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How To Keep Your Kids Entertained On Flights

How To Keep Your Kids Entertained On Flights

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Have an upcoming flight with your kids? Then you must check out this detailed list of must haves, for how to keep your kids entertained on flights as well as airplane activities for preschoolers and kids of all ages.

Aiden at 4 years old, had already been on so many flights, both domestic and international flights; 26 states and 16 countries to be accurate.

He has been on flights as short as 2 hours (Denver – With Kids) , and he has also been on flights as long as 13 hours (Beijing – With Kids).

After being on so many flights with a toddler, I have pretty much gotten it all down, especially what to pack in his backpack. If I left it up to Aiden, he’d try to fit his train table in his backpack.

This list pretty much sums up things to keep kids occupied during short or long flights. Sometimes he is so busy with what he packs that he doesn’t even use is tablet or watch in flight TV.

I also love this list below because it’s great for when you need down time at your destination.

Before I talk about what goes in his backpack, I want to mention the most important thing – Backpack !!


Kids Travel Backpack

Over the years, Aiden has had several backpacks and luggage. When he was younger, a small kids suitcase with wheels was perfect. We’d fill it up with his essentials and he’d pull it through the airport.

Keeping Kids Entertained On Flights - Black Kids Travel

As he got a bit older, we switched to a backpack. We’ve used a few different types but our ultimate favorite is the Osprey Youth Jet 12 Backpack.  

What To Pack To Keep Kids Entertained On Flights

We have plenty of toys, books, etc that we save in our travel box. Prior to our trip, Aiden gets to pick a few things to take with him. Sometimes I’ll add a few or take out a few depending on how long our trip is.

If I left the decision solely up to Aiden, he’d put each one of them in his bag. I don’t generally let him play with the toys in his travel box at home because I want him to be excited about these items.

It’s easier to keep him occupied this way. He has plenty of other toys at home which are not travel friendly, so the travel friendly, lightweight and portable ones, I save it for when we travel.

“Below is a long list of awesome items guarantee to keep any kid busy on flights”

Reading, Activity & Sticker Books

1. A Day At The Airport

2. Little Airport Sticker Activity Book

3. My Plane Trip

4. Play Town Airport

5. My Airplane Trip Activity Book

6. At The Airport

7. My First Airplane Ride

8. 50 States Facts & Fun

9. Hidden Pictures Around The World

10. Melissa & Doug Puffy Sticker Activity Book

11. Melissa & Doug Reusable Sticker Pad 

Keeping Kids Entertained On Flights

Toys To Keep Kids Entertained On Flights

1. Safari Ltd TOOB

These are mini figurines and there are all sorts of them. Aiden loves playing with these especially the Safari Ltd TOOB – People which has everyday Heroes such as a policeman, firefighter etc.

The Safari Ltd TOOB – In The Sky which has airplanes, helicopters etc and his most favorite of all Safari Ltd TOOB – Around The World which has the Eiffel Tower, Statue of Liberty etc.

2. Magnetic Fun

Small and easy to carry these come in different varieties. There are 3 sheets of magnets in each and it comes with a carry case for easy storage and clean up. Aiden’s favorite is the Magnetic Cars, Planes and Trains and the Silly Faces Magnetic Fun.

3. Play-Doh

I can’t sing enough praises about Play-Doh. We take it everywhere, even when we are not travelling. It is perfect for little hands ans fine motor skills and perfect for the plane as well.

We purchased this Play-Soh 10 Pack Set which is perfect. We just grab and go. Make sure you close the containers well so they don’t get dry.

We also have several Play Doh Tool Sets at home, so we grab a few from our stash. Play-Doh is fun, but it is even more fun with tools. Some good tool sets are Melissa & Doug Shape Model Mold, Melissa & Doug  Cut Sculpt Roll,  Kare & Kind 16 Piece Set, Dough Tools 5 Piece, Strokes Art Durable Clay and Dough, CaryKon Dough Extruders, Strokes Arts Education Shapes and Kare & Kind 20 Piece Set.

