Flying With A Toddler: Our Favorite Toys & Activities
On my first ever solo trip since becoming a mom (November, Davis, California), I had a really wonderful chat with the man sitting next to me on a flight from Salt Lake City. My flight had been grounded the night before, so I was grouchy, tired, and beyond ready to be home with my little guy. But, my seat mate’s chatting completely altered my mood for the better. This man was about my age, had three kids ranging in age from ~2 to 7, and loved to travel but hadn’t yet done so with his children in tow.
We got to chatting about why I travel all the time with my son and why he hadn’t traveled yet with his children. Aside from the prohibitive price of flying within or from the US with five bodies, he had two main concerns: 1) they wouldn’t remember it yet and 2) he was nervous. I’m going to post separately about point one, but today I wanted to address point two. Specifically, he was nervous about keeping all three kids entertained on a flight and while on a trip.
Baby ISO (now 3.5 years old) has at least 10 intercontinental flights (> 5 hours) under his belt plus countless flights within Europe (< 5 hours). It would be a lie to say he is always perfect on flights (remember this barf explosion?!) but we have found a method that works and have adapted the toys and games with his developing interest.
Maybe you have kids but haven’t yet built up the nerve to travel with them, like the man I sat next to from Salt Lake City. But maybe 2019 is the year that you’ll bring them on a flight to go to Disney World, or visit grandparents out of state, or take a family trip to Europe (Germany is awesome with kids). I’ve written a few posts about flying with kids (baby here, toddler here) as well as a couple of packing lists (here and here) but haven’t shared the tried and true toys and activities that honestly do most of the work to keep Baby ISO entertained on long flights (or train trips or layovers). Here is what works for us:
We use a Samsung tablet and an iPad (borrowed from work). Though iPads are eye-wateringly expensive, I really prefer the iPad to the Samsung tablet. Maybe this is because I’ve grown up using Apple products, but I suspect it is because to me, they are more user-friendly and heartier, making the cost per year easier to swallow (I’ve had my iPhone since 2011 and I’m just feeling ready to replace it). If you’re in the market for a great tablet to use with your kids, especially during travel, my vote goes to one of the cheaper models of iPads*.
J is an elementary school teacher, so he is always researching educational games and activities, including games for the tablet. After testing out tons of educational games with Baby ISO during our flights, we’ve found a select few that are our favorites.
My favorite are the games by Originator. They are all very creative, fun, and educational. We use the free trials of Endless Reader and Endless Numbers. Looking at their website, I see an Endless Alphabet that I’ll be downloading for our next trip.
Another educational App making company that focuses on children’s games in Marco Polo Learning. Baby ISO is into the ocean at the moment so Ocean by Marco Polo Learning gets a lot of play during flights. I think we’ll download Arctic and Weather for our next trips. We also use the free trial for Ocean.
If you have Netflix on your Tablet, some of the show can be downloaded and watched offline later. Our favorite shows at the moment are Superwings and Doc McStuffins.
External battery pack
Because dead batteries in the middle of a flight are never okay, especially when traveling with children, we always have a fully loaded external battery pack.*
We recently caved and purchased these headphones* that are meant to be safe for little ears. It took some time for Baby ISO to get used to them, but he did enjoy being able to listen to shows on our most recent flights.
Tegu travel block set
This little block set from Tegu* is super fun and very easy to travel with due to its small size. This is great for play on the tray table in planes or trains.
Baby ISO picks his own stuffed animals to bring along on our trips and we squeeze them into his little backpack, or in my own if it is larger.
Coloring books with stickers
Before traveling, we swing by our local bookstore or printing house to pick up a new coloring book. We bring a Ziplock of crayons and stash that in the special travel backpack.
Miscellaneous favorite toys and books
Baby ISO typically also stocks his backpack with toy cars, Lego Duplos*, animal or dinosaur figures, and whatever else fits and is fun for him at the moment. We also bring along a couple of books for Baby ISO to look at himself or for us to read during our trip.
Small new toy
If the travel period is going to be particular long or complex, we typically buy a small new toy to introduce some time during the trip. Past surprises have included a new stuffed animal, mystery Playmobil*, and Montessori fish puzzle.
Snacks and Juice
Remember the barf explosion due to ear pain? I have found the solution that works for us—gummy bears (or any kind of gummy snack). We never eat gummy bears at home, so this is a treat entirely reserved for the air. So far, it hasn’t let us down.
Other favorite snacks
If your kid hates airplane food as much as my kid (and me!), then you’ll want to be sure to stock up on lots and lots of their favorite snacks. Forget worrying about a balanced, healthy diet or introducing new foods. It is best to stick to tried and true favorites for a flight.
I’m always worried about Baby ISO getting dehydrated when we fly, so I typically pack a small juice box that fits within the liquid requirements. Fruit squeeze pouches (like Ella’s) are also really great if your toddler still likes them.
To keep all of the toys and books together, we pack them in Baby ISO’s little backpack (similar*), which he sometimes carries himself while at the airport.
Have you traveled with your kid(s)? What helped you to make the leap to take your first trip?
Next week, I’ll be sharing more about why I think you should travel with a child even before they’ll remember the trip.
*Please note that links marked with an asterisk are affiliates through Amazon. If you purchase something through one of these links, I may make a small commission at no cost to you. Thank you for supporting ISO :)