Traveling with a 3 Year-Old

So, my son is very close to 3 years-old. We’ll be traveling by plane to visit my father and step-mother just two days after his 3rd birthday. He has flown a few times, including across an ocean (he slept most of it), but this will be the first time he has his own seat on an airplane. I have to admit; this makes me a bit nervous. He is a typical little boy; very mischievous, and never wanting to sit still for more then a couple minutes at a time. I’m also a bit nervous about our layover. I’ve never had one where we have to catch a bus on the grounds to get to our connecting terminal; all within an hour (assuming we land on time), with a 3 year-old, and our carry-ons. I’m tempted to buy a cheap little stroller for him, just to make things easier on me.

So, how am I to entertain the boy while we fly for 2 hours, and then for another hour. I know, that’s not very long at all. Doesn’t matter; at his age, it’s stressful either way. I’ve looked around online for some ideas. I have to admit, I was a bit disappointed with most of the ideas I’d see in other blogs. Why on Earth would someone bring tiny things that can be thrown everywhere (much to the airline attendants delight, I’m sure) like the little pom poms craft items. Okay, sure, those can be used in several ways for great little hand/eye coordination or fine motor skill practice. But on a plane? Seriously guys? 3 year-old boys tend to throw things, and make a mess at every opportunity. Yea, I was a left a bit unsure of how to entertain him. I do have a few ideas though.

  • Flash cards: For this, I would use ones from the dollar store, or make your own. I have a couple sets already from the dollar store though, so I will be taking those. Being from the dollar store, I don’t care if we lose them. Aside from using them as flash cards, my son likes to have them upside down and flip them over and look at the different cards. We could even make a memory game out of it.
  • Books: If you don’t want to take any of your own books, surprise the little one with new ones. I would suggest getting these also from the dollar store, or even better at Goodwill. I just bought my son some new books for the trip, and I got lucky and Goodwill was having a 50% off sale, so his books were only 25 cents each. For on the plane, I could read them to him. I don’t think other passengers would care that much. Also, he likes to look through the books himself and point out different pictures.
  • Toy cars: Again, from the dollar store. I wouldn’t take his nicer hot wheels, because I wouldn’t want to risk losing them. My son can pretend anything is a road, so I wouldn’t need to worry about that part unless I wanted to. I plan on getting a few, and giving him one at a time. I hope to be able to go at least 20-30 minutes before having to give him another car.
  • Coloring toys: At the dollar store, dollar general, and lots of other places, you can find these little travel coloring sets that come with 4 crayons and a character themed little coloring book, and sometimes stickers as well. I have a few of these set aside. We have hot wheels, Jake and the Neverland Pirates, Mickey Mouse, and a couple others. I’ve seen these made in all sorts of different kids characters, and only a dollar a piece.
  • Tablet games: We don’t own a portable DVD player, or I would have said that as well. However, our son does have his own tablet (he got my first one after me and my husband got new ones. I wouldn’t just buy a toddler a tablet; a first gen Kindle Fire 7″). I plan on getting him a couple new game apps that I think he would like and not putting them on his tablet until the night before the trip. As well, I’ll keep a couple on there that I know he really likes that he already has. Our cable company has an app that will let us download shows and movies to watch offline, so I will be downloading some of those as well. If they won’t fit on his tablet (the first gen Kindle Fire really doesn’t have a lot of room), I’ll put them on a sd card and let him watch them from my tablet. That should take up some time at least.

I know that’s not a lot of ideas, but I am still coming up with them. We have a little under 2 weeks to go until our trip, so I have time to add some ideas for how to entertain him.

What would you add to the list? How do you keep your toddler or preschooler entertained while traveling by plane?

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