Flying with kids: my top 5 activities & toys to bring

Bringing along some toys and activities for your kids when you're going on a flight is a must. However, there are some things you should consider when it comes to what is appropriate to bring.
  • Don't bring anything noisy, since it's likely to annoy you and your fellow passengers.
  • Don't bring anything messy (messy crayons or permanent markers, for example), since it's likely to, you know, make a mess.
  • Don't bring anything with lots of really small parts (the little accessories for My Little Pony is one example), since those parts are likely to get lost. 
Truth be told, my kids usually spend their time on other things when we travel. I'd say that their top 3 things to do when we're traveling by plane is:
  1. watch the planes on the tarmac while we're waiting at the airport,
  2. have me read them books (paper books, or Kindle books) while we're waiting at the gate for our flight to leave,
  3. and... watch movies on board the plane once we're in the air.
Still, I'd never get on a plane without a supply of things to do for them stashed in our hand-luggage. My kids are currently 5 and 9, and obviously what's best to bring changes with their age and their interests. Here are the top 5 things that work best as entertainment for them on long flights right now.

1. Sticker books
This is one of my favorite activities to bring along for the kids on flights: easy to pack, and not messy to use. The kind with the reusable stickers that can be re-positioned again and again are the best, but any kind of sticker books will do. My kids love the ones where you put dinosaurs or animals in various landscapes, or the ones that involve putting together goofy faces with stickers for eyes, mouths, noses, and so on.

2. Colouring & drawing supplies
I always pack a  pencil case with colored pencils, washable markers, or regular crayons, in our hand-luggage, along with a couple of coloring books, or just a pad of plain paper. It's a great way for kids to pass the time, on board or at the airport.

3. Travel-sized matching games or memory games
My daughter especially loves these kinds of games. She has an alphabet game she really likes, where the a puzzle piece with a letter fits together with another puzzle piece that has a picture of something starting with that letter. That game usually comes along on the trip in a ziploc bag. It's not always easy to use on board the plane, but it makes for good play at the airport.

4. Hand-puppets
I'm a sucker for hand-puppets, and I always bring at least one with me on our trips. When the kids were younger, these were usually a sure-fire way to entertain them even when they were crying. Even today, some silly hand-puppet moves with an even sillier voice to go with it, can make even a grumpy, jet-lagged kid smile.

5. Rubik's twist or other hands-on puzzles
On one of our trips a couple of years ago, the kids were each given one of these toys as part of their on-board "goodie bag" (I think it might have been on a Lufthansa flight). Both kids found them fascinating, and they're good for twiddling and fiddling with. They also seem pretty much indestructible (my son is a good tester for that...). Other hands-on puzzles that might work well are Rubik's cubes (very old-school, but maybe old-school enough to be cool by now?), and the peek-a-boo bags where you have to squish it to find the various items inside.

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