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Summer Traveling With Kiddos… How Do You Survive?!

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It’s that time again….summer time means lots of sunshine filled days splashing in the water, running after the ice cream truck, walking around barefoot, smelling the scent of freshly cut grass. ๐Ÿ™‚ It also means traveling by car and plane with the kiddos ๐Ÿ™ for those wonderful summer vacations. My family is heading over to the West Coast by plane to visit my sisters and mom next week, and I am already starting to dread the plane ride. Although my kids are getting older (ages 3, 5, and 8), it is still stressful knowing you are going to be cooped up for 5 hours with no escape. I have received emails from other readers who are dreading this same sort of situation. Check out the email below from reader, Michelle:

Hi Collin! I need help in one particular area, travel. ย We are taking a trip to Hawaii in August and have a 6 hour long plane flight with 2 young ones. ย My daughter will be 4, and I have stuff planned for her (including those awesome interactive storybooks you posted a couple days ago ๐Ÿ™‚ ) ย and my son will be 18 months. ย I worry about attempting to keep him busy for the few hours he will be awake on the plane. ย I wanted to know if you (or possibly the readers) had any advice for activities he could do. ย I have lots ofย  “noisy toys” that would keep him busy, but I don’t think that other people on the plane would appreciate that ;).

So I am asking all of you moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas…What do you do to entertain your kiddos while traveling? Please share your best tips, tricks and suggestions for keeping your kids AND the passengers around you happy while traveling. Thanks and safe travels!

On a side note, here are a few affordable products that may be worth investing in before the big trip:
(As always, make sure to check the reviews. They are usually really helpful!)

* Crayola Color Wonder Travel Tote
* Lauri Toys Toddler Tote
* Sticker Fun! ‘At the Airport’ Reusable Sticker Tote
* Melissa & Doug Travel Memory Game
* Melissa & Doug Travel Bear Hunt
*Melissa & Doug Travel Hangman

Join The Discussion

Comments 114

  1. Jana

    I haven’t yet seen my personal favorite airplane time-occupier:

    BAND-AIDS!!

    For $2 (or less if I’ve gotten them with a coupon), I get each kiddo a box of their own band-aids. Keeps them busy, they can decorate the window, seat in front of them, flight attendant, etc and it cleans up in a snap.

    Also, not a problem to get through security.

  2. Anonymous

    Just so you know Benadryl will also help with nausea and motion sickness in cildren. We went on a cruie and the doctor suggested it if my son got sea sick.

  3. Emily

    I got my 3 year old daughter The Noisy Airplane Ride by Mike Downs (you can get it at amazon) and she loved reading it and learning about what was happening while she was flying. It’s a good book for kids that are nervous about flying. I also will let my children pick out new toys at the airport during layovers if they behaved on the previous plane ride and if the airport has little toys for children. I know this can be expensive but they are happy to get rewarded for behaving. Don’t forget to be nice to the flight attendants. They don’t have easy jobs and if you are nice to them they will help you out if possible.

  4. CindyP

    With children that are old enough to communicate, it helps to practice “plane manners.”

    Being a frequent business traveler, I always appreciated a well-behaved and quiet child ๐Ÿ™‚

    We traveled to Hawaii when the kids were 5 and 7. They were polite and well-behaved. The most annoying thing they did was ask the flight attendant “Excuse me miss, do you know what time we will be arriving?” so many times that she loaned them her watch and showed them the right time to watch for…. She was actually very sweet. They appreciate well-behaved children too.

    Check with the airline and see what movie will be playing. We were lucky enough to get Shrek on our flight – back in 2001.

    If two parents are traveling together, it is nice to try to switch seats too. Just breaks the boredom by switching up which parent you are sitting with. With digital cameras, that can be a fun way to distract them as long as they only photograph their own family.

  5. Jenifer

    Books on CD, my kids will sit for hours in the car listening to books and coloring. They are 4, 8 and 10. The books on CD are free at the library. Favorite books are the Narnia series and books by Dahl (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory). Past favorites are Box Car Children and Magic Tree House. Books their dad hates Beristen Bears, Judy B Jones, and Arthur. Those books my be OK but the reading is over the top. When my 8 year old was 4 she told me that with these books you have to make pictures in your head. We have also taken portable CD players on planes.

