Does the idea of keeping your children entertained on a long (or even short) flight seem daunting? When we started flying with our kids, I tried a lot of different ideas to help make those flights as stress-free as possible. I’ve found that if I pack activities that are quiet, clean, don’t contain small pieces, and fit in a back-pack, then we are set up well for a fun flight.
First, I’ll start with the bag. I have found that a back-pack works better than a hard-sided suitcase because it will fit under the seat so the child will have easy access to their things during the flight. I also like a back-pack because as long as it’s not too heavy, each child can carry their own. Even my three year old wanted to wear hers through the airport on our most recent trip.
For activities, I have found that activity books, drawing tablets, sticker books, and brain teaser games work well. I also like to subscribe to some kids magazines and tuck some of the issues away so I can pull them out for travel bags. I also try to put some new things in the bag that they haven’t seen or used before. This could be a new movie, app, game, activity book…whatever your child is interested in.
Many kids enjoy watching movies or playing electronic games. We make sure to bring headphones along for each child, have fully charged batteries, and bring external battery chargers and cords. Make sure the movies or games your child will want to use are downloaded and won’t require WiFi, unless you are planning to pay for WiFi on the plane. A good way to test this is to turn the device on airplane mode at home and make sure everything is working the way you want it to on the plane. If you really want to save space, movies, music, and books can all be downloaded on a tablet. You won’t find the laptop and tablet in my photos because my husband or I carry those. My last piece of advice for electronics is don’t forget the audio cable splitter if you want siblings to watch a movie together on the same device. I stood in line to board the plane on the last trip behind a family who was trying to figure out which child was going to get to hear the movie and which one was going to just going get to watch because they only had one headphone jack. That discussion wasn’t going well!
Don’t forget the snacks! I pack each child a bag of their favorite (not messy) snacks. A little air in a zip top bag will keep them from getting smashed. A non-spill water bottle is also a must for any little one who is likely to end up with water all over them if they have to drink out of a purchased bottle of water. I love the insulated bottles with a straw because drinking from that can help relieve ear pressure as well. Just wait to fill it up until after you are through security! We purchase water or fill water bottles for the entire family before we board the plane.
I also make sure to pack things that will help relieve ear pressure. Bubble gum is a favorite of my older kids. For my younger child, she sucks water from the straw in her water bottle and likes suckers and tootsie rolls. For babies, breast or bottle feeding is an ideal way to help relieve ear pain. EarPlanes® are also an option you may want to try – they come in both adult and child size and have worked really well for some kids. Cheryl Koren, co-owner of Key To The World Travel®, always buys them for her son. He finds that they work very well, and refuses to fly without them! I have not had a lot of success with EarPlanes®. I have tried with all three of my children at different ages, and they don’t like how they feel in their ears and refuse to leave them in. To be most effective, they have to be inserted before take off and be left in the ears until landing. My children complained of not being able to hear to talk or listen to headphones with them in their ears.
Finally, throw in any comfort item your child needs, some tissues, lip balm, and sunglasses and you’re all set to go! When we asked our kids what their favorite part of our last trip was, my three year old said, “Flying on the airplane!” A well stocked activity bag will have your whole family enjoying your flight as well.
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