I have been traveling with my kids since infancy and I have run into pretty much every nightmare situation, from little ones crying through a three-hour flight to restless kids that are dying to use the airplane bathroom over and over, just because. They are stuck in the same seat for hours. They are restless and hungry. They kick the seat, they whine, and cry. They are tired but can’t sleep and their ears are popping. You frantically try to quiet them, while other passengers are giving you the stink eye. You try to entertain them but it only lasts so long and, unfortunately, you get pretty boring pretty quickly. Traveling with kids can be a harrowing experience but once you have a few tricks up your sleeve, it will be a piece of cake! Check out these tips on how to entertain kids on a plane. It may just save your sanity!
A Favorite Small Toy or Stuffed Animal
Flying, especially takeoff and landing, can be scary. Be sure you bring along their favorite toy or stuffed animal to provide some comfort. They will be thrilled to have a friend along for the ride and you will hopefully avoid more tears than necessary.
Snacks & Drinks
My kids are only permitted to have junk food on special occasions and weekends. A three-hour flight definitely counts as a special occasion. The key to flying with kids is to keep them happy, no matter what the cost! All rules fly out the window. I usually pack the standard Goldfish, Triscuits and pretzels but they also get surprise treats like gummy worms, Twizzlers and M&Ms;.
A drink with a lid is recommended to avoid spills. The mini bottles of water are a good choice because it is just enough to keep everyone hydrated but hopefully won’t cause too many unnecessary trips to the bathroom.
Expert Advice: Steer clear of lollipops and melty chocolate. On one of our less successful plane trips, my dad was holding the baby while she slept. She had a red lollipop in her hand that somehow glued itself to the front of his shirt and her hair. Red drool dripped from her mouth, down her chin and all over Dad’s front. On the same trip, my mom packed Mint Milano Cookies, which are delicious, but not the nest treat for the flight. Grasped in the warm grip of my small child, the cookie melted all over his tiny fingers and also, ended up all over my dad’s shirt. There was also a coffee spill, but we won’t get into that… Learn from our mistakes! Pack fun snacks that are the perfect distraction for takeoff and landing and most importantly, mess free!
Activity Books & Crayons
This is a no brainer. For the younger kids, coloring books, crayons and easy activity books provide at least 45 minutes of entertainment! It will keep them quiet and their brains occupied so you won’t have to hear “how much longer” again, or, at least until they get bored again.
Expert Advice: Avoid markers, even if they are washable. They get everywhere. The seats are tight and they swing their arms around, wielding these tiny vandalizers with reckless abandon. The stranger beside you will not be thrilled with a blue marker streak across his cheek.
For the older kids, activity books, brain teasers, puzzles or adult coloring books are great. My kids love blank sketch pads. It leaves plenty of room for the imagination and with tons of time to kill, you never know what creation they will come up with. Oh, and older kids CAN be trusted with markers so find some cool ones, all kids love them.
Here are some activity books that I love:
Books are always great for trips and they don’t make a mess. They are compact and I just love the feel and smell of them. You can bring a Kindle loaded up with some new stuff for them as well, but they don’t smell as good. Amazon has great deals on their Kindle Subscription that is worth checking out before you go!
- Kindle Unlimited: If you or your child has a Kindle or reads on any device, you are going to want the Kindle Unlimited subscription. You can store multiple books, audio books and magazines on one device so you will never run out of material.
Travel Games & Puzzles
Playing cards, travel games and magnetic puzzles are a staple in our carry ons. If you have more than one kid, they can play with each other or you can play with them. Play war, go-fish, or rummy. You can find almost any game in travel size, from chess to Monopoly. You only need one or two favorites to make the trip go faster!
Check out these games and puzzles, perfect for air travel:
iPad with Music and Games
iPads are a blessing and a curse, but in this situation, they are worth the extra screen time. Fill their ipads with games, movies, music and other activities and they will be entertained for hours. Amazon offers a great subscription called Amazon Free Time, which is compatible with Fire, Android, iOS and Kindle devices.
Amazon Free Time: Amazon Free Time gives kids access to parent-approved books, movies, TV shows, educational apps, Audible books.
There’s a good chance there will be an in flight movie. They also usually offer radio stations and even some video games. Make sure you bring a few pairs of headphones so everyone in the family can enjoy. They will be available for purchase but why pay extra if you don’t have to.
Expert Advice: Remember that you need a regular headphone jack to plug into the arm of your plane seat.
Sweatshirts, Sweaters, Socks
It may be 90 degrees outside but when the air is blasting on the plane, insulation is necessary. Stop the complaining before it starts. Bring cozy socks, sweatshirts or even a travel scarf to keep your kids toasty warm. They just may drift off to sleep for a portion of the trip, fingers crossed!
Look Out the Window
I know it’s low tech, but takeoff and landing have become my childrens’ favorite part of the flight. Feeling the roar of the plane engine as it lifts off, leaving the world behind in a blur of city lights and minute cars on the ground below. It is the experience of a lifetime and for us, it never gets old! The first and last 20 minutes of the trip are the most exciting. Closing in on your destination and building suspense will be a memory that will last a lifetime. Experience the wonder with your child, see everything through their eyes.
Other Tricks and Survival Tips
- Let them run around the airport (within reason) to get some energy out beforehand. Take them for a walk to look in shops or ride the moving sidewalk. This is worth every eye rolling from the other passengers.
- Don’t forget lots of napkins or paper towels. Trust me on this one.
- Sit small children on the aisle, if possible. You never know when or how often you will need to run to the bathroom.
- The days of dressing up for the airport are long gone. Make sure your kids are as comfortable as possible. Anything goes, from sweats to PJs.
Summing It Up
Don’t let the fear of the flight stop you from traveling with your kids. It will always be a challenge but with these tips, you should be able to brave it with only minor drama. Before you know it, you will be at your destination, relaxing by the pool with a margarita in your hand while your child splashes around in the kiddle pool.