  6. jen s

    We did a 6hr flight to portugal when my son was 18 mos so I feel I can relate to the age. To make matters worse we sat on the runway for 2 hrs before we even left the ground turning it into an 8hr flight!
    Call me crazy, but we flew our son as a lap child – a flight costing $800 RT will make a mother do that. We also had 4 adults with us so we swapped off who he sat with. That helped immensely – new person to play with.
    I agree – get on last. And bring your car seat with you. We brought ours to the gate, explained that we wanted it stored on the plane. We got on last and asked the flight attendant if there were any empty seats that we might be able to put it in. Lucky for us on the way home there was and this worked great. He got a seat and we didn’t have to pay for it. On the way there we weren’t as lucky but they stored the car seat in the cabin and handed it to us on our way off the plane.
    Definitely pack new and interesting things, lots of idea here but be sure you do not pull them out right away. Try and see how long your child can go being good just because you ask them to. You might be surprised. Wait to pull out your bag of tricks until you need it.

  7. Meredith

    My husband is an airline pilot and I’ve traveled over 175,000 miles with small kids on our benefits. I call it preschool on a plane – you just have to be prepared to keep them entertained for hours. Think about what they like to do at home and find ways to take little parts of it with you. A few of my best tips.
    – I always only take six matchbox cars – all the same color. Usually red, that is what we have most of. That way I know exactly what I am searching for either in the airport or on board.
    – If you ask the FA for an extra drink cup they make excellent crayon holders, and it will stay put in the cup divit on the tray table.
    – We convert the barf bag into a treasure chest and play “guess what is inside” kind of like twenty questions.
    – You can check baby gear for no extra charge on most airlines (don’t let them charge you for checking your buggy or car seat).

  8. Tiphanie

    On our last flight, my husband and i noticed a plug under our seats. But we can’t remember if it was an outlet or lighter outlet. Anyone know about this? That would be great for plugging in out electrical devices and not having to worry about batteries dying.

    • Michelle

      It depends on the plane you are flying on. You can google your seat map by plane and airline and check it out. I was looking at one that DID have DC power plug-ins (like the cigarette style ones). I don’t think my plane has that though, sad ๐Ÿ™

  9. Stephanie

    My husband is an AF so our boys are most occupied by learning about the plane when we travel. But I found some cute little books that fit thier indivdual learning levels, and they are coloring books, at Cracker Barrel. They have several different types for girls, boys, preschool, and advanced ones. They run about $1.50 each. As for crayons, I just take a crayon roll, it’s a small roll with pockets to hold crayons. You can usually find them at craft shows. I made my own and we now have one in each bag.

  10. jen of the north

    some of these are repetes but heres my list:
    we have “THE BAG” which is a bag that holds Mancala, snakes and ladders, Magnetics mini building set, mini battleship, trouble game, Hungry hippos, sorry, skip Bo, crazy eights, deck of playing cars, soccer and bowling marble game, paddle ball, Hacky sack ,6 in on magnetic game, car bingo/ tic tac toe/pipelines ,Scavenger hunt cards, secret code game, connect four, homemade matching games, a mini puzzle, paper dolls (laminated of course), 8 billion (ok 7 but it seems like more) wipe off markers most of which was bought at goodwill! Each child has a personal bag with the fallwoing: Personalized teddy bear shirt (were going to a build a bear type store),33 pipe cleaners ,necklace kit, a new pack of makers ,a 3 prong folder with around 30 Disney coloring pages, 2 pages of stickers, cars sticker book, mini fan and batteries, wooden postcard to color (Michaels), fancy lanyard pen, trip journal with the basic information pasted in (enchantedlearning.com) and also there MP3 player and a book

  11. Angelique

    I took my son to key west when he was 4. It was a awesome trip. I also had a bag of stuff that was age appropriate. He is now 6 and we will be taking our first trip to Disney in august. I plan on bringing busy stuff for him couple travel size games a portable DVD player, bendaroos and some activity books.

