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In my last post, I shared our extensive itinerary of a typical travel day to Nana and Papa’s house. I promised to share in Part 2 ways of keeping children occupied on the flight. I’ve learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t work, that is, for our boys. So here’s a list of some of my traveling essentials (specifically for airplane travel, but many would also be great for long roadtrips):
When we travel, we travel fully equipped with food. I’m not just talking about some snacks. The night before our travel, I make turkey sandwiches and put them in divided storage containers I pick up from Target. The boys each get one so when it’s time for a meal, I hand them their container and add a little fruit, fig bars, and crackers in the other slots. This keeps everything clean-ish, organized, and fun. The boys like having their own “plates” which we then reuse for other snacks throughout the flight.
New Coloring Books
In our house, we do a lot of sharing and passing down of toys, clothes, bikes, etc.. But when it comes to flying, I always make sure I take a trip to Target and Dollar Tree to pick out some NEW coloring books, crayons, etc.. I don’t let the boys see what I picked out for them until we are on the plane. It makes for a little fun and excitement when they’re starting to get bored. I’ve heard of some people wrapping up new books and small toys in wrapping paper but 1) I just don’t have time for that and 2) it sounds like a mess of wrapping paper and I don’t love messes!
Aside from basic coloring books, which are great, we also buy these Crayola Mess-Free coloring pages. They are great for toddlers who don’t know how to keep the marker on the paper, but they are also great for preschoolers! I will add that toddlers sometimes get a little confused by these coloring books because the color from the marker does not appear immediately after coloring. It’s a very short delay, but my kids have seemed to be a little confused by it until they were old enough to understand how it works.
These Melissa and Doug notepads are also super fun! The boys have loved these and they’ve lasted us multiple uses. The tube of the “paint brush” fills with water so even if a little spills out, it’s not a mess. And anytime the “paint” magically appears with no mess it’s a huge win, right?
My boys love to eat! So sandwiches just don’t cut it. I also bring applesauce pouches, fruit such as bananas, strawberries, and blueberries, crackers, string cheese, fig bars, popcorn, and chips. We usually try to space out the snacks in between activities, but there is definitely more snacking on travel days than there is in our usual day at home.
Dry Erase Board/Doodle Pad
I found this Crayola Dry-Erase Travel Pack on Amazon and the boys really seem to like it. It folds up so it’s easy to store in the boys’ backpacks. This along with the Crayola Double Doodle pad have kept the boys occupied over many flights. Magna Doodle boards are fun as well, but make sure you buy the smaller version so that it easily packs away in a backpack or carry-on. The bigger version takes up too much space. As a sidenote, we keep these items stored at our house and ONLY take them out for flights. Unlike coloring books, I’m not going to buy new activities like these for each flight (plane tickets cost enough, right?) so the boys know that they only get to play with these while they fly.
Have I mentioned that we love to travel with nourishment? Well, we also love to travel with some treats! I’ve learned to save these treats til after the boys take their mandatory naps on the flight, and I’m not above “bribing” them with that treat in order to get them to take the said mandatory nap. (I know, bribing/rewarding with food is not a good life lesson and we usually try to avoid this. But if you’ve ever flown with kids, you understand that sometimes we like to make exceptions.)
I usually pick out treats that are either new to our boys or that they don’t get often. Again, it just makes it a little more exciting and keeps everyone’s morale high 🙂 I’ll pick out items like Skittles, fruit snacks, fruit strips, Scooby Snacks, etc.. I try to choose mess-free snacks to help keep me sane, but crumbs happen whether you like it or not.
Screentime is a hot topic and many parents have strong feelings one way or the other about screetime. Honestly, I’d say we fall somewhere in the middle. We set limits for our sons with their screen time, but we do not ban it altogether. And when we’re flying, those limits go out the window. If my boys are sitting quietly and playing a game or watching something age-appropriate on their tablet, I’m fine with it. I’m actually surprised by them because more often than not, that’s one of the last activities they choose from their backpack. And they usually don’t watch/play for more than 30 minutes. But they are nice to have as an option.
Board books or soft books are great for babies on flights. The boys like to page through the books I bring for them as well, but will also grab the magazine out of the seat-back pocket and be perfectly happy skimming those. They aren’t picky about which books I bring, so I usually find a couple that won’t take up too much space and that aren’t our favorites in case they get wrinkled or torn pages.
Travel Pillows and Blankets
When it comes to those mandatory naps my husband and I require of our kids, neck pillows and travel blankets are helpful. Although we haven’t used them, I’d consider inflatable pillows from a space-saving standpoint. Comfort is never a luxury of flying outside of first class, but at least these items can help.
Toys for Infants
It’s no secret that infants will put anything and everything in their mouths. Now, I’m not a first-time mom anymore so I’m okay with exposing my child to germs and not sanitizing everything (except we do sanitize the seats, tray tables, etc. to do our best to be sure our son with a peanut allergy is as safe as possible). But I would rather have my baby chew on baby toys from home than on the seatbelt or whatever else he can find on the plane. I’ve found teething toys, Cuddle ‘n Tags Blankies, or even the small toys that attach to car seats and strollers help to keep my babies busy and happy.
Like I’ve mentioned, we keep all of these items in our backpacks. Our two oldest boys carry their own backpacks and my husband puts some of the overflow into his. My own backpack holds the other essentials: the diapers, wipes, nursing cover, spare clothes (must-have in case of inevitable accidents or spills), and medications. I also pack more diapers and wipes than I would normally need in case our flight is delayed or cancelled. I only bring one extra set of spare clothes for the older boys, but I usually throw in a couple extra outfits for the baby. (All of our food/snacks/treats are carried in a reusable shopping bag :))
I could probably add more and more to this list. Off the top of my head I can think of flashcards, Spot It games, and headphones for in-flight music and movies. And my list seems to change every time we fly. But these staples have gotten us through many flights and have proven to keep our boys entertained.
Let’s just say that I always prepare for the very worst, and am usually pleasantly surprised by how the trip goes. Yes, we’ve experienced diaper blowouts, cranberry-apple juice spills, crying babies, and more.
But at the end of the day, our flights have all been manageable thanks to a lot of prayers for safety, health, and peace before, during, and after our travel. These prayers help me to keep an appropriate perspective on traveling with kids. They help remind me that I don’t like sitting still very long as an adult which gives me more patience with my sons when they become restless.
Are our flights perfect? Nope. Are our boys perfect angels while traveling? Far from it. But they do stay relatively occupied and are beginning to understand what we expect from them when we travel.
Let’s raise His Mighty Warriors TOGETHER!