46 Entertainment Ideas for Plane or Road Trips with Kids
Updated: Mar 30
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Nothing invokes more fear in the mind of parents everywhere than trying to imagine flying inside a small fuselage with young children at 35,000 feet with no escape for hours. You can do all the planning that you want but when it's go time, you're at the mercy of your kids and the kindness of strangers.
I feel ya. I've been there. I am there. My kids are starting to get to the age where it's highly possible and even likely that I am going to just hand them a device so that I can enjoy my book or magazines in peace.
Travel Tip: By as many small and light things as you can put in a backpack and still have room for any other necessities like snacks, water bottles, wet wipes, and hand sanitizer.
The good news is that if you are in that season of your life when you have small children and find yourself on an airplane, it is just that: a season. You will get past it. But in the meantime, here are some tried and true ideas to keep the peace on the plane. Oh, and for the parents with older, elementary-age kids, don't worry. I got your back too:
46 Travel Entertainment Ideas for Kids:
1. Get a window seat for your child
Kids love to look out the window. Heads up though - kids love to play with the window shade and the tray table. To help out with the window shade issue, consider buying...
2. ...Window clings
This way, your child will enjoy playing with the window and not the shade!
4. Matchbox cars
You can buy these for about $1 a car. I suggest buying a few and handing them out periodically.
These are novel fun if your child has never seen one. I quickly realized that my kids are much better at it than I ever have been with one:)
6. Fidget spinners and fidgets (e.g., squeeze ball or pop-its)
I knew about fidget spinners, but pop-its were new for me. Um, consider me addicted. It has the same satisfaction as popping the buttons on a restaurant soda lid.
7. Dry erase board and markers
It's a drawing pad, a tic-tac-toe board, and anything else that you can think of to draw
8. Melissa & Doug water WOW "paint" books
These are great because you just add a little bit of water to them, and the kids can color without making a mess. Once it dries, you are ready to color again.
9. Coloring books
10. Fashion Plates
My daughter is a fashionista. She loves to make the outfits and then turn the tiles over and add patterns to them. Should you get the Melissa & Doug cutesy ones or the originals? I think we both know the correct answer.
Endless ideas. And if you're like me and your mind just goes blank, Pinterest will hook you up with some great ideas.
12. Scavenger hunt
Obviously, you can't really get out of your seat and look, but there are plenty of things around you to look for without getting up
13. Pipe cleaners
What did I say about Pinterest and Scavenger hunts? Yeah, ditto for pipe cleaners. Check out the adorable ideas in the picture below though. I am so going to make the flowers and vase for myself.
14. Soduku books
I've included the link above for the Sodoku book that I got for my daughter right after she learned how to do them. I think they are appropriate for ages 7-11, maybe even 6 years old. These are 4x4s, 6x6s, and 9x9s to build their confidence as they get better at the skill.
15. Mad Libs
This is also a really tricky way for your 2nd-6th grader to learn / practice grammar. Muhwahaha!!!
16. Spot It
This is a really fun (and fast!) game even for adults. It says 14 and up but I have no idea who decided that - my kids both started when they were 5 years old. It's pretty addictive. A game takes 3 minutes or less.
17. Twenty Questions
No supplies are needed!
18. The Alphabet Game
Here's another one where all you need is at least two people. You can pick a category, like food, or you can just keep it simple and leave it open to anything. The first person says something that starts with the letter "A". The next person repeats the "A" word and then adds a "B" word. The next person continues repeating the words that have already been said and then adds a new "C" word. The game continues until you reach "Z". If your kids are too young to remember all the words, you can also modify it to just have them say a new word with the new letter vs. trying to recite the previous words. My kids LOVE this game. It makes me happy because my and my family used to do this on car rides when I was a kid
19. I Spy
You know the drill. "I spy with my little eye..." and then the person adds a detail like "something that has a red and green light (ex: the bathroom sign). People have to continue to guess what it could be until they get it right and then it's their turn.
20. Rock, Paper, Scissors
21. Thumb War
22. Tic Tac Toe
The link for Tic Tac Toe, Squares, and Hangman all take you to a notepad set that you can buy that has all 3 games. Do you need a pre-made notepad? Heck, no. You can use your own paper and pen. I will say though that a pre-done notepad can take my kids from uninterested to interested pretty fast. I think they are suckers for packaging.
23. Squares Game
24. Hang Man
25. Would You Rather...
Again, do you need a book? Nope, you can come up with your own. Do your kids come up with absolutely insane scenarios that are completely unrealistic? Yep, they all do. This book can help with that.
26. Word Searches
28. How-To Drawing book
My lovely SIL introduced me to these Kawaii drawing books. They are step-by-step drawing instructions with the cutest little creatures ever. I'm a terrible artist, but I have fun drawing these creatures with the kids.
29. Highlights Puzzle Games
My kids are hit-or-miss on these puzzles. I'm including them though because I used to love them as a kid and I can't figure out why my kids aren't into them.
31. Go Fish
32. Old Maid
Yep, this should have been higher on the list. Just checking to make sure that you are still paying attention.
36. Blanket and pillow
Not only keeps you warm, but can be used as a fort. Even better if you can get your child to take a nap. I seldom have luck with that, but what an exciting surprise when it happens!
37. Notebook and crayons and/or markers
38. Origami paper
My 9-year old loves to do origami. She makes boxes, butterflies, whatever she can. Yet another Pinterest opportunity for ideas:)
Here are some good travel books to get your kids excited about the trip.
41. Map with where you are going and facts about the places that you are visiting
The link above is a neat travel journal with maps and suggestions of things to track on your trip.
42. Metal container with alphabet magnets
This is both fun and functional. The metal container serves as both a holder for the magnets and it also lets the magnets stick to it.
43. Rubik's Cube
44. Lacing Cards
45. Anything else from Dollar Tree or another Dollar Store
Yep, it's junk. Glorious junk that makes your kids happy for a bit. And the best news is, they've probably lost interest by the time the flight lands so you may not even need to take it with you. I'm not advocating such waste, in general. But again, flying 500 miles per hour in a metal tube calls for desperate measures to keep kids happy.
And when all else fails...
46. ...Movies and TV shows on a Device
Oh, who am I kidding? There is absolutely nothing wrong with shoving a device in your kid's hand and just surviving the flight. I'm a big believer in keeping the peace.