Keeping your kids busy during plane rides and road trips

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A Parent Survival Guide

“Mom, how much longer? When will we get there?” We’re hardly into our summer holiday when the questions begin to fly. Within the first hour of a car trip or long-haul flight, our nerves may frizzle out. It won’t be long before we start to snap at our kids because we know that our destination is still many hours away. The children’s pent-up excitement quickly turns into an annoyance. Yet, with a bit of foreplanning and a few small purchases, we could be in for a far smoother ride. We’ll outline some tips below.

The enemy, of course, is boredom. There are only so many times we can play “I spy” before we tear our hair out. While many parents are content to dish out an iPad and let the internet do the babysitting for them, it’s currently trendy to revisit old-fashioned childhood activities. There’s a healthy move towards arts and crafts that rely on tactile skills and engage the mind in critical thinking.

The secret to managing children’s boredom is to plan a series of small activities and ration them out throughout the day. Think of them as mini-projects. By staggering them, we can quickly banish boredom as a thing of the past.

Of course, we could alleviate the problem altogether by planning our road trip or flight at night. This way, we’ll tap into kids’ existing sleep patterns and travel in silence.

Except, half the fun of a trip, especially when it’s on the road, is that our kids get to experience new places as we travel.

Here are the top five boredom busters for parents traveling with kids.

The Crafty Little Craft Pack

A travel pack should be first on our list. Aim to spend as little as possible – a dollar store is a great start. Look out for window-gel stickers and encourage your little one to create a stained-glass cathedral on their side window. Don’t hand over the stickers all at once; ration them and spread the activity out as long as possible.

Girls love things like candy necklaces, where they get to thread candy beads onto Twizzler Twists.

Playdough is another activity guaranteed to keep kids engaged long enough for us to take in the scenery for a while. We could even purchase a selection of small, cheap toys, wrap them up, and present them as gifts. Crayola magic pens and coloring books are staples likely to keep any child occupied for a while.

Slightly older kids can spend ages playing with balloons. Most dollar stores sell them with a small pump, so challenge the young ones to fold them into puppy dogs, butterflies, and pirate swords.

As a bonus, include a few healthy treats in the craft pack.

The Children’s Travel Journal

If the kids are old enough, encourage them to create a travel journal. Have them plan it before the trip even begins. Start with a map so they can mark out the route taken and the places visited on the way. Look out for historical sites, and have them draw the exciting things they see.

They can collect different leaves and flowers to press and preserve in their journals. Have them write about what they expect a destination to be like, then record the experience.
Imagine them opening the journal years later to indulge in a bit of nostalgia—what a gift a travel journal is.

The Photographer

This activity is similar to the travel journal and could even be integrated into it. Children of all ages love to take pictures.

Let them go wild with the camera, and be amazed at what they manage to capture on the road or even inside of an airplane. Again, it creates fantastic memories to savor later.

Stickers, Games, and Puzzles

Sticker books will keep children occupied for hours. It’s time-consuming to remove the sticker and paste it neatly into the correct place. This activity is great for fine motor skills, considering that the car’s sway will require extra concentration.

We could also engage our children in a card game or help them piece together a puzzle.

The Audiobook

While we try to steer clear of most technology during our trips, an audiobook still has its place. The audio stories are a great way to keep kids entranced for hours at a time. In particular, plug into anything by Roald Dahl or the Ramona Quimby Collection.

By following these easy travel tips, we create memories that can be appreciated for a long time. We might even get a chance to relax!

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