Ideas to Keep Kids Occupied on a Plane Trip

Updated on August 16, 2009
J.S. asks from Auburn, WA
21 answers

Hi Moms!!
In a couple weeks we will be taking two 3-hour plane rides with a 1-hour layover in between. Alyssa is 2 1/2, and Cole is 6 months old. We are planning on taking books, coloring books and paper, crayons, lots of snacks, and maybe some playdoe to keep Alyssa busy. We don't have a laptop or movie player, and we don't have the money to buy one, so that's not an option. I would love to hear any cheap and easy activites we could take along! Thanks!!

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answers from Portland on

I just heard a suggestion for my friend who is taking 2 to New Zealand soon. She said that a friend mentioned wrapping all the toys/coloring books/etc. as little presents to keep the interest up when a much needed distraction rears it's ugly head. Good luck!



answers from Richland on

I was just talking to a friend who is traveling form SEA to Orlando with a 3 and 1 1/2 yr old. A friend told her to go to the dollar store or target dollar bins and get a bunch of little things and wrap them up and when the excitement of one thing wears off give them something new to open and it works great!! I also agree with the DVD player, tons of snacks, but new never before seen things are great! I did that with me son when we traveled from sea to san diego (2 1/2 and 3 months) and the new toys were a total hit! good luck!

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answers from Portland on

Hi J. -

A few things work very well for us. 1) I recommended putting cut up sticker sheets in a bunch of sealed envelopes - and bring a cheap blank journal or memo book for your daughter to put them in as well as color. Give her one envelope or two at a time. 2) Wrap a couple very small toys that she has not seen before in paper to have just in case. (I've used small cars) Best case they will stay in your bag for another time. 3) If you have paid for a seat and your eldest does well in the car, bring her car seat! My boy always settles in and sleeps for a bit if he is in his car seat. (note the car seat can not block anyone from getting to an aisle so on most planes it goes in the window seat.) For us, hauling the seat is much easier than him loose for the whole time. 4) Landing - I give my boy a lolly pop to suck on when we are landing to help his ears adjust to the pressure change. Nurse or bottle feed your littlest when you are rapidly descending.

Hope this helps. Remember to not take anything too seriously and have a change of cloths.

Enjoy S.

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answers from San Francisco on

I took my daughter - at the time, 6 mos old - to India, and though I brought some small toys, she spent a least 6 of our 24 hours playing with the travel toothbrush (brushing her teeth, looking through the vent hole, putting the handle it on her fingers, whistling by blowing on the big end of the handle), the paper cozie from my coffee cup (putting it on her arm, looking through it, ...), the mask and the tray table. You won't really necessarily need to do much, there.

BUT, for your 2.5 year old, I'd buy some small toys - maybe from the dollar section at Target - like a slinky, a wind up or pull-back vehicle, bubbles, maybe a tiny baby or little farm animal, magnets, a toothbrush, a spinning top, sunglasses, a necklace... Enough to have something new every 30 minutes of that trip, ideally, and wrap these up. *Wrap each of these* loosely in newspaper or wrapping paper, and let your daughter open one every 30 minutes or so. It has to be wrapped loosely thanks to terrorists these days, but regardless, my kids (now 2.5 and 5) love the excitement of wrapped stuff, and there's usually a few awesome trinkets that really pass the time.

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answers from Portland on

I love Sandy's ideas about wrapping things, as well as the cheap little things to get, the dollar store also offers some cheap little "presents". One thing I wanted to address was to ask early at the airplane gate about the "kids" line to get the best kid spot on the plane: the front row in coach. It has way more floor room than any other spot, and you can request it! But you have to go right to the gate, request, and stand in line (it doesn't matter if you have pre-assigned seats). It's a crazy system, and I've encountered many aggressive moms out there while traveling, so be on your game and your 2 1/2 year old could be playing on the floor.

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answers from Seattle on


I've had good luck with a travel-size aquadoodle set I found on clearance at Target, a friend's recommendation of different colored masking/painter's tape was a huge hit - they can stick it on anything and it comes off, so I let them tape the seats, the windows, each other, and your daughter is getting to the age where she might listen to a couple books on tape from the library. My girls LOVE them.