4. Playfoam

Playfoam is very similar to play-doh, like twin sisters, but not identical. Aiden loves play foam. It has a completely different feel from play-soh, but works the same way. This Playfoam 8 Pack Combo is great and convenient for travel.

You can also use Play Doh Tool Sets with playfoam. This Playfoan Shape & Learn Alphabet Set is perfect for kids learning the alphabet.

5. Wind Ups

Aiden can wind these and laugh at them moving for what seems like forever. His favorite is the Z WindUps – Skully Skeleton. He loves these, and I’m sure other kids will too.

6. Legos

What kid doesn’t love legos? Aiden loves Legos and LegoLand. He has the LEGO Classic Creative Supplement.

We don’t take the whole box when we travel, but we do take a few in a zip lock back. I found a much better way to carry these around other than in a zip lock bag and will share as soon as I done making it.

Brickyard Building Bricks are awesome, so much cheaper than Legos, and work just as good. Our favorite set is the Brickyard Duplo Block Toys which are similar to Lego Duplo; these are my favorite because they come Building idea cards.

Also the Brickyard Building Blocks are a great addition to any Lego set because of the cost obviously. We also purchased these Brickyard Building Block Vehicles, more lego variety means more fun!

These Lego Minifigures which are also not Lego brand, much cheaper, but go perfect with any Lego set. If you want the actual Lego brand mini figurines, then the Community Minifigure Set for Role Play by Lego is perfect.

7. Mini Balls

We usually pack one or 2 small balls as well when we travel. Great past time while waiting for our flight, layovers etc.

World Map Foam Ball is our favorite. Aiden gave this to the kids at his birthday party and they loved it. We also have the Sports Balls Set and the OgoSport Mini Koosh Ball.

8. Magna Tiles

Aiden has been playing with these since he was 2 and he just doesn’t get tired of it. He has the Magformers 30 Piece Set. It’s perfect for travel and not as heavy as the others.

Other great magna tiles are the Playmags 50 Piece Accesory Set and the PicassoTiles 60 Piece Set. These sets can get heavy if you pack too many, but it is guarantee to keep the kids busy. 

7. Gel Glings

Gel cling is awesome. I even like playing with these myself, especially sticking them on the airplane window. Some cool ones are ABC & 123 Gel Clings, School Of Fish Gel Clings and Car Theme Gel Clings. Remember to snag a window seat.

8. Fidget Toys

These are great, easy to pack and keep little hands busy.

Puzzles – Flexi Puzzle or the Wood Fidget Puzzle. They are both the same except one is made from wood and the other is made from plastic.

Other nice fidget toys are: Tangle Jr Set Of 3, Toysmith Wacky Tracks and the now very popular Fidget Spinner.

9. Card Games

Aiden loves card games, so we usually take one that he pics. We have a variety so that we get a chance to play something new each time. These sets include some favorites such as Go Fish, old Maid, Crazy 8’s and Animal Rummy.

Melissa & Doug Classic Card Games Set, Classic Children’s Card Games Set of 4 (I like this set because it includes card holders which is perfect for kids) and Classic Children’s Card Game Set of 3. Looking for a value pack, this one has a set of 6 card games Classic Kid’s Card games 6 Pack.

Other great ones too are Uno Card Game, Sleeping Queens, Slamwich and Travel Scavenger Hunt Card Game

10. Sand Timer

We love activities on the plane that involves time. I usually ask Aiden to do something, and start the timer to see how long it’ll take him to complete the task. He loves it.

11. Most Importantly – Your Kids Favorite Toys

Don’t forget to ask you kid to pick 2 or 3 of his favorite toys to take with him. Guarantee these toys aren’t huge/heavy/bulky.

Aiden’s go to toys are Tranformers, Thomas The Tank, Hot Wheels Race Cars, Blaze & The Monster Machines, Paw Patrol, Disney Planes and Super Wings. Because he doesn’t have all of the mini’s, once in a while I’ll surprise him with a new one especially depending on the length of the flight.

He’s been asking for this Chase Sea Patrol, and because we have an upcoming LONG flight to Japan, I got it for him and will hide it in his backpack after it’s been packed so he’ll be extra excited when he opens it and sees it on the plane.

