When we took our first family vacation five years ago, my mother warned me: “When you have children there’s no such thing as a vacation anymore. It’s called a trip.” Boy was she right. And the more kids we’ve added to the family, the more this vacation idea is becoming a distant memory from the past.
Our family trip each year is slowly becoming more manageable as our children are able to play more by themselves on the beach and I no longer have to worry about fists full of sand making it into their mouths, but it is by no means relaxing. And the flight itself is a whole other story.
With a 5-year-old and two 2-year-olds, the thought of flying is almost bad enough to cancel the entire
vacation trip. And while I no longer have to think about diapers, pacifiers, and bottles, and I don’t worry too much about staying on schedule, they are still young enough to need constant entertainment. So I prepared my Mary Poppins bag of tricks to get us through our most recent flight without losing our minds or having the rest of the passengers hate us (as they did two years ago when one of the twins channeled the devil and cried the entire flight — in case you can’t tell, I’m still traumatized).
For each child I packed a one-gallon Ziploc bag full of the following entertainment:
This is not the time to think about healthy food! This is a time to think about what your kids will eat that will keep them happy and quiet. For my kids that’s animal crackers. You know, the old school ones that come in their own box — essentially cookies but labeled crackers so parents feel better. This is a great snack, because eating them is a game in itself. My kids like to bite the heads off first, then the tails. But they will also often break into imaginary play — and on an airplane, if you’re quiet and not bothering anyone, then by all means, play with your food!
Since gluing your child to the seat is not an option, letting them play with something that they can stick to the seats/windows is the next best thing. Although some stickers work, and Colorforms were basically made for airplanes, I have found Post-it notes to be the next best thing. They come in multiple sizes and colors and don’t ruin anything when you remove them. My 5-year-old will even build people or animals out of them.
This does not need to be expensive, because the thrill of a “present” will be entertaining enough. This year I bought a package of Alvin and the Chipmunks figurines and gave each child a few to play with.
Crayons and paper
Crayons and a pad of paper make a perfect, inexpensive, and mess-free way to pass the time with two 2-year-olds. For my son I brought a coloring book and his newest Highlights magazine.
Within the gallon Ziploc I filled a sandwich-size baggie with building toys. For my son I packed Legos, and for the girls I packed one bag of Magna-Tiles and one bag of Bristle Blocks. All are lightweight, small, and easy to travel with.
I never thought I’d be this mom, but seriously, thank goodness for iPads, iPhones, and any other piece of technology that keeps kids still. We brought one iPad and an old iPhone — these are mostly for the twins — loaded with apps. Some of our favorite apps are Endless Alphabet, DT Parents, EduKidsRoom, EduKitchen, Elmo Calls, Peekaboo Barn, and Tozzle.
In case of emergency
No matter how well prepared you are, children are unpredictable, and sitting in one spot for an extended amount of time is never easy (unless you’re home and in a rush to get somewhere — then you can’t get them to move!). So I pack lollipops. This can help with sitting still during takeoff and landing, discomfort from pressure in the ears, or simply to give mom and dad a few moments of silence.
Happy travels, and enjoy your TRIP!