My Secret to Flying with a Kid

| April 22, 2015

People often ask me, How do I fly with a kid?  What do I do to keep her entertained?  Isn’t a flight too long?

I’ll share with you the main trick up my sleeve, but you must understand that they work on a kid who initiated this conversation the other day:

Sequoia: Mommy, how long will the flight to Florida be?

Me: About ten hours.

Sequoia: YIPPIE!

little girl in an airport with a suitcase

Seriously: the kid loves to fly

Sequoia was six weeks old when she took her first of 8+ cross-country flights, and she took the first of her 5+ transatlantic flights when she was five years old.  There have been a few additional domestic and international flights here and there in between.  The kid has flown.  The secret since she was one, which remains my current tactic: the Surprise Backpack.

The surprise backpack has changed forms a few times over the years, but the concept is always the same: cram a backpack with stuff she’s never seen before.  Age-appropriate books and activity books, new colored pencils, snacks, party favors, etc.  Stuff that will not only keep her busy, but add the busy-time of distraction as she discovers each new thing.  Plus, she looks forward to the backpack, which she can’t open until the flight–so she’s looking forward to the flight!  YIPPIE!

little girl in an airport with a backpack

In the past I have included Happy Meal toys from when I escaped the house and ate at McDonald’s by myself.  Don’t judge.

Sometimes I have a theme.  When we were flying to visit family one fall, the backpack included a color-me stuffed witch, Halloween stickers, a Halloween activity book, a tiny Halloween paperback book, Halloween snacks, etc.  For a Christmas flight, I did the same (Christmas is the easiest time of year to pick up cheap holiday crapola at Target or Michael’s).  When we first moved to Germany, her backpack included a teddy bear in Lederhosen, Germany stickers, American flag stickers, a book about saying goodbye, etc.  A trip to Disneyworld included cheap Disney toys (the easiest thing in the world to find), printable coloring sheets, a Mickey Mouse book, Disney fruit snacks, etc.

These days, there is no longer a theme, probably because I just don’t have that kind of energy anymore.  The theme is Get on the plane.

little girl coloring on a plane

The Color-Me-Witch itself lasted about a week. I don’t care. It got me through a flight.

We are preparing to fly to Florida in a few hours (you know, with me blogging instead of showering at the moment).  Sequoia, even at nearly 8 years old, is excited as all get-out to find out what is in her Surprise Backpack.  There’s a new American Girl book (my God, does she love their books, probably because she thinks it’s going to help her be a typical American Girl when we move back to the States); a blank notebook; a Frozen activity pack; a Monster High fashion book (because she really needed another damn fashion book); and a few travel games she’s never seen.  She’ll still take her DS and a book to read, because she’s going on eight and stickers ain’t gonna cut it.

I just asked Sequoia what she likes about the Surprise Backpack.  “I have surprise activities that I can do.  And I’ll be more excited about the flight and be more excited about…um…more excited about the activities that I get to do on the plane.”  Okay, I never claimed she was a public speaker.

But seriously: cut down on your flight frustration with a Surprise Backpack.  You’re welcome.

little girl in an airport with a teddy bear, duffy bear disney

PS- for really long flights, take a Boppy.

PPS- secret to early flying: breast-feed during takeoff and landing

PPS because I like you- secret to early flying: breast-feed during takeoff and landing



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Category: FAMILY, Family Travel, In Germany A Broad blog, Travel, Uncategorized, US Travel

About the Author ()

Kari Martindale is a writer and ESL instructor. She’s visited all 50 states and 37 countries, including many of the big cities of Europe and a ton of Christmas Markets. She spends her days straddling the fence between a sense of adventure and a sense of dread. She is married to what is clearly a patient man and has a daughter who, frustratingly, is just like her. Her academic and professional backgrounds are in linguistics and foreign languages. When she's not teaching ESL, she's writing. When she's not writing, she's thinking about her next trip.

Comments (2)

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  1. Karen says:

    We do the exact same thing! Invisible ink books are a HUGE hit in our house.