  12. Helen

    We have to drive 30 hrs to get to Canada. Sometimes we fly too. The best idea I can give you is to invest in a DVD player and find some that they have never watch. Then, you will get them to focus on this and our child has been traveling very well by plane and by car. I hope this help! I also bring alot of snacks and little games like domino and plain old card game. Finally, I plan for a few book with CD’s.

  13. kellisc

    iPhone or iPod Touch. Amazing. Small enough to not be a bother. Games, videos, books on tape, music . . . what more could you ask for. It’s kinda expensive, but worth every penny when you consider all that you can do on one small gadget.

  14. Jessica

    We just flew with our two year old daughter back in March and we took the crayola color wonder markers and coloring books, so she could color on anything and it was ok- the ink only shows up on that special paper. We also had play doh- since she was obviously supervised right there in our lap. We also had silly putty, mardi gras beads, a new book. Stickers!!! But instead of just letting her put them on paper we would put them on her elbow or her knee- some random place that she has to pay attention to. Of course we also had snacks. Hope this helps! This was all great for the flight there and the hotel room, but on the way back all of this had lost its charm and she wasn’t as easy to deal with… so maybe save a few things for the ride back!

  15. Jessica

    Bubbles!! OMG they are the best and cheapest form of entertainment available for children and occupy mine for HOURS seriously, as well as any other children your children come in contact with along the way!! Buy those little bottles that are non-spillable and have a refill on hand and we’re good to go!

  16. aylin

    .dvd player
    .play dough
    .different snacks
    .books she loves
    .couple new toys from 99cent store

  17. Holly

    We have flown to Hawaii a few times with our children, all under the age of 3. For busy toddlers I like to buy NEW smal toys and WRAP THEM! It will only work if they are at that age where it takes them awhile to unwrap things, probably between 1-2 depending on your child but it works wonders! Each new toy takes 10 minutes to unwrap, the anticipation builds and then they play with it atleast another 30 minutes. Between a few new toys, snacks, a couple of books and a portable DVD player it goes smoothly. But remember to stay CALM also, if you stress out your kids will be WILD!

  18. Alison

    My husband travels a lot for work, so we join him when we can. We too flew to Hawaii when we only had 2 kids (at 3 and 13 months) – 9 hour flight – LONG! We spent a lot of time walking the aisles. ๐Ÿ™‚ Thankfully, we had a layover in LA on the way home to break things up.

    All great suggestions above, but my number one favorite travel tip is that if you have kids under 2 that you are going to do as a lap child, select your seats in the very back and split the seats so there is an empty seat between you (this is how we made it to Hawaii!). 99% of the time, that is one of the last seats booked and so it is usually free. We’ve only been on one flight where this didn’t work to our advantage (and it was only an hour or two flight). If it is sold and you want to sit together, I guarantee you that person will switch from the middle to an aisle! Having that extra room can make a huge difference!

    Actually, I plan to do it even when we have older kids – makes it easier for them to sleep!

  19. Shannon

    WHATEVER YOU DECIDE TO TAKE WITH YOU WRAP IT! USE SOME FUN PAPER AND THEY WILL LOVE IT!! I COULD DO ONE PRESENT EVERY 30 MINUTES AND IT LASTED THE WHOLE FLIGHT.

  20. krystal

    Thank you everyone! all these great ideas are helping me to breathe easier as i near a 6 hour flight in august with my VERY ACTIVE little girl who will be 14 month old ๐Ÿ™‚
    such good advice!

  21. Jessica

    We drive to FL every year from NY, my kids are 3 and 4 now. My best time waster is going to the dollar store and but each kid a few new toys (hey its all $1) than wrap everthing in wrapping papper. Than when you do pull out something from your bag of tricks they have to open it first! A little messy but good time waster!

  22. Lara Babot

    I flew from Georgia to California by myself with my 18 month old son – trust me, those around you will appreciate a loud toy over your child crying…but don’t stress if they do cry…most people are compassionate and understanding.

    Anyway, I had a portable DVD player, books and stuffed animals…and TONS of snacks…everything went GREAT!

    Every once in a while I would let him walk up and down the isle b/c I didn’t want him to get restless – people got a kick out of watching him going back and forth!

