Being in an airport is exciting for kids: lots of people to watch, planes and neat vehicles outside, the luggage carousel, little trams and automatic walk-ways. It’s like a giant playground for them and you don’t need to stretch your imagination to keep your kid entertained when you’re waiting for a flight. The airport to parents, however, is dangerous, fast-paced, crowded and filled with people who want to snatch up your kids and whisk them away. Or at least that’s how I feel. When I’m traveling with my husband, I feel much better having two sets of eyes on our kids, but when I travel alone with them, I’m on total lock-down mode and treat my personal space (including my kids) like a fortress. Ben (1) stays in his stroller at all times, and Molly (4) has a …uh… wrist “leash” to wear when we’re maneuvering through the crowd. Take no chances I always say!
So, the airport itself is entertaining enough for your kids, but being stuck on a tight airplane is not always so easy. Having a window seat can help kill some time. I’ve handed Molly (4) my camera before and let her snap pictures of the view as a fun activity. You can also play games like a sitting “Simon Says” or “I Spy” in your seats, or try singing extended versions of “Old MacDonald” or “If You’re Happy And You Know It”. Mostly, though, all of our plane activities are planned ahead. I pack one complete carry-on with stuff to do and special treats, and keep all the snacks in another bag.
Great activities I’ve taken for Molly before include a View Finder, MagnaDoodle, and an Invisible Ink coloring book. When she was younger, about 2, she really liked having a baby doll to take care of during the flight. Any toy without a lot of parts that the child can do themselves is a great choice. It’s so loud on the plane anyway, you don’t even have to worry about it being too loud for the other passengers. So bring along those pretend cell phones, video games, and plastic singing baby toys – because the people around you probably won’t even hear it.
One thing I’ve done on every flight is have a few small, wrapped gifts ready for the kids. I basically have one or maybe two small gifts per flight that they can open, saving some for the return trip home. Usually the gifts I find are from the dollar section at Target, but this time I splurged and got them each a new Leap Frog toy. Ben (1) got a counting cell phone and Molly (4) got one that “texts” and learns letters. Unwrapping the gift is part 1 of the activity, playing with your new toy is part 2 of the activity, and in our case switching and playing with your siblings new toy was part 3 of the activity!
Other small things that make good travel toys include: Post-it notes (they are paper to draw on AND a sticker at the same time!); hidden pictures books or children’s magazines (our favorite is High Five, made my Highlights); and your child’s blanket. You can hide under it like a fort, play peek a boo, snuggle, make a pillow with it, use it as a separator so your little brother will stay on his side, use it like a funny new shirt or hat, wrap your toys in it like a present, or wrap your baby doll or other toy in it and pretend to tell it night night stories.
My final piece of advice you’ve probably heard before. I’ve heard it before, yet still wasn’t prepared for what happened on the second leg of our trip to the beach: HAVE A SPARE OUTFIT FOR EVERYONE IN YOUR CARRY-ON LUGGAGE! We sat down in our seats and while everyone else was boarding, Ben unexpectedly throws up all over him and me. Lots. Very watery, because that’s what he had been drinking when it happened. We jumped up and started getting cleaned up when Molly also threw up – twice – probably because of seeing and smelling Ben’s. Yuck! It was on our bags, our blankets, our seats, Molly’s shoes and socks, a spot on her pants, Ben’s clothes, and most of it was on my pants. The only clothes I had packed in our carry-ons were our swimming suits… because I thought if we lost our luggage at least we’d be able to swim on the beach. Well, Ben looked okay in his swim trunks and swim shirt… and Molly sat in her underdoodles for the flight while the small patch on her pants dried (we cleaned up everything pretty well with paper towels and baby wipes… but I couldn’t sit around in my swimming suit so I had to sit in wet pants… and I’m talking about 70% of my pants were drenched and then wiped down with baby wipes… for two hours. Oh the misery. Thank you to the flight attendants for blankets to wrap up in and to the lady in 38D who offered to help clean up. Also thank you to myself for having brought two packs of baby wipes, and thank you to my kids for not throwing up any more after that.
In conclusion: PACK CLOTHES NO MATTER WHAT! And, laugh at yourself when you don’t. ;O) Happy travels!