Monday, April 11, 2011

5 ways to enjoy the in-flight entertainment when traveling with kids

The individual screens that are now standard equipment on long-haul flights have surely saved my sanity on many times when traveling with kids between Vancouver, Canada and various airports in Europe. 9 + hours on board with two children who have to sit down with nothing much to do? It's a perfect time to let them zonk out with a movie or TV-show.

The Name of the Rose: including the Author's Postscript
I remember, vaguely, a time when I could read an entire book on a long-haul flight.
I have a screen too of course, but I don't find it so easy to enjoy the movies or TV-shows available. The screen is so tiny and the sound so bad that it doesn't really make for an optimal experience. Plus, whenever I try to watch, is usually either when the meal arrives or when one of the kids needs to go to the washroom, get a snack, a drink, or something else.

Still, there are ways to enjoy the entertainment selection on board somewhat, even with all the distractions:

Walt Disney's The Ugly Duckling (A Disneyland Record and Book)

1. Co-watch with your child
Watch the movie your child is watching on their screen (without headphones of course), and try to make sense of the storyline without any sound. Once you've seen the movie 5-10 times (it can happen!), you'll almost have it figured out. Old Disney cartoons are the easiest: they're so much like silent movies, you don't really need sound at all. I watched Disney short "The Ugly Duckling" with my son and got all weepy: that's a sad story, sound or no sound!

2. Sneak a peek through the seats
Yes, that means you're watching the movie someone sitting in front of you is watching. On our latest flight I kept switching between watching Megamind with my daughter and watching Burlesque on the screen of the lady in front of me. I think Megamind was better though.

Megamind Poster Movie O (11 x 17 Inches - 28cm x 44cm ) Brad Pitt Jonah Hill Will Ferrell Tina Fey
3. Try to guess the dialogue
This is sometimes almost too easy. Not because of any lipreading skills, but because a lot of movie plots are so predictable. Even if you don't decipher the exchanges word-for-word, you can still get the gist of it just by watching the actors. Once you get home, you can always rent or buy the movie and compare the reality with your imagined version.

Panasonic RP-HT21 Lightweight Headphones with XBS Port
4. Steal your child's headphones
If you're lucky enough that your child falls asleep on board, grab their headphones and listen in to whatever movie they were watching. This is especially nice if you've watched the movie without sound a dozen times. I confess that the Megamind movie did improve a lot when I got to hear the actual dialogue. I'm not exactly sure what I had imagined all those characters saying, but it definitely wasn't as funny as what was actually said.

On our latest trip with Lufthansa, an added entertainment-enjoyment problem was that when the person in front of me reclined their seat, the screen ended up about 2 inches from my nose. This meant I had to recline too of course, but that made only a marginal improvement.

I did try to watch something on my own screen with my own headphones. I'm not a big TV-watcher, so I watched episodes of two shows I keep hearing about: Mad Men (never watched it before), and Glee (have watched it once). Both shows seemed ok, but I was not bowled over. A comfy couch, a big screen and a proper sound system probably would have helped.

Which brings me to tip number 5:
Travel Nook - New Revolutionary Inflatable Travel Pillow (Light Blue)
5. Fall asleep
This is without a doubt my favorite option. If your child is watching the entertainment happily, or has fallen asleep while happily watching, the best way to entertain yourself is to take a nap. With or without headphones.

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