Traveling with Children


Last month we took our first long-distance trip as a family of four. Our trip consisted of 3 hours in the car and a 4 hour plane ride.  Although we were going on “vacation,” the stress and anticipation of this lengthy trip with an almost-walking one-year old and a two and a half year old almost made me reconsider our plans. This was our sixth time flying with children, I had even flown with both of our kids ALONE a few months ago.  However, this particular trip scared me a bit more simply because of my kids respective ages and the length of time they would be confined on the plane.

We survived to tell the tale and had a wonderful family vacation.  Today I will be sharing a few things I did in anticipation of our lengthy flight and car ride that made our trip a little more manageable.


1) Solicit “New” Toys: Before our trip I polled some of my friends to see if anyone had some toys we could bring along on the trip. I was specifically looking for small items and toys that we did not have that would be “new” to my boys when I brought them out on the plane. Sure I could have run to the store and grabbed a few new toys but given the bins and bins of toys we already have I just couldn’t stomach the thought of spending money on new stuff.  My friends happily put together a few toys for us to play with on the plane and in the car!

One of the biggest hits was this wipes case turned ring game my friend let me borrow. You essentially let the kids drop the rings down the hole in the wipes container. This was a great activity for the car. Both of my boys absolutely loved it.

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At the suggestion of a few of my friends, I “wrapped” up their new toys in aluminum foil to give them something to open. You could just as easily use wrapping paper.

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2) Getting Crafty: My two and a half year old is very much in to arts and crafts right now. He loves to paint, glue, stamp, cut paper. The messier the better. And he will sit for a pretty good amount of time doing these crafts at home so I wanted to come up a few crafts to bring with us to occupy some time on the plane. Before we left I stopped at Michael’s to see what kind of craft projects I could find. I ended up in the clearance bin and purchased two “foam” project kits for $.59 each. The first involved making green and orange monsters (putting eyes and spots on the monsters) and the other involved creating a foam door hanger. He got to select one craft to do on the plane there and one on the way home. He absolutely loved doing the crafts on his little tray table.


I also picked up some dry erase letter cards from the dollar spot at Target. My son is working on his letters so I thought it would be fun for us to write on these and erase them.

3) The Power of Play-Doh: So this was a last minute addition to my stash of items to bring on the plane but as I was checking out at Michael’s I saw a two-pack of play-doh for $1.50. I threw it in the cart thinking that it might be nice to play with on the tray table. Sure enough both of my kids loved it. The tray table makes a great spot for playing and as long as I watched the one year old carefully (so he didn’t eat any), play-doh was a huge success in that it created minimal mess and occupied a good amount of time.

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The play-doh itself was fun for them both to play with but on a whim I threw in my bag two extra medicine dispensers (the ones that come with the infants tylenol – we seem to have a TON of extras all over the house). When my older son was losing interest in the play-doh I brought out the medicine dispenser. He loved it. He was able to “suck up” the play-doh into the dispenser (like medicine) and then shoot it out in small strands and that kept him busy for a little longer!

4) Lots of Stickers: Before we left I raided our craft drawer and brought a variety of stickers with us. We started by having each of them “decorate” the paper bag in the seat pocket in front of us.

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When that got old and we ran out of room on the bags we moved on to the back of the magazines. We then moved to letting the kids put stickers all over our arms and face (which they totally got a kick out of). This was almost a pretty successful activity in that it occupied another 15-20 minutes.

5) Lollipops: I used this trick the last time I flew alone with our kids. Although my older son never gets lollipops, when we travel I let him enjoy this special treat. I have found them to be an awesome treat to bring out on the plane because if you get the big ones, they take a long time for them to eat. (he never comes close to finishing it but he tries). It can get a bit messy if they set them down or move around too much with them but the little mess was worth it for the time it occupied!

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6) Fully Load the  iPad: So truth be told, I brought the iPad and it was fully charged and ready to go when we needed it. While we didn’t use it a lot but during the course of a four hour flight, I knew we would need to bring it out a few times to let the kids watch and play.  I made sure some of their favorite pictures and videos were on there so we could flip through those when necessary. I also downloaded a few new “apps” for my older son – apps he has not played before. If you haven’t already, be sure to check out this website each Friday. There is a roundup of the fun and educational apps you can download for free! It is a great way to try some new apps when traveling without spending any money.  Some of favorite apps include: Coloring Farm, ba da baby, Eggs heads, Shapes, and Zoodle Pad.

Along these lines, be sure to investigate if the airline you are flying has any special instructions for downloading certain apps before you travel. For example, we flew Southwest and there was a specific app you could download before your trip (we did it at home where we knew we had wi-fi) so we could watch direct tv from the plane.

7) Let Them Burn Off Energy: I love that some airports now have play areas for the kids. It is a great way to let them burn some energy before being confined on a plane for a longer period of time. Although we had to walk out of our way a bit to get there, it is worth investigating whether the airport you are at has a dedicated play space for kids. It was key to make sure both kids had time to burn off some energy before our lengthy car rides and the flight.


8) Disposable Bibs: My youngest son is still at that messy eating stage. I swear he needs a bath after every meal. This makes traveling and eating particularly difficult. And although I don’t use them at home, disposable bibs are a life saver when traveling. I love that you can just toss them with your trash after every meal instead of worrying about washing them.


Do you have any other tips to add for when you are traveling with kids? We would love to hear them.



  1. These are great tips, thank you. My husband and I will be traveling with our 20 month old and I will be sure to take these tips with me for what should be a fun plane ride now; thanks! 🙂

  2. We did 24 hour trip and the truth is you can never predict how it will go. We had bad days and we had good days. If you go far, not 4 hour plane ride, but 10 or 14, don’t take a lot of toys, you want to travel light. Suggestion on toys for 2.5 year old- playdoh, stickers, ipad, snacks, Tylenol, something to draw on,.,,we had so much but this is what we used. You will be tired to entertain for more than 2 hours anyway!! I think less than 8 hours is nothing to be afraid of at all!!


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