When the kids were little, I liked to be prepared for long trips.
When they were really little, it meant having enough food for them (including bottles), their favorite “friends” (be sure not to lose them!!), extra clothes, and some fun activities.
The key to the “fun activities” was new stuff. I often just went to the dollar store, or found cute things online or at the toy store that were reasonably priced.
I would pack in their bags some new toys and some new books. In fact on their first flight ever, I bought them backpacks (they were really little so had never had backpacks before) and presented them filled with their new stuff at the airport.
This stuff was strictly travel stuff and would only get pulled out when we travelled.
Every time we travelled, I’d remove what was outdated (or what they outgrew or were sick of) and replace with a few new items.
As they got older, I expanded a bit. They still got a new book, some new toys, and then I usually went and rented some new movies (the time when blockbuster was around:).
In recent years, as they are getting older, they are more responsible for packing their own carryons, but I remind them to pack their electronics, a book and any other item they think they would like to have (often a small stuffie is thrown in). I then sometimes add something new, and usually pack new movies or tv series (especially for road trips).
I also started packing them their own individual snack bags – which they love! It saves me from pulling out snacks every five minutes! They get a great big ziploc filled with some of their favorite snacks and treats.
With this upcoming big trip, we talked about how they will have tv’s on their seats, and they can bring their electronics and books. Santa also got them some eye covers to use to sleep, some magnetic games (chess, checkers, tic tax toe) and Josh gave everybody some warm fluffy socks for Christmas to wear on the plane.
But the other day, Zach asked me if I was going to make the “surprise bags” for the plane ride – like I used to make when they were younger. He was backed up by a series of “Yeah!! Remember when you got us those Star Wars figures, those army guys, those knights!”
So they DO remember the little things like that!
So then I’m sold! Anytime my kids remember something with such fondness, I’m a sucker.
So I’m starting to collect stuff for their surprise bags! It’s a bit harder as they are older, but art stuff, books, magazines, and travel games are for any age. I’ll only be able to share the specifics later – as I don’t want to spoil the surprise for my kids who read this now:)
But suffice it to say – traveling with kids? Prepare surprise bags and give only in the airport! New stuff, small stuff and noise free stuff!
Also prepare individual snack bags. Easy for them to manage carrying, and you don’t have to be digging through bags every 5 minutes ( you still have to monitor how much and when they are eating for the little guys though).
Then the basics: comfort toys/stuffies, extra clothing (especially a hoodie as it gets cold on a plane) and a plastic bag. You never know when you’re going to need it – trust me:)
UPDATE: Here’s what was in their “surprise bags” (kids range from 7-14 and they were a hit with them ALL!!)
– Travel journals and travel stickers
– A magazine specifically geared towards their interests
– Sudoku and word search books
– Pens/markers/glue stick
– A blank notebook that I purchased and then went through and wrote in questions of things for them to do. (There was a question section: “Name your 5 closest friends, 5 fave foods, 5 fave quotes, 5 fave movies” etc… basically a top 5 list; as well as drawing section – draw a mini super hero, a banana dancing, a one eyed monster etc)
– A couple of travel games: tic tac toe, chess, checkers, battleship
– Little boys got little sticker activities
– Lots of snacks: fun stuff like “astronaut icecream” and fortune cookies, gum, chocolate bar and then normal stuff: granola bar, dried fruit, bagel.
– Eye masks, ear plugs, travel pillow, travel toothbrush and paste