It’s no secret that I like my gadgets. It is not unusual for me to travel with a laptop, a cell phone and a tablet even for a beach vacation. The plane is one of my favourite spots to answer email and do some writing, and having the tools I need to do that with me is a no-brainer.

Or at least it was.

Rule changes with respect to what you can bring on board some international flights will force a change to my typical electronic hoarding.

And while it’ll be tough for me, I can imagine that parents who are used to simply packing an iPad and some headphones for the kids will be wondering what to do now.

I get it. I was that parent.

Tablets and small computers have been a staple  on our family air trips since the kids were little. That being said, I do think – no matter where you fall on whether the rules should be in place – that there are things you can do to make sure an electronics-free flight doesn’t result in hair-pulling and screaming (and yes, I’m looking at you dad.).

The fact is: Kids are more resilient than we think.

Kids of all ages are capable of understanding the limits of a situation. And I believe you can still travel with your kids and have them behave even if they don’t have their tablets with them. And no, I’m not suggesting you bribe your fellow passengers. (Read this if you want my opinion on “goody bags” for fellow travellers).

Here are a few things you can do as a parent to set yourself up for a successful flight.

5 Things Every Parent Needs for an Electronics Free Flight with Kids

  1. Explain the situation early: The time to tell them they can’t bring their iPad or laptop – especially if they’ve always done so in the past – isn’t the night before the flight. Explain the new rules and brainstorm some options together. Get them involved in thinking through what they can do on the plane and consider a trip to the dollar store to pick up a few things that might work well on board instead.
  2. Do your research: Many flights already have built in entertainment options on board. Others don’t. Knowing ahead of time if your plane has in-seat entertainment will go a long way to easing your nerves about the trip.
  3. Pack headphones:  Little ears and regular sized earbuds don’t mix. Proven fact. They’ll keep falling out and you’ll spend an entire flight trying to put them back in. Save yourself the headaches and pack two pairs: Small buds for take-off/landing and an over-the-ear option for in-flight. Even if they’re only listening to music on the in-flight system you’ll be glad you had them.
  4. Use what you’ve got:  Sure, tablets and computers are out but your phone is still a great option in a pinch. Download movies or shows ahead of time and keep both your battery life and memory in mind as you do. Carrying a portable charger along is a great idea as well.
  5. Consider non-electronic entertainment options: Whether it’s because you don’t have in-flight entertainment or because you’ve decided to skip the movies they’re offering having some cards up your sleeve (literally) can be a great way to pass the time. Cards, mini magnetic game boards for older kids and books or comics (real ones) are great old-school entertainment options. You might be surprised how much you all enjoy slowing things down.

Your turn: What’s your favourite way to keep the kids entertained on a flight?