It takes about 8 hours to fly from Boston to San Diego. This doesn’t include showing up to the terminal at 5am with all your stuff in tow, getting through security, waiting patiently through the twenty minute delay to board the plane, and sitting through the layover in Newark or Houston. That’s a long time, and it’s trying on even the most patient of adults. You sit, wait, try to sleep, and glare at the person in front of you as he leans back and digs right into your knees.
Now factor in kids.
I’ve racked up around 40,000 miles domestically in the last four years, and I’ve seen a bit of what works and what ends up backfiring. Here are a couple of ideas, both age-specific and good for everyone, which will help to make that plane ride a little less trying.
1. The Goody Bag
Sun Tzu (Art of War) once said “If you know your enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.” Your enemy is boredom. Water is provided, food can be acquired, and when tired enough, kids can fall asleep anywhere. The key to defeating boredom is simple: something new. So make sure that you’re prepared with a surprise!
Take a bag with you in your carry-on and fill it. It’s not important what’s in it, so long as it’s new. Each item will grant you ten to twenty minutes of entertainment, possibly thirty to an hour for a few bigger pieces. Quantity is a bit more important than quality. New packs of stickers, small stuffed animals, Melissa & Doug Color Blast/Water WOW, small packs of art supplies, bubble or glitter wands, Schleich animals, a new toy car, BrainQuest, squares of bubble wrap, and other small items are all great. For younger kids, the more things the better. For older, having a few larger items (say a fancy new coloring book, like the Doodlepedia) will probably have more success.
The key to the Goody Bag is: Wrap. Everything. Every single pack of stickers, every little animal. Everything is a new present. It’s like Christmas all over again! I’ve had customers from all over the globe swear by this method. You don’t even have to do it yourself – we’ll happily wrap everything for you here at Magic Beans, free of charge.
2. Look Where We’re Going
Looking forward to your destination is a good distraction for being on the plane. Try a city-themed activity book, with new crayons and stickers, and a few themed snacks. If you’re headed to Pennsylvania, throw in a few Hershey’s Kisses for the Hershey’s Chocolate Factory, or bring along some applesauce for the Big Apple.
3. Red Eye Ready!
Spending the night in the air? The best way to pass the time is to sleep. Why not head to the airport in your favorite pajamas and fuzzy socks? Once you’re on the plane, kick back, watch a late-night movie, get out your trusted teddy bear, and get some shut-eye. Noise cancelling headphones and a small packable pillow/blanket are also fun!
4. Windows are Toys, Too
Find some reusable, easy peel-off stickers. Put kiddo by the window, and you’ve got an instant image-changing playscape! Try pirate stickers while going over the ocean, cowboy or farm stickers for over the midwest. The possibilities are endless. And looking down at the world below you is an activity in itself!
Most older kids (8+) will make it through with Minecraft or the latest Pokemon game, or even the newest Rick Riordan book. Tablets often backfire with the younger kids though: they get frustrated with their game, or the battery dies, and crankiness can quickly set in. Also avoid any smaller toys. Things like Polly Pocket, LEGO, games with lots of cards or pieces, and other little items are just going to be a reminder of how little space you have when nothing fits on the little tray in front of you. Also, you will inevitably have to fish pieces out from under/between the seats, which is very unpleasant. Particularly if you have another little one in a Moby Wrap!