5 Tips for Traveling on Long Flights With Kids

Here’s how a family of four survived an 8-hour flight from Hawai‘i to Japan on Hawaiian Airlines.


It’s always been our dream to do a family trip each year, and we finally got a chance to visit relatives in Japan this summer. We were thrilled, excited and honestly, a little nervous about traveling with the kids. Although both my keiki (ages 4 and 7) are past the needy newborn and toddler stage, they are both very inexperienced with long flights.


With the help of seasoned mom friends who gave their sage advice, I did my best to plan for every scenario and hoped for the best. Despite a few hiccups along the way, the flight was as smooth as it could be. Here is how we prepared for traveling with kids on an 8-hour flight on Hawaiian Airlines.


Traveling with Kids

Photo: Maria Kanai


Our Tips for Traveling With Kids


Call Ahead to Reserve Kid’s Meals

No one looks forward to airplane food, and I had low expectations of my kids enjoying it either. We called two days prior to our Hawaiian Airlines flight and asked for kids meals. There is no extra charge, but you’ll need to call ahead so they can prepare. When you board the plane, the flight attendant will confirm the kids’ meal reservations with you. The regular adult meals on the flight were bulgogi chicken or ginger pork, and our keiki were bigger fans of the kids’ option: Teriyaki chicken, white rice, corn, fruits and a cookie. For the snack meal, they were given cheesy Ritz crackers and a small sandwich.


Hawaiian Airlines travel with kids

Photo: Maria Kanai


Travel Light

Between my husband and I, we brought two bags on the plane: His backpack and my little red carry-on travel suitcase. We packed a change of clothes, coloring books, my daughter’s journal, crayons, chargers, tablets, their favorite blankets, a few small toys and snacks. My daughter had a cute suitcase at home that she wanted to bring with us, but since this was our first rodeo, we didn’t want to have to keep track of one more thing. Though that decision might depend on the ages and temperaments of your keiki. Older or more responsible children might be capable of lugging around their own backpacks or carry-ons around the airport.


Tips for Traveling With Kids

Photo: Maria Kanai


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Pack Snacks, Snacks and More Snacks

My friend who is a seasoned traveler told me to pack all the snacks, perhaps more than you think is necessary. We did just that. We ate mini SPAM musubi on the day of flight. I cut up apples and put them in ziplock bags. (Yes, fruit was allowed on an international flight to Japan—since they were sliced and cored.) We also brought a bag of turtle chips, arare and trail mix. They were a lifesaver!


Wiki Stix

Photo: Maria Kanai


Bring New-to-Them Toys

I found these Wikki Stix, mess-free wax yarn sticks on Amazon, and they were great. The kids busted them out at the airport while waiting to board the plane and had fun figuring out what kinds of colorful shapes or letters they could create. On the airplane, Noah played with them on the seat tray and made little roads for his toy cars. They are fun to play with, spill and mess-free and can be easily packed up and reused.



SEE ALSO: What You Need to Know About Flying Through Honolulu


tips for traveling with kids

Photo: Maria Kanai


Plan the Use of Electronic Devices

Aah, the holy grail: the tablets. We chilled out on our screen time rules and busted out the kids’ tablets once they finished their meals. Since Hawaiian Airlines does not have Wi-Fi (we’re waiting for you, Starlink!), we downloaded a few of our kids’ favorite movies and TV shows ahead of time.


It wasn’t exactly a stress-free flight (is it ever, even without kids?), but these few preparations helped make the long flight less painful. If you have any other tips for traveling with kids, we’d love to hear them!