Ideas for a Long Plane Ride for a 4 Year Old

Updated on February 27, 2007
A.M. asks from Selinsgrove, PA
13 answers

My son and I are making a trip to see my sister in law and her 5 month old in Arizona. Her husband is in Iraq and she is awful lonely! My mother in law is traveling with us also. The plane ride is almost 7 hours, including the layover. I am looking for some ideas to bring on the plane with me to keep him occupied. We are flying through the day, he will most likely take a nap, but not that long. Any ideas or suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks a bunch

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So What Happened?

Thanks to all who gave me advice on flying with my 4 year old. He did just wonderful. He loved it. I think he did better than me on the plane ride. Even the people around us commented on how well behaved he was. Thanks again for all who gave me the confidence to fly with just never know how a 4 year old will act!

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answers from Washington DC on

I haven't personally took a traveled by plane with my son, but a car was enough for me to know that fingers snacks and brand new activity books are essential. I've heard that reading a book about what you are doing i.e. riding a plane is a good way to keep them engaged and still in their seats.

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answers from Johnstown on

I have 2 kids 2 and 3 yrs. and we have traveled back and forth from Hawaii several times in the past few years which is a 12-13 hr plane ride. My suggestion is if you have a portable DVD player they are great. Keeps my kids occupied for hours.




answers from York on

HI Abby -
My husband and I have done some long distance flying with our 4 and 3 yr old (8hr to Germany, plus shorter trips to Orlando). We found that their little Leapsters kept them occupied, along with plenty of snacks and crayons. They had their own little backpack that they packed up themselves with things they wanted to take along. We played memory card games and they did nap as well.
Good luck to you and have a safe trip!



answers from Reading on

My children were about that age when we made our first trip to the beach. I put together two special backpacks for my children with the Color Wonder Coloring Books, Travel size Etch-a-Sketch, Magna Doodles, Matchbox cars and favorite picture books. You can present this to your child the morning of your trip and it will feel like he is getting a present for Christmas. I tried to locate things that were not to messy or would dirty of little fingers. I suggest packing the Hand wipes and something to suck on (age appropriate) for the popping of ears during the pressurization process. I was on a flight once where child had a cold and the ascent and decent hurt their ears so much that the child screamed the entire landing. For an ifant it is suggested to take a pacifier and adults use gum a lot, but for a 4 yr old you need to be pretty selective. I hope this helps and you have a great trip.
J. K.



answers from Pittsburgh on

Hi Abby,
Thre of lots of great ideas here - I have three kids and we found that the DVD player was a life saver. So was the backpack full of new stuff - coloring books, crayons, cards, etc. The two biggest hits were a dry erase board (it one one made for kids with a built in eraser and storage area, but any one would work) and Preschool Brainquest. My youngest packed his own bag for a trip when he was about 4 and decided that he needed a pair of siscors. I didn't even think to check his bag and we all got stopped at security!



answers from Philadelphia on

I haven't hit this point in my son's life yet, but I can remember what my mother used to do for me when I was his age (and older!) to keep me content on long road trips.

In the weeks leading up to the trip, my mom would start secretly accumulating small toys (Yes & No invisible ink books, Mad Libs, wind-up toys, blocks, coloring books, dolls, etc.) that she would then place in a big canvas "goody bag." When I was really young, she would let me pick something out of the bag after I'd been quiet (or at least not disruptive!) for half an hour. After I turned 8 or 9, she'd just give me the bag at the outset of the trip and let me amuse myself with whatever she'd found to put in it. The novelty of so many new toys kept me distracted from the length of the trip, and (at least in the early years) curiosity about what could be in the bag kept me quiet long enough to find out! Nothing in the bag was particularly expensive--even the bag itself--but I'm sure the result was priceless.

You might want to put together a bag for the trip out to Arizona, and have your sister put one together for you to take back with you. Then you don't have to carry a whole bunch of extra stuff on your outbound trip, and whatever she finds will be a surprise for both of you on your way home.

