Parents and carers of young children all know the struggle is real when travelling with little ones. Add on the stress of working out how to keep them entertained while confined on a long-haul flight, and it can definitely feel chaotic at ALL times!
While many of us may not openly admit it, the trusty old iPad or phone is usually our default go-to if the kids are in need of some entertainment and distraction.
If you’re scrambling for ways to travel with your little ones without relying on an iPad or phone, I may be able to help!
I’m a mum of 3-year-old twins, who, as you can imagine, are full of energy and unbounded curiosity. We’ve been lucky enough to have travelled interstate and overseas as a family many times over the past 3 years, and as you can imagine, it hasn't always been smooth sailing. However, with the help of many other parents who’ve been there and done that, we’ve found our secret sauce to travelling in relative peace without resorting to an iPad or giving up our phones.
Yes, it can be done, in 8 different electronics-free ways!
Is how you keep your 2 year old entertained on a plane. I once travelled solo with my then 2-year-olds from Sydney to the Gold Coast to visit family. My husband needed the iPad for work, which made me a little anxious, as I was convinced that it would be a crazy trip with two unsettled toddlers and no screen to distract them with! I managed to gather my wits together, and purchased some stickers branded with each of my kid's favourite cartoon characters and small notebooks from our local dollar store, at a cost of $8 all up. I was amazed that the whole hour flight from Sydney to Coolangatta was spent peeling the stickers and placing them in the book (and sometimes on the windows, tray tables, armrests and my forehead… but it was a small price to pay, and I swiftly cleaned those up before any airline staff noticed).
It’s touted as the "The Ultimate Travel Pack for Kids"! I’ve had plenty of fellow twin parents swear by the Keepemquiet packs, especially for long-haul flights. The packs include activity books, snacks, games and toys, and are customised according to the age groups: 1-3 years, 3-5 years and 5-10 years. The best part is, this awesome company also has some handy products for parents and carers to use while their young ones are happily occupied on the flight… warming eye mask or your own big-person colouring book anyone?
3. A Lunchbox full of goodies.
If Keepemquiet isn’t within your budget, or you were late to the party and missed the deadline to place your order before your flight, then a trusty old lunch box, Tupperware container, or in my case, old empty Roses Chocolate tin will do the trick. I stopped at our local supermarket the morning of our flight to Fiji and purchased some small age appropriate toys (play dough, Hot Wheels cars and Lego Minibuilds), placed them in the tin and hid it in my carry-on luggage until we were seated on our flight. The moment I pulled out the tin, the twins thought it was Christmas all over again!
4. Snacks, Snacks and More Snacks!
Travelling inevitably means the kids’ normal routine flies out the window. Packing extra snacks for the flight will help avoid both kids and parents getting "hangry". For me personally, I avoid any sugary foods on flights because it sends my troops a bit wild, so I always have a bag full of easy fruits like grapes, berries and bananas. I also make sure we have plenty of small packets of snacks like pretzels, popcorn or messy monkeys quinoa bites, maybe a croissant or two… and my secret weapon… oatmeal green smoothie muffins - full of protein and veggies, but masked as mini cupcakes. Winner winner muffin dinner!
5. Go for a walk.
Walking up and down the aisles (when safe to do so) is a great way to keep little ones, especially babies and toddlers entertained. Contrary to popular belief, most people actually love little kids on planes. You're likely to get a knowing nod from fellow parents, or a sympathetic smile from those who’ve been through it all before.
We were on a flight recently with my husband’s brother, where we were in economy (myself, my husband and the twins) and he was in business class. One of the twins kept himself entertained by making his way up to business class, crawled under the velvet rope and hung out with his uncle, charming all of the airline staff in the process. Now, I know this would likely be a big no-no for anyone over the age of 4, but for us, it was a great trip because our little man (and his uncle) were happy the whole flight!
6. Washi Tape.
Similar to masking tape, but with lovely colourful patterns to choose from, Washi tape is made from all-natural materials like hemp, rice paper or bamboo and is an eco-friendly biodegradable alternative to sticky tape. It’s also easy to remove without causing damage! The little ones can entertain themselves by taping each other, their toys, books, mum, dad etc etc. It's something they wouldn't normally be allowed to play with… forbidden items makes it that much more interesting: )
7. Get ‘em cleaning!
Yes, really! This may seem a little left field, but I once successfully kept the twins busy for 25 whole minutes using baby wipes to clean their seats and tray tables. It may have been a one-off, but it was a successful activity for that particular flight. When in doubt, improvise!
8. Drawing and colouring in.
An oldie but a goodie! Pack a trusty colouring book and packet of crayons or pencil case full of pencils and markers. It's a classic, affordable activity and great for developing fine motor skills if your little ones are still learning to hold a pencil. Bonus!
Well, there you have it, 8 device-free hacks to keep your young ones distracted from the trials of travelling.
And if these 8 device-free tips don't work for you, there's absolutely no shame in bringing out the trusty iPad or phone. As a parent, you need to do what you need to do.
While travelling with young children can be daunting, don’t shy away from it! The experiences you’re giving your family will stay with them for a lifetime, creating lasting memories you’ll all treasure.