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Flying with Pre-schoolers & Older Kids

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20-hour plane ride with 5YO girl

Nov 2008

I'm going to India with my 5YO daughter in December and am looking for recommendations for plane activities. The recommendations in the archives all seem to be for younger children. So far, I have down books/CDs, card games, coloring books. She likes making things so some crafty type things that don't take up too much room, have too many small pieces, and are not too messy would be good. Games a 5YO could handle that don't take up a lot of room would be good too. I'm willing to purchase a portable DVD player but I hear they only last for a couple of hours before requiring recharge and how would I recharge in India for the return trip? The converters never seem to work very well. Thanks for your suggestions! Nervous mom of active kid


Depending on the length of the whole trip, you might want to rent a DVD player from InMotionPictures. http://www.inmotionstores.com/index.html

One thing I really liked about renting from them is they would include an extra long-life battery so we were good to go for over 15 hours. And they include some free movie rentals, too.

You could try going to a travel store and purchasing an adapter/converter (you probably need both to not fry the appliance) specific to India.

Happy travels! traveling parent


I travel with my girls quite a bit (not 20s in one flight, but a few flights per month...). In addition to what you said...

1) download some shows to an ipod...you can recharge them attached to any computer...you cut out weight and the problem of recharging. That can get you about 8 hours of time...maybe carry two ipods...I am sure that you can get a friend to loan you one...

2) Littlest Pet Shop/ponyville...I always pack a mix of Littlest Pet Shop and My little pony (the ponyville ones) with a little house...my girls can play with that for the duration of a five hour flight...they love it.

Hope that helps. Jan M


Hi! I just returned from India last week with my 5 year old (and 2 year old as well!). I don't know how your child is, but mine was just a breeze to travel with this time. American Airlines had the built in T.V./game screen, which she spent a lot of time with. We also took our portable DVD player, but didn't need to use it much. I would check if the airplane you are flying on has the individual TV screens or not. Otherwise, we bought a DVD that has 6 hours of battery life on it. We would recharge it in the airports when we had layovers, and our adapter worked fine in India to recharge it there. We did use the DVD a lot for all of the internal travel we did--on the train and in cars.

Other than that, the main thing that kept her occupied were the activity books I took along (sticker books, mazes, Highlight magazines, dot-to-dots). Those were nice because I could do them with her, but she could also do some of them by herself when I needed her to. I wrapped a lot of little things to give to them when they needed a little more entertainment, but we really didn't need all of the little toys and stuff that I brought. The 2 year old was another story for another post, but I found 5 to be a very nice age to travel with. She was aware and interested in the sites and people and learned a lot on our trip. I hope you have a great time. Kris


Check your airline's website -- some airlines (including Singapore) have movies, TV, and games on demand at each seat. There are many, many choices (obviously, not all appropriate for a 5 year old), and you won't need a DVD player. Between sleeping, reading books, playing with stickers, watching 30 minutes of a movie, etc., my 3.5 year old was only a little whiny on that flight...
I just last week got back from a month in India with our 3-year-old and I have lots of advice for you! General advice I can share is this:

* Spend extra for a ticket on Cathay Pacific, Singapore or other airline that offers video on demand. We flew Cathay and we (and my son) were amazed at the great movies he could watch (including Kung Fu Panda and various TV shows). The better airlines also have power outlets in all their seats, including coach, so ask. Make sure and buy your ticket from a consolidator to get the cheapest airfare.

* Yes, do bring that DVD player. I am usually opposed to them on principle, but my husband made me admit that the DVD player saved our hides quite a few times on this trip. The Zenith DVD player we took with us needed just a $1 adapter and no other accessories in order to play in India (we buy the adapters at the Indian shops in Berkeley to get that cheap price).

* I have loads of other info to share about natural health and food and other topics while traveling with a little kid in India, so feel free to write. Lisa


The first thing is to plan out exactly when you want active play, quiet play, video watching, eating and sleeping. Flying for so long and having such a radical time change is really tricky with kids. Be aware of sweets. We will take our 5YO on a circuit walk around the plane for 20 minutes at a time several times. We also do stretching with him in his seat. We do bring a DVD and charge it with an adapter for the trip home. We use the airline movies as much as we can and just fill in with the DVD as needed. It is hard to hear so DVD's are best if they know the movie well. We now have an ipod that pays videos and we can charge it on our laptop. It is a small screen but you get much more. You can buy spare chargers online. Regarding activities, having a bag that your daughter can choose from a variety of activities helps. We use modeling clay alot. I throw it out at the end of the flight and bring another box for the flight home. We bring magnetic books, felt activities (if they let you bring scissor, you can make the shapes on the plane) and bring blank books for him to make stories up and then illustrate them. He tells the story, I write it at the bottom of the page and he draws on the top. You can buy these books or make them in advance. I also let him buy one toy at the airport. The museum store at SFO international has great toys. Tactile toys are best. Just one more thing, we put him in overnight diapers for landing and takeoff since getting to the bathroom might be significantly delayed. Nothing is worse than having a kid who you have tried hard to keep hydrated (really important) having to wee and not being able to. He always seems to need to pee during takeoff/ascent. Must be the pressure change. Bring children's tylonol-kids get headaches when crying on planes-Hopefully you won't need it. Catherine
There is a website, which I can't remember, that will show you the type of plane you are flying in, which the best seats are & where the power sockets are. If you get a seat with a power socket, you don't need to worry about the portable DVD battery running out. Our daughter also liked listening to books on tape/CD with a Walkman once we found comfortable headphones. KEB
We have been flying routinely to Germany with my daughter since she was 2.5 years old. When she was under 5 we would wrap one toy for each hour of travel (including waiting time spent at airports), as she got older we moved into creative, flat and small art supplies, and above 9 years of age we moved on to books and airplane movies. We tried CDs, but no headphones have been good enough to block out the engine noise and other travel sounds, so my daughter gave up on that and has been happier with British Airways' kid movies and cartoon channel in additon to books. I still have some unused art items from our abundance of flight entertainment for sale: creating funny faces with Shapemaker Fun, sticker set with album to create scenes, set of 7 mini gel pens, set of 24 mini-crayons, crayon with 5 interchangeable stackable colors. Let me know if you're interested. Your child is the right age for it. Heike

