Surviving ultra long haul flights with kids and no electronics

Flying with Kids | How to get from house to plane stress free

What do the latest US & UK emergency directives mean for family travellers?

This article was first published in March 2017 when the US Government imposed an electronics ban on flights originating from the Middle East.  The ban was lifted in July 2017, with “improved security screening measures”  cited as the reason. 

We have left the published information in the event any similar bans are brought in future you will have an easy reference guide  – all our flying survival tips with children remain valid!!


In the latest twisted tale for international travellers to the US, electronic devices onboard aircraft departing from certain airports have now been banned. Not all electronics. Not all airlines. Before you panic, read on.

What electronics are included in the ban?

The choices seem strangely selective at this time, but in the early hours after a directive was issued by the Department of Homeland Security, it would appear “any devices larger than a cellphone/smartphone will not be allowed to be carried onboard the aircraft in carry-on luggage”.  This is understood to mean:

  • Laptops
  • Tablets
  • E-readers
  • Cameras
  • Portable DVD players
  • travel printers/scanners

Ok, take a breath travelling parents!!

Which airports are affected by the electronics ban?

At present, seven Middle East / African airports are affected, these are direct flights to the US only from:

  • AMM – Queen Alia International Airport (Jordan)
  • CAI – Cairo International Airport (Egypt)
  • CMN – Mohammed V Airport (Morroco)
  • IST  – Ataturk International Airport (Turkey)
  • JED – King Abdul-Aziz International Airport (Saudi Arabia)
  • KWI – Kuwait International Airport (Kuwait)
  • RUH – King Khalid International Airport (Saudi Arabia)

Which airlines are affected?

  • EgyptAir
  • Kuwait Airways
  • Royal Air Maroc
  • Royal Jordanian Airlines
  • Saudia
  • Turkish Airlines

It is confirmed that the UK has followed suit with a hand luggage electronics ban for flights originating from Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia. Any device measuring greater than 16cm x 9.3cm x 1.5cm must be stowed in your chekced luggage.

Our Globetrotters complete guide to Flying with Kids

What can families do in light of the current US electronics ban

I think it would be fair to say there would be very few long-haul travellers who won’t find this ban significantly impacts their flying experience. These routes are all 10 hours + and as anyone who has flown that far in one hit can attest, these type of flights need special coping techniques by all on board to make the experience as bearable as possible.

This is amplified for those travelling with young children as their attention spans are much shorter and tolerance for change in a routine much weaker than an adult.

If you ask any regular flying parent how they cope with long flights with children (ourselves included!), I bet 9 out of 10 would say iPad (or equivalent tablet) in their top few items to bring on board and help pass the time. Equally, most grown-ups have some form of electrical device with them these days.

Read here about out 16hour+ flight experience from Doha to Miami with three aged 5 and under 

Who knows if this ban will be a permanent fixture or disappear as quickly as it was announced (The first three airports took about 3 months to have their bans lifted). One thing that has been made clear, if the airline’s DON’T comply, the FAA will revoke the airline’s certificate to operate flights in the United States, so there really is no choice but compliance by the airlines concerned.

So your options

1 Reschedule your flight.

Flying with kids 21 Top Tips

If you feel you simply cannot survive without the electronic devices or think that checking these items would cause you undue risk and stress, you might want to jump onto the likes of Skyscanner or Momondo and check out different routes that involve a stopover from a European city.

Remember the ban is targetted at flights from specific airports, not airlines. (Remember when the hand luggage ban came in 2001 and they tried to part J K Rowlands from her Harry Potter manuscripts?! It’s understandable some things are too valuable to part with).

2 Load up your smartphone instead. The only electronics device apparently still permitted (bar maybe some old school handheld games?) – but is there enough smartphone love to go around? Time to load it up with the kid’s games if you haven’t already.

Maybe easier said than done if you have more kids than phones, but remind them of the good old days and how lucky they are, right?  If they’ve gotta share why not get a headphone splitter (coz playing movies and games out loud on a plane breaks one of the 10 Commandments of family air travel).

3 Rely on in-flight entertainment systems. Whilst many of the airlines listed above do have quality onboard entertainment systems (including Emirates and Qatar particularly have received a big thumbs up from us in their family offering), I’d never rely on this alone.