  23. ShellyP

    Plan to be exhausted when you get there. You will be entertaining them the whole time. Get them on the plane hungry. sounds evil but they can be occupied at take off eating, chewing and swallowing – helps ear pressure. Ask your flight attendant to fill the sippy cup before you even take off! Don’t forget to change diaper enroute. you’ll have to use the floor. Hope for a helpful flight attendant. I remember one looking at me like I was nuts to need to change an 18 month olds diaper. She rolled her eyes and walked away when I asked for an airline blanket to lay on the floor.
    Bring a bag of tricks – include things like:
    * post it notes – stick to anything, very inexpensive.
    *a stick of starburst candy – great for take off and landings on uncomfortable ears. the slow chewing makes them salivate and they swallow frequently
    *view master toy – I put it in a string tie bag and bought new reels every trip. they can look in at the picture at any age.
    *toys they haven’t seen in awhile plus their favorite lovey object. Honestly, this is the only thing that you have to make sure doesn’t get left behind.
    -make sure to have childrens tylenol or motrin in your purse, chewable kind works. One trip my husband bragged to me that our then 2 yr old son did better flying next to him. I looked over and saw the glazed eyes, touched him and knew he had a raging fever. I was glad to have a digital thermometer (102 fever) in my purse and motrin which I quickly administered during the 4 hour flight. How my husband couldn’t feel the heat radiating from his body, I will never know…..
    *HAVE FUN! Even if the flight stinks, after the trip is over, that isn’t the part you’ll remember – the memories of family time and photos of the trip will stand out…

    • Nicole D.

      They have changing tables that fold out of the walls in the restrooms on the airplane. You shouldn’t change them on the floor.

      • Cameryn

        You’re not always allowed up out of your seat to change diapers, and I’ve been on planes without the changing tables.

  24. Christel

    My daughter loves the Little Einstiens so I just load a few on my iphone and that keeps her occupied for a little while!

  25. Judy

    When my daughter was 2, we flew to Florida. We gave her child scissors for the first time and she spent much of the trip cutting paper.

  26. Karen

    We have flown frequently with our 2.5 year old and will soon be traveling home from China (can you say 22 hours on a plane) with our 1 year old daughter.

    I love the paint with water coloring books – I use a “water pen” that holds water and let her color away and she also loves to “paint’ my nails with water – this occupied her for hours!

    I also have the bag of toys that have never been seen before and wrap them. I try to make each one last as long as possible.

    I bring bright colored pipe cleaners, stickers, finger puppets, a magnetic drawing board, and snacks, snacks snacks!

  27. Amy H.

    My 3 kids (age 6) have never been on a plane but we do take a vacation each summer by car. This summer we are travelling from OH to FL by car. My best advice is to start the trip at night- say 7-9pm just when the kids would normally be getting ready to go to sleep. That way mom & dad can drive in peace & quiet for a good 12 hours!!!! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Otherwise, we take car DVD players and we take some movies from home but we also check out a few “new” ones from our local library for the trip. We also check out kids’ music CDs at the local library to listen to in the car.

    Each child gets to take 1 small stuffed animal, 1 travel (neck) pillow, and 1 small blanket in the car with them. They also each get 1 backpack to put toys/books/etc in. I put a potty chair in the back of the van in case someone has a potty emergency when we are no where near a rest area!!!

    I pack snacks that are (for the most part) not messy such as string cheese, pretzels, crackers, yogurt tubes. Lunchables are good for snack/lunch too.

    Some of the best toys/activities I have found for the car are Crayola Color Wonders markers and coloring books; (NO CRAYONS- they melt in the car when it is HOT! Ditto for playdough); viewmaster with discs, etch a sketch, magna-doodles, magnetic puzzles or activitiy boards, hand held video games (my boys each have a Cars one); matchbox cars, littlest pet shop animals; maze or puzzle books with pen or penci (again NO CRAYONS); several storybooks. This year I purchased each of the kids a Melissa and Doug wooden travel game which I will give to them when we are in the car on our way to FL. They have not seen them yet.

