnoTabs are durable and easy to store, or you can opt to use an iPad or tablet. To tie it to your trip, select a game that's related to your destination. This is an easy way to teach them about geography and culture in a way that's relevant to their experience. (Tip: double check that you have batteries and headphones before heading to the airport.)

Be sure to pack a comfortable pair of headphones for a long flight with kids. Photo: Nadezhda1906/Shutterstock

Pick up some kid-sized travel accessories

As simple as it sounds, kid-centric travel accessories can go a long way. Everything from animal-themed kid's neck pillows to specialty slippers to travel jammies can actually get your little one excited to get some shut-eye during a long flight.

Think simple

If digital games just won't do the trick, don't underestimate a simpler approach. For example, clingy toys adhere to windows and tray tables, making them an inexpensive and fun way to encourage interactive play during the flight. Even an impromtu game of "I Spy" can help pass the time.

BOOK IT NOW: Phuket Family Fun

Get crafty

A long flight is the last place to paint a masterpiece, but there are plenty of mess-free ways to get creative. Play-Doh, sticker books, and Crayola's Color Wonder line are all fantastic options.

Travel-friendly toys are crucial! Photo: Sergey Novikov/Shutterstock

Don't underestimate card games

When boredom looms, age-appropriate card games can be a game changer. For younger children, Memory and Crazy Eights are solid choices. Kids a bit older might enjoy Rummy or Go Fish.

Look into interactive books and magazines

In addition to ordinary coloring books, parents on the go can take it to the next level with more engaging reads. Interactive activity books, which are available at most major book retailers, cost a bit more but are well worth it. (Think Where's Waldo, for instance.) Scholastic News is a great one for older kids.

Check out children's sewing kits

Crafty kids can stay entertained by stitching up their own designs. Needlepoint sets that feature child-safe plastic needles are easy to carry onboard and will keep little hands busy during a long flight.

Read more: Hong Kong with the family