If you will be flying with a toddler, you’ll want to be prepared. Children want to be entertained on and off board! Pre-wrapping little trinkets will provide loads of entertainment and hopefully peace when you embark on flying with a toddler. 

A Bag, Wrapping Paper + Cheap Toys = happy child on plane

We’ve flown to NY several times with my daughter since she was about 1.  It can be an exhausting expedition in the air, especially when she’s tired, unruly, or bored, or even worse, all three!  

Before my 1st adventure aboard a plane I received tried and true advice from my cousin, a mom who at that point had flown Miami-Madrid several times with a toddler and a preschooler – solo!  I never could understand how she did it. I was exhausted thinking of it. Thirty minute car rides can be a nightmare sometimes, what would a 3 hour flight be like? How did my cousin make her 6 hour flight bearable?  She shared great advice about using the bathroom, changing a diaper in the air, what to have in the diaper bag, good snacks to bring and more. 

My absolute favorite piece of advice from her is the Bag of Surprises.  This bag is the perfect solution to flying with a toddler on a short or long flight. It begins at the dollar store and ends on the plane! 

On our last trip, NY for the BlogHer Conference, my daughter and husband accompanied me on the flight to visit family in Long Island while I enjoyed the conference.  I knew a Bag of Surprises was necessary.

Some of the things I’ve used in The Surprise Bag

Preparing the Bag of Surprises

  1. Visit the dollar store for cheap entertainment.  This could include coloring books, card games, stickers, notebooks, figurines and more.  Buy as many as you think you’ll need.  Figure 1 for every 15 minutes of expected flight time.
  2. Find wrapping paper lying around the house.  It can be any kind, Christmas, birthday, anniversary, it doesn’t really matter.  The purpose is to increase the excitement.  Don’t forget some tape!
  3. Wrap each gift.  Even wrap just a pen. It doesn’t matter how small.  Every “toy” wrapped will provide more minutes of excitement as it’s unwrapped and played with.
  4. A bag to store and hide these travel surprises!

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Typically I reach into the bag when necessary, that is after the excitement of the flight, window seat and safety demonstrations have worn off.  I continue to take out one at a time whenever I sense the urge to be restless arise.  It may occur in less than 15 minute spans and greater spans as well.  Every flight is different.  My daughter gets so excited about opening her “gift” that she forgets about her boredom.

We have all learned the tremendous value of the portable DVD players.  They provide great entertainment for the kids and rest for mommy on both car rides and air travel.  But as with all good things, nothing is forever!  My daughter will lose interest in the movie or show, or the battery will unexpectedly run out when we realize it was left on since our last outing.  The Bag of Surprises has no battery life, has more than one interest level and can be different for every outing.

I have found the Bag of Surprises to be very much worth the extra work to increase the chance of a happy child on board.  It isn’t full proof.  I’m sure you know that.  It’s another tool to throw in your bag, another piece to the puzzle of a Smart Mama-hood!

I welcome you to share another strategy you have for flying with a toddler.

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3 comments

  1. Michelle 24 August, 2010 at 19:05 Reply

    Great tip! I’ve done a scaled down version of this but never wrapped a bunch of small things. My kids love opening presents.

    Yesterday I flew home without kids or hubby (they fly home tomorrow) and was hoping for a peaceful flight. Boy was I wrong! The two unaccompanied minors up front were so out of control that no one in the front 1/4 section of the place could relax and they were 7 and 9 years old. They did make all the other kids look well behaved!

  2. The Dick Dujour 24 September, 2010 at 18:59 Reply

    We have used the same idea around hurricane season. New toys are far more interesting than the plain old things when the power is out and the kids are bored.

  3. 6 Best Tips for Traveling with a Toddler | Traveling Mom 6 May, 2014 at 11:49 Reply

    […] Make sure to take along some of your toddler’s favorite toys. One or two should be sufficient. This will make them feel comfortable and they can interact with them while you are busy driving to your destination. If traveling by air, having the toy accompanying them for the ride will make it less stressful. I like to pack a few dollar store gifts all wrapped up for them. During the flight they get to open their presents. This tip is very entertaining and takes up time! See here for more tips on flying with a toddler. […]

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