Travel hacks for kids: how to entertain a toddler on a plane
Toddlers and airplanes make for an interesting proposition. And having flown a fair bit with our little lady (who is almost 3!), we know that prepared parents make for a better flight – but also one thing truly stands: ‘you are only as good as your last flight’.
Each flight is different and as many readers and friends have said, it is important to keep things fresh. Besides the staple items like the tablet etc, it is a good idea to get some new bits and pieces each time (from stickers to little crafts that do not create a mess). Some readers suggested wrapping them up as a gift – kills a few more minutes and adds to the excitement.
Here are some of our airplane activities for toddlers – I.e. things we take with us on airplanes, with a view to make it easier. Most activities are suitable from 18 months onwards (until 3).
An all-in-one kids backpack and play tray
Costs £9.99 from eBay
A reader suggested something similar she had for her children (decades ago) and after a lot of searching, I came across this TrayKit. Having done some research, it was a Dragons’ Den backed product in 2012-13 and due to its then price tag (£39.99), it did not last very long. Someone has bought the remaining stock and it is available on eBay.
It is very well made and we can keep most of our airplane activities self contained. It works on both airplanes and cars. For this price, you cannot complain!
There is also an accessory kit.
A kids amazon fire tablet
This thing has paid for itself over and over and we are very happy with ours. It gets used on flights and weekend mornings and its outstanding value for money. Yes, you can buy an iPad but there is no need. As far as tips for flying with toddlers are concerned, this is my number 1 recommendation.
We always make sure we ‘renew’ our downloads from Netflix and Disney Plus so they are available offline and current favourite apps include Lego Life, CBeebies, Crayola, Meet the Numbers and Toca World (it is a pack of apps, all quite educational).
You will also need headphones and a carrying sleeve.
A LCD drawing tablet
This has been a hit – and there are so many versions of the same item, but ensure that the one you buy has restricted access to the battery (this one does, with a little screw, so it is 100% safe). It takes no space at all and works very well. I do not expect it to last forever. We have one in the car at home and another for the airplane.
Sticker and activity books
Costs from £3 from Amazon. See below for details.
Sticker books are popular with our little one (although many of them are ‘too advanced’ right now).
We like this set of reusable sticker books which offers various scenarios.
Usborne also do some great ones (everything this brand does is great).
We also like these ‘magic painting books’ which only require water. It comes with a paintbrush (so it is easy peasy).
Speaking of ‘water magic’, these books have also been popular and there are so many to choose from. We have one in our ‘restaurant bag’ and another in the airplane bag. The pen it comes with is pretty bad – so we now just use a paintbrush. Or a wet finger!
There are many types of similar books around but you get what you pay for – the Galt ones last months and dry well. Others do not.
There are lots of options for colouring books as well.
Costs from £2 from Amazon
Again, you get what you pay for with stickers – and I would recommend looking for these offline as well (see details at the end of the post).
We also like these from Paddington Bear, but lots of other options on Amazon.
We also like foam stickers to add a bit of interest. Basically I grab a handful on each flight and that is it – stickers are one of the best airplane activities for 2 year old (or our 2 year old!).
Crayola pens and crayons
We are big fans of Crayola and its ‘washing capabilities’. We started with crayons and the twistable ones were great, but now little one only fancies the markers. Less to take with us!
I have also found useful to have extra paintbrushes everywhere.
Costs £7 from Amazon.
It is a two in one hit scenario as we can pop the dots and keep our pens in check. Comes in a variety of colours.
Cost £8 from Amazon
These have been a godsend – great for snacks, for bits, for everything. We found the A6 size worked better for us.
Fidget toys set
Costs £8.99 from Amazon
A friend gave us these a year ago and we are almost done with the set – it has been brilliant. I bring things out on each flight and it is just a little something to play with. Some items have proved to be incredibly popular – this particular kit offers a lot of variety in terms of airplane activities for a 18 month old.
Other useful things to pack on flights with toddlers:
Oxo costs £10 and Sistema costs £7 (for 4 bottles!)
We have learned our lesson the hard way and now do not take our nice Liewood bottles with us on airplanes as sometimes… they stay behind. We are very happy with these Oxo and Sistema bottles (and she is too).
We like the Stasher bags for ‘everything’ and ours have lasted over a year and still brand new. We have them in a variety of sizes. You can buy one for £6 or a complete set.
Also we have learned we have to take some empty containers with us – good for filling up with things from home or the airport lounge. We still use some from her baby days (which stack) but our favourite ones are these nesting ones from Sistema, which are a bargain for £6.99.
Sistema do great plastic containers – may be worth looking at these boxes (perfect for long journeys) and these too.
Changes of clothes
You don’t need them on each trip… until you do. We always had 2 sets of clothes but on our last from the USA, I don’t know why, but I added a third.
A set for us consists of underwear, leggings, socks, a top and a cardigan. Oh, and we never packed an extra pair of shoes, but will do from now on (if they are sick all over, wet sick shoes are not lovely, it turns out).
Also pack something for yourself (we hadn’t) – and I now include a pair of leggings and a top.
It is a lot to take (and that annoys me), but we use the bottom of our Yoyo bag with all this stuff (and then the fun stuff on top).
Other random things we need:
- Travel toilet seat (see our potty training essentials)
- Antibacterial wipes (for everything) – another option here
- Hand sanitiser – The Body Shop Coconut is her favourite.
- Individually wrapped wipes for each toilet visit (we get a few from the BA crew on each flight). Otherwise we get these. USA readers – obviously yours are best!
- Rubbish bags (we just use old nappy bags we still have). We never leave any rubbish behind.
We are also big on the thoughts and prayers. I am as prepared as I can be, but I totally understand I have zero control on what will happen on the flight. We are both very hands on and we will always be there to support and guide our daughter (and also to make sure she does not disturb any other passengers – that is on us). Whereas we cannot control 100% everything, being present and alert counts for something and it is 100% of responsibility, irrespective of what travel class we travel in.
And here’s to many travel adventures with our little ones.
PS. Check out our Baby & Toddler Travel Essentials and our Car seat and accessories edit . I have also put together an edit of our swimming holiday essentials.