Screen free travel with kids

Can We Go Screen Free On A 3 Hour Flight?

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Last Updated on May 2, 2019 by Travels with Kids

It recently dawned on me that we are reliant on screens as part of our daily life, and especially, our travel life.  We set ourselves a challenge, could we have Screen-Free Flights?

How Did Our Screen-Free Quest Come About

It came as a shock, we only got an iPad 9-months ago! In that short time, the iPad (and an iPhone) had become our default form of entertainment.

It was a surprise because we’d steadfastly resisted small screen technology for the first 5 years of child #1’s life.  She’d only had a few games on an old smartphone and they hadn’t been in the least bit addictive.

Certainly, they would watch kid’s television (just one channel) or DVDs for a short time each day.  Also, it was being watched with their sibling and I could hear what was happening.  And we chose things that were educational.

We got the iPad for a 28-hour road trip (yes, it was a good decision).  We downloaded many ‘educational apps’, bought some good quality movies and finally got the online kid’s TV app.  After a few months, I noticed that they weren’t really using the educational apps, mostly the fun/ easy ones, and 99% of the time was just watching movies or online kids television.  Worse, Master 3.5 wouldn’t even watch the whole show; rather jump to the bits he liked.

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They were watching the small screens in their bedrooms, in our reading nook, hunched over the screen and with headphones on.  I had no idea what they were watching and they were completely disconnected from humanity.

Yet, despite some concerns, my busyness as a mother let me allow them to do it.  I’m not sure how many hours a day it was, some days 2 hours, some days more.  WHY did I do this?

In retrospect, it just rolled over me like a massive wave.  I am a busy mum (like everyone) and if I set the kids up on small screen technology I was guaranteed a full uninterrupted hour to do things.  Computer work, mopping floors, toilet cleaning are all things that I utilized the iPad heavily for!

When you are traveling it gives you peace of mind on buses and planes.  The kids are transfixed, and therefore quiet.  You can converse with your significant other or look out the window.  I kept telling myself that it was ‘smart’ to use these screens in order to manage our traveling.


Why Go Screen-Free

My gut feeling that we were too reliant on screens was justified when I read “[easyazon_link identifier=”B01F9GMGHY” locale=”US” nw=”y” nf=”y” tag=”world06006-20″ cart=”y” localize=”y”]21st Century Girls: How the Modern World is Damaging Our Daughters and What We Can Do About It [/easyazon_link] “by Sue Palmer.  Her book “[easyazon_link identifier=”140913752X” locale=”US” nw=”y” nf=”y” tag=”world06006-20″ cart=”y” localize=”y”]Toxic Childhood[/easyazon_link]” (link below) was even more eye-opening.

Essentially it says that children that are exposed to a lot of technology (including television) at a young age have difficulty focusing.

When I realized that my son had some of the symptoms of the toxic childhood described in the book, it pulled me up in my tracks.  I had to stop relying on technology as part of my parenting style.

Two days after this epiphany I had our first ‘Tech Free Sunday”.  I didn’t think we could do it.  I played more and had to be more innovative when we were cooking.  It was harder being a tech-free mum, and I don’t at any stage judge other mothers for using technology, it makes your life so much easier.

So, because stating intent publicly means you are more likely to do it, I am writing this blog and we are going to try to have a Screen-Free Flight.  I am 100% available to them, with nothing to do except “my” stuff.  It’s exciting and we should savor the experience.


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We have been influenced by Sue Palmer’s book, Toxic Childhood and recommend if if you are looking for a different perspective on how to raise children in the modern world!

[easyazon_image align=”none” cart=”y” height=”160″ identifier=”140913752X” locale=”US” localize=”y” nw=”y” nf=”y” src=”” tag=”world06006-20″ width=”105″]


Update! How Did Our Screen-Free Flights Go

Very well!  The trip to our destination was easily and happily screen free!  The days we were away were EXTREMELY full and we walked around 10km a day.  There was no downtime and the kids didn’t even get a chance to jump on a screen.  For the return flight, Mumma realized that she hadn’t really had an uninterrupted conversation with grandpa and that it was both a perfect and appropriate time for screens.  We learned a lot about traveling with a toddler on a plane and when it is appropriate to strive for screen-free flights.

Good preparation is key to having screen-free flights, and we subsequently wrote 21 Awesome Airplane Activities For Kids

Going forward, we are intending to have a family meeting to set some ground rules for what days & times small screens (and big screens – the TV) will be used.

Here are also some great activities to take on your screen-free flight.

An Honest PostScript – Screen-Free Flights

My 3.5-year-old was on the iPad for an hour so I could finish the final edits and pick photos for this article.  On the flip side, in the time that we have had the iPad I’ve started a website and feel like I am fulfilling my personal dreams.

What We Will Change Regarding The Tablet/iPhone

We offered a lot of choices.

Educational Apps

We downloaded a lot – all free ones – and the kids would play them until they got to the paid section and mum said “no”.  I did research which was the best (my kids didn’t like those ones) and instead of having a multitude of different ones on trial, I should have picked a well recommended one, bought the “all-access” pass and said “that’s it – that’s what we have.  Instead, they had a go a lot of different ones.  I assumed also, that an app was something that they could do mostly themselves.  Actually, we should have considered it something we would do together; like a book or game.

Free TV

They have the ABC for Kids and ABC Me iView Apps.  Really bad idea.  They are going to disappear soon.

Purchased movies and TV programs.

I need to find a way of stopping them from having free access to this.  These are all things that we have purchased and are educational – they are not ‘bad’ per se – but that they can pick up the iPad and watch them whenever they want is not ideal.

For Travel

  1. Set up expectations at the beginning of the flight
  2. Have a mental plan of what we are going to do – activities etc.
  3. If we do use it, do activities together (especially educational apps).

At Home

  1. Rethink our daily routine so that we don’t fall to the default of small screens.
  2. On home days – follow the rules that I printed out from social media (can’t remember the source) and subsequently put on the fridge (and am sharing here)
  3. Set a timer for watching things.

Inspired To Look At More Screen Free Ideas?  

Here is one that got me thinking Bye Bye Ipad

There is actually a site dedicated to Screen Free Parenting

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Can We Go Screen Free On A 3 Hour Flight?



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About Us

Hi! We are a multicultural family from Peru, Nicaragua & Australia. We believe adventures can be global – and local – and are one part of our sustainable lifestyle, and raising children who are global eco-citizens.