  28. busy teacher

    They do have some special stuff to entertain kids during the flight, don’t they? At least on the international flights, I’m certain of it. Anyways, take the stuff with you that you know keeps your kids quiet at home, and it should work.

  29. Stacy

    *Check out momsminivan.com!!* Most of my ideas came from there, now for my “list” ๐Ÿ™‚
    1. Portable DVD player great for cars & planes. I just found the “DVD DR” at best buy. It is an awesome platform to place your dvd player on, it is suspended in the air so all can see even the kids in the back yet not close enough to the kids that they can kick it or fight about who gets to hold it.. We hooked it to the driver & passenger seats, close enough for mom to control it. It is made of plasic and the reviews I read said noted that it broke easily. Seriously, RUN out an BUY one. $20 (well it was $30 at best buy and I had them price match the online price from amazon.) This was a way cheaper option than buying headrest dvd players or instaling a dvd player in the car. Another hint for the dvd player hook it up through your cars stereo system (with the audio in plug – or through the tape deck) and send the sound to the BACK of the car.
    2. Print a map of the US and play the license plate game. I had my 7 & 4 yr olds color in the states once we found them. I had a surprise (new toy) for them when we found all 48 states. (I made HI & AL bonus states which counted for 2 other states.) This was also a great game for my husband and it helped the time pass faster. ๐Ÿ™‚
    3. Print out a map of “directions” for your kiddos then have them chart your progress (major cities, crossing into new states etc.). I have also given them “tickets” every 50 miles. Ex. 1 Give each child 1 ticket to represent each 50 miles of your trip. if you have a 400 mile trip they would get 8 tickets. Set tripometer and at each 50 mi mark have your kids give you a ticket – they can trade it for a movie, snack, toy, whatever you want it to be. Then when they run out of tickets you are there! Visible way to mark your progress. Ex. 2 Give them a ticket each 50 mi. A ticket can be (movie, snack, toy, video game etc.) on our last trip to FL from IN, I gave my kids a “crazy band” at each 50 mile marker. They loved it and often asked is it time for another band – is it 50 miles yet?
    4. Give your child a little money when you stop for gas so they can purchace whatever snack they want. I tend to do this once per car trip, and I only give them $1. (My hubby is the big spender and will give them $2 or $3. But frankly I just don’t want to hype them up on that much sugar. ๐Ÿ™‚
    5. Don’t forget to redbox your movies or borrow from a friend or the library.
    6. Get audio books from the library and copy them to your MP3 player.
    7. I’m always on the lookout for car games – crocodile dentist, pop the pig, bob it etc. I buy these when they’re on clearance or with a coupon.
    8. Bring your “electronics” – Tag reader, storybook reader, Nintendo DS, leapster whatever you have or borrow one.
    9. Arts n crafts: Crayola window markers (just don’t forget to wash your windows when you get there.); color wonder markers n paper, crayons n coloring books (use twistables or washable markers), aqua doodle, magna doodle, stickers and paper; black paper and white chalk; give them a roll of cheap masking tape and turn them loose; make projects out of aluminum foil, make people letters whatever out of pipe cleaners; paper dolls for girls, colorforms or any other magnetic things. get lacing cards – sew the animal practice tying whatever. Get a lap board or take a metal toaster oven pan or another cookie sheet with edges. For younger kiddos they can use magnets (shapes, letters) on these, and they make a nice compace tray for coloring and eating.
    10. Give your kids a new toy or new something occasionally. (EX. I bought the LPS toys when i had a b1g1 free coupon.)
    11. I have also taken a milk crate full of library books to read to my kids. (not my favorite activity since I get carsick, but the kids liked the books).
    12. Play car trip olympics when you stop for gas, bathrooms, food. Have your kids run, skip, hop, jump. Pick any activity that will burn energy!

    **I feel like I spend more time packing our in car entertainment than I do for anything else.*** Once you have your “travel bag” made keep all of your things together for your next trip. Also this doesn’t have to cost a lot – go to the dollar store, print things from your computer, pick up small toys at garage sales. My best strategy is keep them busy! Work for you, MOM, but makes for a much happier trip for everyone in the car!!

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