One child-sized backpack is all you need to keep your kid entertained on an airplane, or even in the car for the long drive to Grandma's house. You don't need endless totes and carry ons, just one bag. Have your child help you fill this bag with things to keep them entertained, but make sure you do some editing when they have pulled everything they want. Pack only the essentials, or you will end up being the one who carries that bag. If you pack it wisely, you won't even have to stick snacks in your purse. Answer a few questions about your kids and you will be on your way, and always remember, if your kid can't carry it, they can't bring it.
Books and Games
What does your child love to do at home? Once you can answer that question you are set, but here are a few ideas.
- Pack a deck of cards - UNO, Go Fish, Old Maid or just plain playing cards
- Magnetic Tic Tac Toe or other magnetic games where the pieces can't be lost
- Small, thin books - larger chapter books get downloaded to a tablet
- Small coloring book that includes activity pages like mazes, word searches, etc.
- Crayons - if you don't have a case, use a sandwich bag or a cleaned out box of Altoids to hold them.
- Silly putty - this is better than play dough as it is a lot harder to break apart, and it can be used as a bouncy ball too
What toys can your child not live without? No, you cannot pack the entire train set. I once watched my youngest dump a box of train tracks into his backpack. We helped him put on his backpack and he promptly fell over. Don't bring the tracks. Bring one engine. Bring five toy cars. Pack one doll. Give your child a sandwich bag and tell him or her that they can bring as many toys as can fit in that bag, no more.
How do you feel about technology? Not all parents are fans of technology on trips, but sometimes you do want to bend the rules to save space. We are big fans of tablets, like the Kindle Fire, that can hold all of our picture books, chapter books, movies and apps on one tiny device as opposed to lugging around 20 pounds of books, DVDs and games to entertain the kids. If you are waffling on the tech issue, think about how you can limit the game time and just use a tablet for what will save you space in your bag.
There is no reason why you should be in charge of carrying all of the snacks when your child has a front pocket in his or her backpack that can carry them. Stick all of the activities in the main section, and all of the snacks in that front pocket so they can always find them without digging. Fruit leather, pretzels, apple slices and crackers all work well on a flight because they don't need to be refrigerated, aren't filled with sugar and don't make a huge mess.
What are some other items you'd add?
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