Traveling With Young Children Soon?

For many of us, the holidays mean traveling with small children in tow! As much as we may be looking forward to our destinations, as parents of young children, we often dread the journey. Our family recently completed a 14-hour plane ride to Australia with our three little ones (7, 4 and 16m), and I probably worried, prepared, and packed more for the plane ride then I did for our vacation! There were certainly a few harrowing moments, like not being at all prepared for the first three hours of the red eye taking place in bright lights while they served us dinner on Australian time. However, with the "prepare for the worst, hope for the best" mentality, I'd say overall we thankfully veered toward the latter. I have written below some ideas that helped us make it through. I hope that whether you are traveling by car or plane, or just want some alternatives to screen time for the hopefully extra downtime you'll enjoy over the holidays, you'll find a few extra tricks to pull out of your sleeve!


  • Prepare your child as much as possible for what's coming. Talk, tell stories, or show pictures of relatives they may not have seen in a while. 
  • Talk ahead of time about sleeping arrangements and houses, hotels, etc. you might move to and from. You can even create a simple calendar so they have a visual to refer to.
  • Read books about the new holidays, activities or weather they may encounter to increase excitement (and reduce anxiety) about upcoming new experiences.



Busy Bag: Create a bag of surprises! Build it up the week before so they will be super excited when they finally get to open it up! Some people wrap each "gift" inside, but older kids will probably prefer to dig through and choose which ones they want.

Some of the biggest hits on both past and present trips have been:

  • Lacing/sewing cards
  • Magnetic games (fishing games for smaller ones and checkers, four in a row, and more for the older set)
  • Handheld pinball/ring toss type games
  • A new box of crayons (Never underestimate the joy of a brand new box of crayons.)
  • Activity and sticker books (more varied than a coloring book) for hours of fun!
  • Sticky dudes
  • Playing ‘I Spy’ on the plane
  • Audiobooks (Epic app is fantastic and shows pictures of books too-does require wifi unless you download books ahead of time) 
  • Playing cards (UNO, Go Fish, Crazy Eights, etc.)
  • Play Foam
  • Silly putty (Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty is great)
  • Water Wow!
  • Magic pen coloring books
  • Boogie Board writing tablet for endless drawing fun, stickers, and books. 
  • Cheerio necklace makings (can be made for little siblings as well)

For the youngest toddler (under twos) try:

  • A homemade toy made from a slit cut into the lid of a clean yogurt container. Child pushes caps (milk, bottle, or the ends of your squeezy food packs) into hole. Dump. Repeat.
  • New books, especially lift the flaps, textures, etc.
  • Download a couple of child's favorite CDs onto your device and bring child-sized headphones
  • Bring a couple of sweeter or saltier than usual treats (maybe fruit snacks, a natural lollipop, or cheesy crackers) for take off and departure emergencies. 
  • Stickers to be placed on your nose, cheeks, foreheads for mid-flight fun
  • Take trips up and down the aisle and look out by the window near the back of the plane. 

Other great tips:

Fly at Night/Nap Time if Possible: For flights over five hours and international flights, flying at night or nap time is sometimes best to ensure your child sleeps on the plane and best acclimates to time zones. 

Scavenger Hunt in the Airport: Create a list of items to help your child find once you are in the airport. We found some fun ones here and here

Roller Bag/Backpack: Give your child their own roller bag or backpack to be in charge of at the airport. The sense of ownership will help keep them focused. You may even consider a backpack with a harness, especially if traveling with multiple children. For older kids, I even saw a suitcase that attaches to a scooter...brilliant! 

Bring Plenty of Snacks and Supplies: Expect delays. Pack an overabundance of your children’s favorite healthy snacks (think fresh fruit and crunchy vegetables), wipes, diapers, and multiple changes of clothes.

Bottles, Pacifiers, Sippy Cups, and Gum (for older ones): These help alleviate ear pressure on take off and landing.

Breathe… It will only last a little while. Try to enjoy the adventure with your little one, and remember most people have either been or may one day soon be traveling with their own little one in tow.

For more plane ride photos click here.