All these toys listed above have mini’s and are the perfect size for travel. I usually have him take 2 of each toy so that he can share with a friend.

He always makes friends everywhere we travel and it’s nice to share a toy and be able to play with them. This helps encourage him to share too because he knows he needs to pack 1 extra for a friends.

Arts & Crafts Activities To Keep Kids Entertained On Flights

1. Melissa & Doug Triangular Crayons

We used to use the round ones, and then had to pick each up when Aiden dropped them. Plus you know how tight the seats are. Trying to pick things up is No Fun! So this is the way to go. We also like the Crayola Dry Erase Crayons, although not triangular, are pretty nice too.

2. Markers

Mini markers are easier to pack for travel as they take up less space. Our favorites are Crayola Color Wonder, Mini Monsters Scented Markers, Alex Toys Young Artist Studio Color Changing Markers.

I also like the Crayola Pip-Squeaks Washable Marker Kit because it’s like an all in one, marker and paper holder with a case.

Do A Dot Art Markers are also a great addition to every travel art kit.

3. Mess Free Writing/Painting With Water Pens

This is one of our favorites, and it comes with reusable white pages and a chunky-size refillable water pen for an easy grip. You’re kids will definitely enjoy this. Melissa & Doug On The Go Water Wow.

AquaDoodle – Travel Doodle is very similar to the Melissa & Doug one above. It’s bigger and will take up more room in a backpack, but still very convenient and mess free.

Crayola Color Wonder Mess-Free Coloring also comes with a storage case and a 12 page color activity book.

4. Coloring book / pages

There are several coloring books/pages. A few of the ones we like are Alex Toys Little Hands First Scribble, Melissa & Doug Jumbo Coloring Pad, My First Big Book Of Coloring, Disney Pixar Adventure Coloring Book and Here Come The Heroes.

Most of the time instead of taking the whole book with us, we just take out a few pages from the book and that works perfect.

5. Educational Workbooks

We try to make sure that we get some learning in during our travels as well, and preschool workbooks do the trick. Some good ones are Early Learning Activity Workbook, Tracing Letters Preschool Workbook, Big Preschool Workbook, Preschool Scholar, Preschool Basics and Trace Letters.

Aiden prefers doing this over coloring most of the time, so we have several workbooks. We just rip the pages out that we need and put it in a folder in his backpack.

6. Wikki Stix

I love that you can create all sorts of things with Wikki Stix. There are a few pictures that come in each packet, and you can encourage your child to create one of them. For kids still learning the alphabet, they;ll love the Wikki Stix Alphabet Fun Cards.

7. Melissa & Doug Tape Activity Book

If you have a kid like mine, then I’m pretty sure you know how much kids love tape. Aiden is constantly taping things. Well, this is perfect for plane rides. And they get to tape the activity book which is awesome.

6. Sticky Mosaics

Aiden recently saw a few kids playing with and loved it. I thought it was pretty cool too. So it is definitely going on our travel must haves list. It kept him and him friends busy for a while and that’s a total win! Aiden likes robots so I got him the Sticky Mosaics Robots.

9. Paper 

We have plain paper at home so I usually just grab a few sheets. I also pack lined paper or a lined notebook for writing practice.

You can read more on our Homeschool Curriculum, as well as how we homeschool and worldschool on the go.

black boy homeschooled

Electronics To Keep Kids Entertained On Flights

1. Headphones

Flying without headphone ? noooo wayyyyyy !! We always pack headphones, perfect for when Aiden wants to watch in-flight TV, watch something on his tablet or even on my phone. This is a top must have. Aiden has used several pairs but out favorite is Beats By Dre Solo Wireless Headphones.

I prefer not to deal with wires if I don’t have to, that’s why we chose those for him. We all use Beats By Dre wireless headphones as well. Another less expensive bluetooth option that works just as well is the Mpow Bluetooth Headphone

Aiden’s first pair of headphones was the Spiderman Over the Ear Headphone, he still uses it at home occasionally. Other really good pairs are Kidz Gear Wire Headphones, LilGadgets Connect Premium Volume Limited Headphones.

