Does the thought of trying to keep your preschooler entertained for several hours in a 2 1/2 foot by 2 1/2 foot space drive you to grab one more glass of wine? Taking a long flight with kids can seem like the makings of a horror movie, but there are plenty of ways to make a flight manageable without worrying. Still, go ahead and grab the wine, because, hey, wine!
1. Carry on. At this age preschoolers are able to manage and wheel their own carry on or wear a small backpack. This is beneficial to you whose carry-on may have to be for cameras and/or computers for work, etc. Bonus: your carry-on is no longer packed with crayons or leaky sippy cups.
2. Easy shoes. Even though kids under 12 are no longer required to take off their shoes at security, choose shoes that your preschooler can manage to pull off and put back on without your help.
Bonus Tip: Taking off your little ones shoes is the best way to keep them from kicking the seat in front of them. Bare toes don’t enjoy whamming into hard plastic as much as toes with shoes on.
3. Ziplock bags for puzzles. Kid puzzle pieces can easily fit into a zip lock sandwich bag. I cut out the main image of the puzzle from its box and slipped it into the ziplock bag as well.
4. Kid friendly cup. Give them their own reusable, mostly leak proof, container for drink. The ideal cup will be easy enough to open that they don’t need your help and will save you the hassle of spilling.
5. Toddler Pillow and Blanket. While it does take up a little bit of space, pillows and blankets are squishable enough to worth the packing room. While toddlers may still be small enough to lay across mom and dad for a nap, preschoolers take up enough room to start to learn how to lean and sleep. Having a pillow that was small enough for her to lean on the armrest was extremely helpful. And she slept!
6. Cheap iPod and Read Along (paperback) books. I'm not a fan of electronics for children, but they do come in handy during long trips. I found an old iPod for $25 and loaded it up with read along books (link to Read Along books) and favorite tunes. Read-along books are usually paperback and not too heavy to bring a couple.
7. Interactive activities. Prompt books and travel journals are a great way to pass the time. My daughter always has her travel journal for drawing but she can spend quite a bit of time with interactive prompt books like this one with "Ladybug Girl" Each page is mostly blank with a prompt on top to encourage drawing and journaling.
8. Don't forget the snacks! You may not have enough time to eat if a layover is cut short due to previous flight delays or the flight doesn't provide much beyond pretzels. Great snacks for a flight are trail mix, power cookies (link to recipe for Backpack energy bites), Z-bars, hard cheese wedges, and dried fruit.
9. Diapers and Wipes. Yes, I know you’ve grown past the baby days, but there are some things from the past that are worth keeping. Wipes should be in every mom’s bag from now until the end of time, in my opinion. Even if you don’t need them for sticky fingers, they are great for wiping down the tray table, cleaning up spills, or any other messes. As for diapers, even if you are way past the potty training stage, it might make sense to have a pull-up or two in your bag for overnight flights. A break in routine can often mean accidents and you can save yourself the mess with a pull-up or pair of potty training underwear.
10. Bring more than you need. Of course, packing light is a boon, but being (over) prepared might even be more desirable with kids. A change of clothes might seem like overkill until you have a huge spill 20 minutes into a six-hour flight. Likewise, an extra game or two may just seem like a nuisance until you have a flight delay that leaves you stuck on the plane. To make up for the extra, make sure that everything in your bag can pull double duty. An extra pair of clothes could also be something soft to sleep in overnight. The games that you pack should be open ended, so that you can get multiple ways to play out of one set of toys.