I reckon we are at a rate of about 1 in 4 of our flights at least one of us will have a faulty screen, so have a back-up plan!

4 Find alternative sources of entertainment. I know faaaaaar easier said than done, right?  But believe it or not, people used to cope on ultra-long-haul flights well before iPads and e-readers were invented.

Bring on the busy bag!!!

This page contains affiliate links. As Amazon Associates, if a qualifying purchase is made we earn a commission.

Best electronics-free suggestions for flying with kids

A busy bag is basically a pack of goodies to keep your kids entertained in the air. Don’t worry it doesn’t have to be full of hand-crafted goodies, just enough items to keep your child’s attention for more than a millisecond.

Check out our Pinterest board full of busy bag ideas!

Some people may have suggested to you before to “individually wrap” these items for a little surprise. Well if you have the time to do this sure, for others, rest assured this doesn’t make you a lesser human being. Us mere mortals do a quick round of the dollar shop and chuck them in any old travel bag (preferably one the child is capable of carrying themselves).

I would, however, condone packing some new toys separately so they can be “revealed” later in the flight. And throwing in a mixture of old favourites along with the new treats.

Don’t be tempted to overpack. When travelling with kids you are no doubt already carrying a huge artillery of spare diapers, change of clothes, snacks, bottles, paperwork.  

Do bring enough to keep them busy but don’t overdo it either, there is a happy medium!

We have a really detailed post on “What we pack in our toddlers plane bag” which has a heap of really useful suggestions as well as ideas for slightly older children too (and don’t miss our WHAT not to pack guide!) – As well as the suggestions below, have a good look through this page and our reasoning why we do /don’t include certain items for air travel.

Don’t miss our Top 10 favourite travel toys for every age group

A handful of our non-electronic favourite travel toys

If you’re running to the shop or want to quickly order in some new toys for your electronics-free flight, these are our tried and tested no-screen favourite toys by age group:

Must Read: Simple steps to survive flights with children

Are you soon travelling to the US? What electronics-free measures will you be taking to entertain the kids? 

Disclosure: This page contains affiliate links, if a qualifying purchase is made, we earn a commission. You can find our full disclosures and website terms of use here.

© Our Globetrotters

Like it? Share it!

7 thoughts on “Surviving ultra long haul flights with kids and no electronics

  1. Erin says:

    Hi, Keri. thank you for this post, and for the many others I’ve read. I’m about to travel overseas with my 2 and 7 year olds. and I am going to purchase a few of the toys/games you link in the “Non-electronic favorites” section that link to Amazon but it doesn’t look like it’s linking properly and you may not be getting credit for my purchases??? After how much help your post was, I sure would like you to at least get credit for my purchases.

    Thanks, again, for your helpful posts!

    • Keri Hedrick says:

      Hi Erin

      Thank you for taking the time to comment and so sorry the Amazon links don’t appear to be working for you. I have left a couple of links here for you to follow that will take you to either the US or UK Amazon stores where you can start your search.

      US Store:
      UK Store:

      Really appreciate you taking the time to let me know about this problem, and sincere thanks for supporting us in supporting flying parents around the world, it means a lot!
      cheers Keri

  2. melissa says:

    Thankfully we haven’t had to go through this, but we have a standard bag of non-electronic toys that we try to bring with us whether it’s a flight or car trip. It includes, travel worksheets (math puzzles, jokes, crosswords, etc.), we have tangrams, legos and their favorite figurines at the time (littlest pet shops, batman, cars, etc.)

    • Globetrotters Admin says:

      All really sensible suggestions. as my kids are growing the more game/problem solving stuff is a real hit.

  3. Paula Medronho says:

    I’m not sure which is worse, no ipads or no kindle 🙂 Really glad we’re not planning on being on one of those flights, though I can imagine the nightmare for families connecting via one of these locations as they will surely not have the electronic devices during either flight and connection time (unless they wish to claim their luggage half-way).

    • Keri Hedrick says:

      Its still a murky grey area at the moment for sure. I don’t know it would stop me flying to those destinations all together – I could handle the kids on board but not sure about the saefty of my goods underneath

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.