A really good one for younger kids or kids who don’t like headphones is the CozyPhones Kids Headphones with Ultra Thin Speaker (I love this one because it’s actually in the form of a head band and super comfy.

2. Tablet

There are all sorts of tablets for kids out there. Aiden uses a Samsung Galaxy Tab 8inch. He has had this since he was 2 years old and we’ve never had any issues with it.

A good case such as the Supcase Unicorn Beetle is key because I can guarantee you that it’ll drop at least a million times. I highly recommend the Samsung tablet because it’s so easy to download movies and shows and kid friendly apps that don’t require any internet, especially because not all flights have internet.

Other good kids tablets are Apple Ipad Mini, Fire HD 8 Kids Edition, Fire HD 8 (cheaper than the kids), Orbo Jr. Android, Leap Frog Epic, Dragon Touch, and one just for babies Fisher Price Laugh & Learn Smart Stages.

3. Boogie Board

Sometimes you need something other than a tablet to keep kids busy. This comes with a pen and kids can write/draw and erase as many times as they want to. This is perfect to practice writing letters.

Aiden has the Boogie Board 8.5inch which is perfect for kids his age and older. It comes with a Boogie Board Sleeve which I highly recommend so the screen doesn’t get scratched. 

For younger kids I recommend the Boogie Board Scribble ‘n Play or the Boogie Board Play & Trace.

4. Handheld Video Games

Nintendo and Playstation makes several good quality handheld games which is another good option as well. This is common with older kids mostly. Aiden has a Nintendo 2DS. 

It’s small and handy and fits in his hands pretty well. His favorite games are Super Mario Bros (my ultimate favorite as I grew up playing it as a kid. I love it when he gets stuck and asks for help :D) and Lego Batman. Don’t forget a protective case or sleeve as well, we love the Lilyy Soft Silicone Rubber Gel Skin Case Cover.

Some other good handheld video games systems are Sony PlayStation Vita, PlayStation Portable 3000Nintendo 3DS, Ninetendo 3DS XL, Nintendo DS Lite, Wolsen Portable Handheld and I’m Game (which comes with 120 pre-downloaded games) and JXD Retro.

Electronics To Keep Kids Entertained On Flights

Other Must Have Items To Have When Traveling With Kids

1. Airplane Tray Cover

I have searched high and low and have yet to see anything as awesome as the TRAYblecloth Airplane Tray Activiy Cover.

You know how filthy some airplane tray tables can be. This is great as it has pockets to put things inside. You can also put up the tray table with ease while the cover is still on it.

2. Kids Sunglasses

Kids Sunglasses are a must have, and we take them on every single trip. Aiden own a pair of the Kids Junior Aviator Classic Sunglasses. Super cool sunshades and Aiden loves to be complimented when he wears it.

My favorite part is the carrying case; it is shaped like a car so it makes it even more fun. The Kids Soft Feel Matte Frame Sunglasses are awesome too.

Visiting The Leaning Tower Of Pisa With Kids
Click here for my post on Pisa, Italy With Kids

3. Kids Hat

Aiden loves hats. He always has one on most of the time and we don’t travel without one, so this is always in his backpack.

Click here to read my post on Cuba where this photo was taken

4. Wipes

You can’t forget this. Aiden gets his hands dirty all the time, so wet wipes are a must. Also sometimes we get on flights and the tray table doesn’t seem as clean so this comes in handy too. We use the Pampers Sensitives Travel Pack.

5. Kids Travel Pillow

If you don’t have one, run and purchase one ASAP. We use the Leg Rest Travel Pillow on every trip over 4 hours and it is perfect. Aiden is usually very comfortable and sleeps like a baby.

I usually put this in my bag as it can be a bit heavy. I highly recommend this one! It is the original one and the others came after.

A few other ones are Fly Tot Inflatable Airplane Cushion, Kuki Inflatable Travel PillowJJMG Air Travel Leg Rest Pillow. and the Jet Kids Bed Box.

