A lot of people are scared to travel with their kids, especially when it comes to taking a long flight! It’s understandable, 10 hours on a plane is a long time for anyone, and especially younger kids with tiny attention spans! The best thing you can do is to be as prepared as possible. As an expat living across the ocean, we don’t have much of a choice but to take long flights once and awhile! While I’m by no means and “expert,” my son has been on an airplane many times, including several flights from the United States to Switzerland. Here’s some tips that have worked for us!
Tip 1: Check as much as you can, so you have less to carry on the plane! If you’re flying international, you usually get 1 free checked bag per person- use it! (be sure to check your airline’s policy, each may be different). Stuff those bags and bring only the essentials on board. You’ll be glad when you only have to carry a backpack along with your kid(s) running for the plane. Backpack is king for a carry on! You can carry more weight in the backpack and you’ll have both hands free to hold your kid’s hand, lunch etc.
Tip 2: While waiting for the plane- get your kid active in the airport to get all that energy out! I like to bring a couple of toy cars he can zoom around, or we’ll do a lot of walks and try to find the airport play area! I also love to bring a fold-able play mat with some little toys. They are compact and easy to travel with, but super fun to play with when there is room to spread out! We have two play mats which are from the “My Busy Books” collection. I just take the mats and toys out of the books and store them in a ziploc baggy for easy travel!
Tip 3: Bring lollipops for takeoff and landing! They will be a special treat for the plane and will help with the whole ear popping thing as well!
Tip 4: Headphones! The earbuds that come with your iphone won’t cut it. Buy special “kid” sized headphones so they fit properly and your kid can actually use them. He (and the people around you) will thank you!
Tip 6: Play doh mats! I created these play doh mats and laminated them so they could be used over and over. I made 4 different “scenes” and laminated them back to back so I only had to bring 2 sheets. I brought a few tiny containers of play doh through security with no issues. You could also use (washable!) dry erase markers or dry erase crayons, especially for older kids who know not to draw on the walls. The mats I made were: Candy Store (my son loves making candy out of his play doh), underwater scene, a stick figure person to put clothes on and a dinner plate to add food.
Tip 7: Surprise eggs! My son absolutely loves Kinder eggs, and even after the candy is gone he will continue to play with the egg by hiding different things inside it to “find!” Bring a few eggs (kinder or even Easter eggs) in your bag packed with small treasures and pull them out on the plane when the going gets rough!
Tip 8: Popsicle stick game! This one is easy to make and store and light to transport! It also provided plenty of fun time on the plane as well as on our train trip to Paris. Simply hot glue velcro dots to the ends of popsicle sticks and set them out for your kid to explore. It’s very open ended and allows them to be creative by building all sorts of things! They are really light, too, so this game doesn’t add a lot to your bag. I store them in a plastic ziploc baggy.
Tip 9: Sponge “blocks.” This is another easy and light game to make! Just cut up some sponges into different shapes to make “blocks” that are lightweight! Store in a plastic baggy as well, and then your kid can build away on the tray table! (don’t forget to bring some anti-bacterial wipes to clean the tray table off)
Tip 10: Good old fashion coloring book and crayons! Don’t underestimate the power of coloring! I always bring a coloring book with about 7-10 crayons, stored in a plastic baggy together. Another great coloring alternative is the Crayola ColorWonder coloring books, which come with special markers that only color on those pages. They are a little pricey, but worth it as the markers only color on the special paper and won’t mess up your clothes, or the plane!
Tip 11: Bring snacks! Even if they serve food on the plane, your kid is guaranteed to be hungry before that actually happens (it’s the laws of flying with kids)! Besides, snacks can also prove to be a great distraction. I like to bring a little something from home, because airport food is always expensive! Just remember, no liquids through security!
Tip 12: Bring a quiet book to play with. I made one myself out of felt and my hot glue gun! You can check out my quiet book DIY here and here. It’s a no sew book, so even if you aren’t a super crafty person, you can still make one up and it can provide even more entertainment if you make several open ended activities!
Tip 13: Remember to be comfortable! Bring a special sleeping toy for your kid to snuggle with, comfortable clothes, warm socks and pile on the pillows and blankets from the plane! Bring a light jacket or sweater as well. Maybe this will even encourage your kid to take a nap!
My Other “Must Haves”: Changes of clothes (for the parent as well if you have room!), pajamas for the kids if flying overnight, a baggy for dirty clothes, wet wipes, hand sanitizer (under 3 oz), headphones for you, and your kindle/book just in case! I also like to bring an eye mask and ear plugs if I can get a chance to sleep!
Try to avoid bringing: stickers (they will go all over the place), too many crayons/markers (you will just have to chase them down), those yogurt squeeze pouches (unless you want to smell like warm yogurt for 10 hours) and your computer (unless you really really need it, save the weight if you don’t!).
What do you think? What else would you bring on a long flight with kids?