Activites for long airplane trip - 5 & 7 years

Feb 2007

My children will be 7 and 5 (boy and girl) when we fly to Denmark this summer. This is the first big plane trip and I'm wondering about in service movies,dvd players and the like. Do we bring our own, good games that you could recommend etc. We'll be traveling about oh about 20 hours total. We're traveling on Delta. many thanks yeah, vacation!


I've only flown with our infant but she's been on 19 airplanes and so I've witnessed a lot of kids on flights and I can say the ones that seem to do the best are the ones that are allowed to run through the airport before they board the flight, that 2 hour wait at the terminal. Let them run and climb and go up and down the staris and escalators wear themselves out before getting on the plane. Also, if it's night time or going to be night time at some point, dress them in their PJs so they are comfy and can more easily fall asleep. Airlines usually give out coloring books and crayons but you can call them before hand to ask if they have children video games at each seat, they all usually do and have kids network TV, etc. Don't be afraid to let them walk up and down the aisle with you as you don't want them to sit for long periods without stretching. And bring food they like as they might hate the airlilne food or it might be too much sugar and get them all wound up. Remember to have fun and let them experience this and on't worry too much about the other passengers. Of course, don't let them kick the seat a lot and the person in front of you will be forever grateful. Heidi
I really suggest things that are brand new and never been seen before. DVDs are great, of course, but our favorite plane activity are the crayola color wonder markers and fingerpaints. They look clear, and only color on special paper, so there's sort of a magic element to them. Plus, they *can't* write on other surfaces, so you don't have to worry about a mess. The special paper can be pre-printed with pictures for the little one, and just blank for the older one. Jennifer
We always had ''airplane gifts'' for each girl to open, every hour. Gifts were wrapped, and selected for the child's age and interests. MadLibs were always favorites; comic books; and those magnetic drawing boxes where you turn knobs to make pictures appear on the screen. Happy travels. travelling mom
Bring your dvd player with movies since the airline may not feature appropriate movies for 7 and 5 yr olds, although you will be battery power-challenged on a flight that long. Nintendo Gameboy has games for both ages also. The big sticker books that Costco sells are helpful (usually Disney themes). Also, Kumon sells activity books (as well as other brands) with mazes, coloring, cutting/pasting puzzles, ect. They are catagorized by age and can be found at Barnes and Noble or Lakeshore Learning. BrainQuest! Polly Pockets for your girl and Rescue Heroes Micros for your son-- little toys they can play with that are easy and don't take up too much room in your carryons. Test Bendryl and other antihistamines that you can give them to help them sleep also!! if possible take them somewhere they can run around before the flight. LogicalMama
Airplane activities are key to surviving the long ordeal. We bring a portable DVD player with an extra battery, plus I shop at:

Target - the dollar bin

Snippety Crickets - the haircut place on Solano in Berkeley has some small things

Games of Berkeley - on Shattuck in Berkeley has some travel size treats

Michael's Crafts - for small, simple crafts projects I always hide half the stuff in my luggage for the ride home.

Books are good, too - but I've had more success with little toys and trinkets. Even simple things like paper clips, rubber bands, pipe cleaners, etc. can be fun. Safe travels!


I have travelled with my 6.5 and 4.5 year old daughters on long plane rides, and have the following advice:

1)There are lots of resources (printables) online. Google ''free printables'' and you will have a number of different activities that include coloring pages, bingo games, dot to dot etc. Some of the games are ones that you will probably have to engage in as well.

2) Etch A Sketch, magnetic games/dolls/scenes or COLORFORMS, cards games

3) pens & pencils, paper, glue, origami (they won't let you bring even the dullest scissors on the plane, unfortunately)

3) I highly recommend Taro Gomi's ''Scribbles'' and ''Doodles.'' They are non-traditional coloring books. On each page, there are instructions as well as the start of a drawing for your child to complete (e.g. ''Draw a picnic lunch'' with an open picnic basket.

4) Mad Libs---another thing that you will have do with them, but it can be quite amusing & fun

5) BOOKS!

6) paper dolls, with minimal pieces

7)KLUTZ projects, eg. potholders (your 7 y.o.), shrinky dinks that they can do on the plane & shrink when they get to their destination Hope this is helpful!


How about play dough? My kids are younger, but they can play quietly with it for about 2 hours & I personally can play with it for just as long. And it's inexpensive (less than $2 for 4 cans at Target!). I've brought it on the plane from NYC & it was perfect--not too messy & quietly stimulating. Bring new play dough, though, b/c it dries up on the plane if it's already a little old. Jetsetter with Kids
Don't forget to bring your own headphones for the in flight movies. They charge $5 for them. anon
We just came back from China with our 16 mo. Well, it would be very different when yours are much older. But as I saw on the flights, older kids usually can entertain themselves pretty well with activities like drawing; reading; runing around & chatting to people. There was an 8-year-old girl came to our seat playing with our son many times. Wish you have a good trip & good vacation. Good Luck
in response to whoever suggested playdoh as an airplane activity, I thought the same thing but had mine confiscated by security--they said it counted as a gel. I made it through oakland airport fine, but was stopped in the boston airport on my return flight--I guess it depends on the thoroughness of the airport personnel. no more playdoh
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