Traveling with children is terrifying. During my maternity leave with Zach, him and I went to Vancouver four times, drove six plus hours to Ottawa three times, and we did a family vacation to Mexico. We did A LOT of traveling with him. When I was pregnant with the twins, we made plans to go to Vancouver when the girls were four months old, but once they were born and we realized we were nuts to even consider that. We did however take the girls to Mont Tremblant, which is only an hour flight from Toronto, while Zach stayed home with my mom.
What we learned quickly when traveling with Zach as a toddler was that we needed to be super prepared to keep him busy in the airport and on the plane. I found around 18 months old was when he really needed lots of things to keep him busy. Here are my top 10 ideas to keep a toddler busy on a plane, in a car, on a train, or just waiting around the airport.
- Snacks, snacks, snacks, and more snacks. This is number one as it’s most important. You cannot pack enough snacks for a toddler. Putting snacks like crackers or goldfish in containers they can hold themselves is great, as are snacks that come in their own packaging like granola bars or mum mums so you can just throw the whole thing away once they’re done. Avoid messy snacks if possible because inevitably your toddler will finish their yogurt, which is now all over their face and hands, and immediately flip over or jump on you and now everything’s covered in yogurt.
- Ipad. If you let your toddler have screen time this can be key to keeping them in one place and calm. If you’ve never let your child use your Ipad, but want to for your trip, I recommend practicing for a few weeks before you leave. Netflix kids will let you download shows so you don’t need wifi, and there are a ton of great apps for toddlers.
- Yogurt container and pom poms. This has by far been the best ‘toy’ my son has ever had. Seriously, he still plays with it now and he’s 2.5 years old. I took a medium sized yogurt container, washed it out, poked about 7-10 holes in the lid, and filled it with medium pom poms from the dollar store. He spent a very long time poking the pom poms through the holes, emptying the container, throwing pom poms, etc. By far the cheapest and most entertaining activity.
- Water Wow. This is made by Melissa & Doug, is small, and is sold in pretty much every toy store, and online. It’s very similar to a coloring book, but the brush you use to color is filled with water. When you paint over the pictures, color appears to complete the painting. Once it dries, you can paint it again. This can be used over and over again, and because it’s just water, you can fill it up pretty much anywhere. Plus it doesn’t spill as the water is encased inside the brush.
- Gel window stickers. I bought these at the dollar store and stuck them on the windows of the plane as soon as we sat down. My son had a great time peeling them on and off, and sticking them to the back of the tray table. Buy more than one pack though as they tear easily and can’t really be reused or saved for later.
- Colouring book, crayons, and stickers. Pick up a cheap colouring book, crayons, and stickers from the dollar store. This is simple and will keep their attention for a few minutes.
- Books. I always bring at least 5-8 of their favorite books with us on the plane. I never bring new books my son hasn’t read yet, because he is a creature of habit and only likes reading ones he’s read previously (insert eye roll). Avoid any that make sounds as your neighbors probably don’t want to hear a cow mooing for several hours.
- Photo album. We have a small photo album of family members which my son loves to flip through. He looks at this regularly at home so definitely keeps his attention on the road.
- Pill box. Get one of those weekly pill boxes from the pharmacy and put a Yogurt Melt (or something similar) in each day compartment. You can refill it once they’ve gone through and emptied it all, or they may want to put the pom poms in it. Either way, minutes of fun.
- Favourite toys. I always bring a few of my son’s favorite toys, as I know he loves them. He use to love this little six pack of toy eggs, so I made sure to have that in my backpack.
Rotate all the activities you brought regularly to keep your kids attention and busy throughout the trip. No matter what, you’ll get through it, it’s just a little easier if your kids have something to keep them entertained, even if it’s just for 3 minutes!