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    1. July 17, 2017 / 12:54 pm

      This is so necessary, My daughter has flown a few times but she’s still pretty agitated when she does fly. The ear popping annoys her but having something to do and listening to her headphones makes her a little more relaxed.

    2. July 17, 2017 / 1:30 pm

      Wow, go Aiden!! 16 countries already??? Awesome!
      It’s so easy to plop an iPad in front of a kid on a long haul but I’m super impressed with the myriad of MEANINGFUL activities that you have for him. Way to go mom.

    3. July 17, 2017 / 7:34 pm

      These are really great tips for travelers with children. I’ve never been on a flight where there are children who aren’t well-behaved or crying non-stop (thank goodness!). Your little ones are so cute all curled up in the seats! Happy Travels to you all!

    4. July 17, 2017 / 8:24 pm

      This list is great. Many options for parents to choose from. My daughter had ear popping issues. Will hope now that she’s a bit older, she’ll listen when we say chew the gum.

    5. July 18, 2017 / 12:13 am

      I hadn’t thought about the footrest – that is very cool! My kids have the hardest time finding a comfortable way to sleep. They pretty much watch movies and play games now – they are at that age. When they were younger, I did coloring books and that was about it… this list has so much variety!

      • July 21, 2017 / 1:22 pm

        It’s a must have Eva. We did 13hrs to Beijing and that leg rest pillow was heaven sent!

    6. Riely
      July 18, 2017 / 1:55 am

      This is a great list of toys, activities for kids while travelling. I particularly like that you try to get him entertained by playing rather than occupied by a screen. Great idea about keeping certain toys for his travel box only that way he can get excited about the plane ride.

    7. July 18, 2017 / 8:49 am

      That’s quite a list for mommies out there who dread traveling with their kids. Your kid has that cheerful smile on his face in all the pics. Bet he always has a good time traveling with you.

    8. July 18, 2017 / 12:23 pm

      Oh I would love that pillow for grown-ups too! It would be so much better if we could sleep that way! ;))

    9. July 18, 2017 / 1:45 pm

      This list came just in time! Traveling with my 3 years old and infant daughter in a few weeks. I really don’t want him to be that annoying kid on the plane. Thank you for this!

    10. July 18, 2017 / 2:18 pm

      We love to bring anything drawing and creative focused! It’s amazing how much they can create with just a few pencil crayons and paper!

    11. Chaton Turner
      July 18, 2017 / 4:52 pm

      Great tips!

    12. July 18, 2017 / 9:02 pm

      Great tips! We have a small box of Lego to take also

    13. July 18, 2017 / 11:54 pm

      Great suggestions! Wish I knew about the tray table cover! Legos and sticker books were a lifesaver on our longest flights with our 2 year old- our longest was 19 hours! I love the use of the timer.,my son also loves playing the Whats Missing game.

      • July 21, 2017 / 1:21 pm

        Hey Beth, the Osprey is one in a million. And We’ve used several backpacks. I have a review coming up shortly for a few we’ve used and why we picked Osprey.

    14. July 19, 2017 / 2:39 am

      This is absolutely amazing. Great post! I don’t have kids but this will come on handy in the future. ๐Ÿ™‚ Thank you for sharing! Safe travels. – Mariella

    15. July 19, 2017 / 3:01 am

      Recently traveled with my toddler. Was shocked to see that the go to entertainment for most of the parents on the plane was tablets. Love the creativity of your ideas and especially that it limits the amount of time spent staring at a screen! Will definitely bookmark this post for future reference!

      • July 21, 2017 / 1:20 pm

        People tend to go with electronics first because it is easier. But because Aiden is world schooled, his classroom is everywhere, so we have to be ready when we travel ๐Ÿ™‚

    16. July 19, 2017 / 3:25 am

      Really Great Tips!! I always try and pack activities and things to keep the kids busy when we fly. It’s been so long since our last one and I definitely could use a bit of a update to my list… that pillow looks awesome for them and maybe me too ๐Ÿ˜‰ Thanks for sharing!