Have a great trip!



answers from Philadelphia on

You did get great advice, I am of the thought - accumulate little things over next few weeks that they have never seen - $1 store is great - they have stickers in different shapes that my son loves - he also loves the magnetic boards - can get them at Marshalls or learning express - litle playdoh- several containers of different snacks -pipe cleaners - new books - of course leapster and DVD are great too



answers from Scranton on

i suggest you either buy a portable dvd player or borrow one and charge it the night before and bring dvds your 4 yr old likes. also bring several snacks and drinks and small toys they like playing with. make a bag just for your child or put in a backpack he can carry. it will be better if he can help. play games with him /her silly games just to keep him occupied and not get bored and antsy. good luck and have fun!!!



answers from Philadelphia on

portable DVD player is a lifesaver on an airplane. I am normally totally against letting kids watch a lot of TV (my 2 year old is only allowed to watch one 1/2 show a day, and I never watch anything until after he's gone to bed at night), but when we have to fly 6 hours to Oklahoma to visit my husband's family, that rule goes out the window! I picked up a $70 player at Walmart and let me tell you, it's the best $70 I've spent. He's completely quiet for the entire plane ride, and all of the other passengers always compliment us on how well behaved he is on the plane!
Another key is to have plenty of healthy snack food (stuff that requires a lot of chewing) stuck in your purse or his carry-on bag. As soon as the plane starts taxing down the runway, pull it out so that he will be busy chewing as you ascend (and again when the pilot anounces final descent) so that his ears pop. You'll want to buy him something to drink inside the airport before you get on the plane as well (new regulations prohibit you from bringing your own drinks through the security checkpoint, security will take it) because airplane travel is dehydrating.
Happy flying!



answers from Philadelphia on


Take crayons, coloring books, paper, a book or two, small toys that don't make a lot or any noise, lots of favorite snacks and what he likes to drink. Don't depend on the airline to have what he specifically likes. Take juice boxes and or his sip cup if he still uses one. Also, if you can, buy one SURPRISE toy or activity to take in case all else fails and he starts to have a MELT DOWN. Also, make sure you have drinks and food available for him to chew or suck on in case the pressure bothers his ears. Children have very small tubes in their ears and the pain can be unbearable. Also, pack some Tylenol just in case. He should have his own little carry on packed with all this stuff. It will also make him feel very special. Of course, a change of clothes for him in case he gets sick, has an accident or is just sweaty or uncomfy. Dress him very comfy because he will have to sit for a long time. Sweats are always a good choice. If you want him to greet his aunt and new cousin in a special outfit, change his clothes maybe an hour before landing. I did all this with my daughter the first time she flew, but she was almost a year, and it worked great. The surprise toy was a big hit. It can be as inexpensive as you want and definitely something that will fit in your carry-ons. Trust you and the other people on the plain will be glad you did this. There's nothing worse than a cranky, bored kid trapped on a plane. Also, make sure he gets enough rest the night before the trip. Don't let him stay up late, thinking he will sleep more on the plane. Because if he doesn't sleep more, you are going to really be in for it. Good luck and safe trip!



answers from Philadelphia on

Hi A.~
Would she enjoy watching DVD's? I wonder if you could get one of those portable DVD players for her to watch during the flight.



answers from Allentown on

Hi A.... I as well took my son on a long plane ride took 7 hours to get from PA to TX. A few suggestions Take along one of his favorite interactive toys. (coloring book or if he has anything like game boy or leap frog) It's not going to be to bad. I thought my son would drive me crazy but he slept more than I expected and when he was up we colored or read books. He can also stretch his legs on the airplane as well dont be afraid to let him walk to the restroom a time or too just to stretch. Hopefully because it will be something new for him the airplane might keep him content. If you get to let him see out the window as well. Best of luck to you on your trip.. Oh yeah dont forget snacks. Take Care...



answers from Philadelphia on

I flew to Fla last year with my then almost 3 year old. Our saving device was a portable dvd player. also if u buy some new toys that he doesnt see till he plane ride might help.
good luck!!

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