The holiday season is a popular time for travel, but it’s not so perfect when you have to travel alone with your kids. Last summer we took our 2-year-old and 4-year-old to the east coast to visit their grandparents. What seemed like a great idea for family bonding quickly became a quest not to annoy fellow travelers.

There was a bonus complication: My husband couldn’t go with us. So it was me, my lap baby, and my 4-year-old.

Let me start by saying things did not go perfectly smooth. There were tears, blowouts, and a scary moment when the all-important teddy bear got lost. These three strategies can be planned ahead of time.

1. Dress your children in clothes that are easy to put on and take off.

Also, have your child wear slip-on shoes. Traveling in pajamas isn’t the worst idea—zippers actually make life easier. Diaper changes and kiddo comfort are on the top of my list of important priorities.

2. Have your children sit in the window seat.

Mom or Dad can take the aisle seat so the littles are encouraged to stay in their seats and not roam the aisles.

3. Plan 15-minute activities.

If you’re traveling on a 4-hour flight, be prepared with 16 different ideas for entertaining kids. You may not use all of them, but when you’re prepared and have an array of options, the flight will go smoother.

Kids Activities to Bring on an Airplane

Here are 9 activities to help you entertain young children when flying.

Crayons and coloring books/paper

The triangle shaped crayons are great because they won’t roll off the tray table! You can also buy the books where kids color with water and there is no chance they will accidentally color on something they aren’t supposed to.

Sticker books

Find a book with LOTS of stickers and bring a few pieces of paper for your child to decorate. Note, this activity involves more parent monitoring to ensure stickers don’t get stuck on tray tables or other random places.

New games and shows

Download a variety of new games or shows that are age-appropriate for your child. Sometimes watching a quick cartoon stops a meltdown in its tracks. Also, bring along a pair of headphones for everyone’s sanity.

Magnetic blocks

These types of magnetic tiles are worth the investment! Not only do kids love them, but they are easy to pack and don’t fall off the tray because they naturally stick together.

Snacks

Always pack extra snacks! Snacks that take a while to eat are especially nice for long plane rides. Raisins in a box are perfect because it takes time to get them out of the box. You can also pack little finger foods in a weekly pill container. Mini-marshmallows, M&Ms, goldfish and fruit snacks all fit nicely and the kiddos love to open the flaps to see what surprise is inside.

Dollar Store Gifts

If you’re not above bribing your kids to behave, bring a new toy for each child (matchbox cars or something else small and cheap) and give it to them after takeoff. You can also try a special candy they aren’t often allowed to eat (such as lollipops).

Treasured Books

One of the best ways to encourage your child to love reading is to always be prepared with books. When flying, pack some favorites along with new books. Lift-the-flap books are also nice for capturing a child’s attention for longer periods of time.

Activity Books

Have you seen the clever activity books they have for kids? There is an assortment of activity books that are handmade, each one unique, and made with the intent to keep your child busy. Each page has built-in activities that toddlers can do such as sorting, fasteners, and matching.

Favorite Stuffed Toys

Last but not least, make sure to pack your child’s favorite blanket or stuffed animal. (Note: Keep an eye on these important items! They easily get left behind on planes.) If the stars align, your kids will even be able to take a nap with their trusted lovey helping them fall asleep.

Traveling can be stressful, but it doesn’t have to be awful. When you have your kids in tow, just remember to plan ahead and over prepare. Happy flying!

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