How to Survive a Red Eye Flight with Kids

In January of 2017, I swore off ever taking another red eye flight with kids. Little boy was three, and we had the most horrendous experience. He would not take a nap that afternoon. Of course he fell asleep on the 25-minute car ride to the airport. Then he wouldn’t fall asleep again until two in the morning. After sleeping two hours, I had to wake him up to get off the plane, then wake him up to pick up our bags, and then wake him up to get in the car. I’ve never seen such a total and complete meltdown as I did that morning. Every time I woke him up, he would give me the saddest little whimper and beg me to let him sleep. No way was I ever going to attempt another red eye flight with kids again.

How does that quote go again? “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”

Fast forward to this past fall. I had my plane tickets for Christmas lined up to avoid another red eye flight with kids. All I had to do was get permission from my boss. However, I started a new job the last week of September. It looks bad to ask off for Christmas your very first week. Even though it felt tacky to do it during my second week, I knew prices would skyrocket if I waited much longer. I got permission, rushed to my computer to book my flights … and the price had soared beyond my budget. Back on the hunt, I realized there was only one return flight that fit in my budget and my timeline: my only option was the dreaded red eye flight with kids that I had sworn off forever.

I believe my thought at this point was, “You have GOT to be kidding me.”

This year I decided to hatch a plan and to pray to high heaven it would help me avoid the disaster that was last year’s flight.

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airport, red eye flight with kids, little boy, runningStep 1: Get Out Excess Energy

Let’s be real: No kid runs out of energy. Ever. But we had an hour and a half layover before our official midnight flight, and there is plenty of airport to walk around. Instead of having him veg out on screen time with the iPad, I decided to make my best effort and get out some of his excess energy.

I convinced little boy to go play Pokemon Go with me. Yes, I am an active player. But so is the Prime Minister of Sweden, so I’m in good company. Playing Pokemon Go not only kept his attention since he had to walk and find all of the little Pokemon throughout the different hangars but also kept him constantly moving. Unfortunately, an unintended side effect threatened to derail my perfect plan. Once he was finished playing Pokemon Go, he was anxious to play on the iPad while we waited for our plane to board, which would have ruined the second phase of my plan.

Related: Tips for Visiting the Grand Canyon with Kids

 

red eye flight with kids, flight, screensStep 2: NO Screen Time

Last year my plan was to have the little boy fall asleep watching a movie. He does it when he’s really tired at home. Why wouldn’t he do it when he’s really tired on a plane? Right? RIGHT?

Wrong. That little screen kept him wide awake until the movie ended. Then the whimpering began because he was so tired. This year, we talked constantly about how when we got on our last flight, he was not allowed to use the iPad. I held true to my plan and did not let him look at any digital screen even when he reached that annoying level of hyper that comes from being tired. He wasn’t interested in lying down and closing his eyes, which led to a spur of the moment idea…

Related: My Year of Travel: 10 Places I’m Taking My Family This Year

 

red eye flight with kids, flight, bribe, fruit ninja, little boy

Step 3: Use an Irresistible Bribe

I knew that if I could get him to just close his eyes he would crash. I went in for an irresistible bribe I was sure would do the trick. He was reintroduced to the game Fruit Ninja during the holiday break and was constantly asking to play it. We made a simple deal: If he closed his eyes and fell asleep, he could play Fruit Ninja when we waited to get our bags. Sure enough, he took up all of the middle seat, placed his head on the pillow, and closed his eyes.

Picking something that was a big deal for little boy but low maintenance for two very tired parents went a long way in making our flight easier. He also had limited access to the game, which made the reward seem even bigger when we made the offer. I may not be ready for hostage negotiations, but this was a definite win in my parenting playbook.

Related: Why Millennials Need Travel

 

red eye flight with kids, flight, classical music

Step 4: Speed Up the Process

Music works like a charm for my kid. I downloaded a beautiful little playlist from Amazon Music titled Classical for Sleep and played it on low next to his head. No headphones because that would prevent him from lying down. I’m not usually a “ask forgiveness” kind of a girl. But in this instance, I was willing to annoy the people around me with the music if that meant my kid would sleep. In case you were wondering, no one cared.

Within half an hour, I had my kid snoozing away for the rest of our four-hour flight. The downside was that he took up ALL of the space in the middle, and my super sick husband took the window so he could sleep. I didn’t sleep a wink, but at least I didn’t have a little boy collapsing from exhaustion when we landed bright and early on the next morning.

Have you ever taken a red eye flight with kids? If so, how was it? Let me know in the comments! 

Debating whether to take a red eye flight with kids? Check out my tips on how to survive a red eye flight with kids without having the disaster that was my first experience. travel tips | red eye flight with kids | red eye | red-eye | red eye flight | red-eye flight | travel with kids | flying tips | family travel

Debating whether to take a red eye flight with kids? Check out my tips on how to survive a red eye flight with kids without having the disaster that was my first experience. travel tips | red eye flight with kids | red eye | red-eye | red eye flight | red-eye flight | travel with kids | flying tips | family travel
Debating whether to take a red eye flight with kids? Check out my tips on how to survive a red eye flight with kids without having the disaster that was my first experience. travel tips | red eye flight with kids | red eye | red-eye | red eye flight | red-eye flight | travel with kids | flying tips | family travel
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