      • July 21, 2017 / 1:18 pm

        I wish that pillow could fit me comfortably. Airline seats are not always the most comfortable you know lol ๐Ÿ˜€

    17. July 19, 2017 / 4:33 am

      Such great ideas! I’ll have to share these with my mom, she has 8 and 10 year old boys and we’re all about to take a flight together next month.

    18. July 19, 2017 / 11:13 am

      Ok! Now, that’s a post that I might need in a few months! The playdoh and the legos are indeed excellent activities to keep them busy! Coloring books and markers and crayons are great way as well…Aiden totally looks happy!!!

    19. July 19, 2017 / 11:41 am

      That’s a lot of things to carry for your kid. I am sure you did not miss even a single thing to keep the kid entertained and busy so that he doesn’t trouble you. I will remember these things when I have one of my own. ๐Ÿ™‚

    20. July 19, 2017 / 11:48 am

      This is a good list, we took our 5-year old on her first flight two weeks ago. It was only 2.5 hours but she had her backpack with her. It contained her tablet, some writing/coloring/art items, some of her favorite toys and snacks.

      My son is older now but I would always buy him a small new toy for flights. It would keep him entertained even longer.

    21. July 19, 2017 / 12:28 pm

      These are great tips! I will have to share with my sister who has two little ones.

      • July 21, 2017 / 1:17 pm

        That’s amazing. I’m sure she’l appreciate it!

    22. July 19, 2017 / 12:44 pm

      Yes wonderful ideas! Travel or just sitting for too long can make kids antsy. Hell makes me antsy also so it’s good to keep their attention held. While helping to keep them clam. Great ideas!!!!

    23. July 19, 2017 / 2:26 pm

      I loved seeing his Super Wings collection. My kids did well when they were younger on airplanes. I love flying so it was easy for them too.

    24. July 20, 2017 / 7:56 am

      In Aidens photos he looks like not only is he occupied during his flight but he enjoys it too which is the most important. I took my girl on a 9 hour flight and I wish I had read your tips only keeping a kid entertained beforehand! All the items you recommend look ideal as well as the personal touch of the individuals favourite toys.

    25. July 20, 2017 / 9:24 pm

      These are some really great ideas! Thanks for sharing:)


    26. aareeba
      July 21, 2017 / 12:41 am

      Am travelling to my homecity in september for the first time with my lil one and am so glad that i stopped by your post. I never knew the importance of most of the things you mentioned. I will surely keep this in mind

    27. July 21, 2017 / 8:50 am

      Thank you for these tips. These things are always there but it never occurred that they could keep the kid busy on the long flights. I am going to pass on this post to my sis-in-law because my niece gives us a hard time while travelling.

    28. July 21, 2017 / 2:03 pm

      What a great list!! Lego is at the top of our ‘must have’ travel distractions list as well. I can’t wait to see the Lego-case you’re making. I it’s made a little fabric bag with grips on the bottom so it doesn’t slide around on the tray, and have a small baseplate with the same grips too. It works great, but I’m always on the lookout for other fantastic ideas!

      • July 23, 2017 / 1:46 pm

        We have a baseplate as well. I did not think about grips at all. Thanks for the tip ๐Ÿ™‚

    29. shannon fowler
      July 23, 2017 / 7:25 pm

      This is such a great post. Flights can get really hard for kids.

    30. Charity Banman
      July 24, 2017 / 3:55 pm

      These are such great tips. Thanks.

    31. Ellen Stafford
      July 26, 2017 / 7:11 pm

      Great tips. Flights can be so tough with little ones.

    32. Lani Nash
      July 26, 2017 / 8:53 pm

      Now this is some welcome advice! I have to take a six hour flight with the little ones next month and have been thinking a lot about keeping them entertained

    33. kathy downey
      July 31, 2017 / 11:52 pm

      Thanks for sharing all these great ideas to keep the little ones busy,it’s good to be prepared !

    34. December 19, 2019 / 2:13 pm

      Seriously the best post EVER for flying with kids! thank you so much! We are flying with our two little ones next month and I feel like I bought almost everything on this list!!!

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