We've only gone SEA to Minneapolis, and it's about a 3 1/2 hour flight from take off to landing, but really, they only needed to be occupied for a fraction of that time. Once the initial "wow" of takeoff is over it's a short time until the beverage carts come through. Then a little more amusement until they come through again, then a third time of amusement until getting into watching the city out the window until landing. I would recommend giving your big girl the window seat and letting her have a bit of free reign over her space.

Also, if you board right away (and you can with kids) ask the stewardess if she can let you know if better seats are free. On our last flight, just before takeoff, our stewardess came up and quickly had us move to the back where a couple other moms with kids were, and there were a couple empty seats so we could spread out a bit more. I think they like to contain the noise and "special attention" fliers in one area!!

Enjoy the ride! Like someone else said, be prepared for the worst, so that you can handle it in a calm manner, but then be so relieved and happy when it turns out okay!



answers from Portland on

Hi J.,

Sounds like you have a good start there, but I have a few things you might want to consider.

First, make sure to have something that you hold back from the trip out so that you have a "new" activity for the trip back. My girls used to love Colorforms--kind of like vinyl stickers that you can move around and make scenes. They are totally not messy which is a plus!

Second, try to get the bulk head seats which are in the very front of coach section of the plane. There is a bit more room there so she can get out of her seat when its possible and move around a bit.

Third, bring a sippy cup or whatever she uses to drink out of for the landing. Sometimes their ears will have trouble with popping during the landing and that can hurt. A bottle for baby as well for the same reason. My oldest ended up with an ear infection every time she flew when she was little.

Have a great trip! :)



answers from Seattle on

I don't think the play doe is a good idea. It will fall apart little by little and the attendants will not be too pleased. They will be your best friends on the flight and you don't want to get on their bad side.

I would suggest something else like leap frog game that she can become involved in but won't make messes.

I would also save something new for the second flight.



answers from Seattle on

this might sound weird but.. I bought a box of rainbow band aids and my daughter played with them for at least 40 minutes puting them on her, me and all her dolls and playing doctor.. she even shared with the little girl in fron of us :) also the small play dough worked great for us... then at target they make an aqua doddle travel set. that u fill the pen with water and color on the special book.. when it dries it goes away and you can keep reusing the book.



answers from Portland on

Try to sit in the bulk head row.... you have tons of extra floor space to lay down a blanket and let the kids stretch out on the floor.


answers from Portland on

When I first traveled with my children when they were very young, I would bring lots of toys entertain them. I found they were mostly entertained by the plane itself, the noises it made, all the people around us, & flying in general. I would bring as little extra as possible. Your children are at a very active age and I would make sure they get lots of running around and active time before boarding the plane, special treats to eat & drink, playdough is a good addition to what you are already planning on bringing, & one new cuddly. I think you'll find them fascinated with the plane itself.



answers from Seattle on

I fly almost every month, although that has slowed a little because my baby is 6 months old...but, we did take a trip with my 3.5 year old and the baby (then 5 months) to Israel - 24 hours of airport and airplane time...they were great! We do not have a dvd player either...and believe it or not, we survived! I like to bring post it notes, crayola makes a watercolor that is great for planes (they are essentially markers), check the dollar bin at target (or dollar store), they usually have some fun stuff...magna doodle, aquadoodle play mats, encourage Alyssa to take a nap (obviously!), a little doll, cars, there are magnetic books that I like to bring. I like floam better than playdough - not as messy, doesn't dry out (and Model magic is good too). Good luck!



answers from Seattle on

Sandy was spot on. My advice would be the same as hers.

We recently when on a trip to Minnesota with our 2 1/2 year old. We had a lot of fun making puppets out of the barf bags. We had three of them, so we colored different characters on each bag, then had fun playing with them. Turn them over and they are a blank canvas for drawing what we see out the window. We colored a scene that went from the ocean all the way to the lakes of MN. Have fun . . . we did!



answers from Spokane on

for the toddler a lot of band aids like dora ones
and hidden books from highlights
and 4 the baby a lot of things can chew on


answers from Medford on

We took our kids on their first plane ride (8+ hours total, including a 5 hour layover in Seattle) last summer. They were 3 and 1. I have 2 ideas for ya:
1.The biggest life saver we found during layovers was that we found out the airport had a huge playround inside (We found this in hour 3 or our 5 hour layover)! :) Anyway, check the airports that you are traveling through to see if they have something similar.
2. Don't bring toys from home. We went to the dollar store and got them new color books and reading books and crayons and such to keep them occupied. THey loved having new "special" flying toys. We filled each of their backpacks with little snacks and toys for them to enjoy while flying. There was something in particular that our daughter had been wanting for a while and we picked that up as well and hid it in her bag. You dont have to spend a lot of money to do this, but at least with my kids they were more entertained than if I had packed the "same old crackers" so to speak!
Remember: expect the worst behavior, pray for the best and you shall land somewhere in the middle. :)



answers from Seattle on

wow, you got alot of great ideas! Bringing the car seat might be a good idea for the plane trip and it would also solve your transportation problems when you get there. Sawyer has an electronic alphabet activity thingy that she could borrow, she would probably love it but the noise might get to other passengers. I'm excited for you guys! I hope we see you this week before you leave.



answers from Seattle on

Hey J.-one more thing....about the wrapped presents thing - security doesn't allow that. If you get them thru, that is great, but the rule is no wrapped gifts in carry on bags. They will make you unwrap them right then and their if they find them. :-( Major bummer.



answers from Seattle on

We took a long flight with my son at age 2 1/2. We got a good two hours out of a plain white sketchbook and a pack of 1000 animal and bug stickers. He stuck them on the paper, himself, us...and then he discovered he could stick them on top of each other, then peel them off and move them. Anyway, the stickers were way more successful than the DVD player that we purchased and he liked for maybe ten minutes!



answers from Seattle on

My daughter is now 3.5.
Dollar store! Don't bring many toys from home the novelty of "plane toys" is enough to keep them happy. You can't wrap the toys but you can put them in little bags, brown paper or other anything you have around the house and then it is like a gift. The car seat is a familiar place for them to sit and the only safe option but that is up to you. I never considered not flying with it. We have been to from Seattle to NY, San Fran, LA and Sydney. No problems at all. Play dough is cool but messy. Snacks can also keep them occupied. Do not assume that the airline will have anything you need...they don't have anything. Bring fun snacks you might not otherwise give NOT CANDY but fun things like the little tubs of peanut butter and apple sauce, "fancy raisins" aka yoghurt daughter loverd trying new snacks we would never usually have. Beware a one hour lay over will go very quickly!
Good luck!!



answers from Seattle on

Agree with the other posts about toy ideas... However, the first time we brought our toddler's car seat (Britax Roundabout) on the plane, we did not know the tray would not open for her because of the way the car seat rests in the plane seat. Britax's have a rounded front that bumped the tray up too much. That made it pretty much impossible for her to play with the play-doh kit she was WAY excited about. We somehow made it work. You didn't say if you're bringing hers, but I thought it was worth mentioning. (we learned it's a comfortable/safe place for our toddler and when she's strapped in, she's much MORE content)

Little dolls were a big hit for my older daughter on one flight. I think they're by Mattel, but not "sexy" like Barbie. They have cute outfits, normal bodies, and lots of hair to play with.

Doctor kit (an X-mas gift from grandma) was a HUGE hit. Just have to be careful to not lose the pieces. I like the idea of band-aids.

If you have an iPod that supports video (i know you said no laptop or mini DVD player), you can download a few episodes of her favorite show or a kids' movie, inexpensively usually. Just make sure you have earphones the 2.5 year old can wear. We found on evening flights, that's the best activity for our daughter. During daytime flights, she really loves to just play. We're now moving away from toys and transitioning to magazines/activity books/picture books with plots and our favorite--making up stories! She's flown a bunch since birth, so she's used to it now (same age as yours), which mkes it easier.

Another thng we've done is purchased a cheap little backpack for our toddler. Then we let her "pick" out a few of her own toys to bring along. This is especially helpful at the security gate, because it gives her something to be "responsible" for and helps her feel like a big kid. I'd also guess that it helps her feel like she's had some control over the traveling, which is a harried experience.

Most of all, hype up how "much fun" it's going to be! Tell the kids you're going on "an adventure" and take lots of pics!

Have fun!



answers from Rochester on

We have found the following to be very entertaining on the plane 1. post it notes 2. a small photo albumn (my son who is 2 loves looking at pictures, especially ones of himself) 3. those little finger puppets from Ikea.

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