Nobody likes to read the dreaded words “airport delays” when the holiday season is around the corner…but it’s even worse if you’re about to fly with children! If you’re decided to travel with kids on Thanksgiving weekend, we have some great ideas to keep your little ones occupied. Just try to be prepared against any possible tantrum with the following tips and they’ll end up coming around.

Remember that Sugar Can be an Ally

Sometimes, a generous dose of sugar can be acceptable if you get some good behavior in exchange. Let’s say that, on travel days, anything goes.  Try to let them have a snack of choice from the airport gift shop.   Another good tip: Next year, save your Halloween candy for your holiday travel days since the portions are usually smaller.  Allowing them to have whatever they want within reason can take away the “gimmies” and tantrums while you are standing in long lines. And that’s priceless.

Surprise Them with “Lost” Toys!

Toddlers have short-term memories.  If you find small, entertaining toys they love, hide them away and pull them out for holiday travel times.  Old standbys like Play-Doh, Silly Putty, and a tiny bottle of bubbles can be life-savers.  Also, pack some tracing paper in your bag. Tracing pictures from comic books is a great time-consuming activity and packs easily in a carry-on!

Teach Them How to do Something New

Bored out of your mind during a 4-hour wait at the airport? Take the opportunity to teach your kiddos how to play chess! Or try teaching kids Sudoku or how to do word searches. Tic-Tac-Toe and a good ol’ game of Hangman cost nothing and are a great way to stop clock-watching!

Study Your Destination

If you’re visiting a new place, use the time to teach your children about geography and history.  It’s always fun to learn facts about your destination. Make it kid-friendly with a great picture book, and print pictures and information from the Internet about the place. Then, staple the pages together for a make-shift book to read on our journey.

Ask if The Airport Has an Indoor Playground

In some airports, there are hangar-themed playgrounds where kids can take their shoes off, climb, and run to burn off steam before the flight. If you can’t find a constructed playground, make your own imaginary fun…riding the trains to different terminals, for example! Kids love a good “Choo-Choo”, after all.

Book Flights that Take Off During Nap Time

If you’re flying solo, this is one of those times when it can make sense to sit in the window seat. If your child doesn’t sleep well sitting still on planes you might consider bringing a pica pole for your child’s car seat. If you manage to wrestle them down, having two seats gives you a little more freedom when they inevitably fall asleep in the wrong spot or on top of their siblings. You might try to book a window seat for older kids so they have something to lean against in their sleep.

Pack Snacks (Even if There’s Food on the Plane)

Food and kids go together, and the last thing you want is to be in line for a meal and hear that whiny voice coming from two rows back: “I’m hungry, Mommy!” If your child isn’t the type to try new things, you might want to pack some favorites. Even if your child does well at mealtime, snacks are still important. Growing bodies need fuel to keep moving! Plus, they help keep distractions at bay so you can get some work done.

Put Everything You Don’t Need in the Checked Luggage

There’s nothing worse than trying to wrangle little ones through crowds of people at the gate or on the plane and then having to gamely try and fit your purse under the seat or, worse yet, on top of some stranger’s head. Save yourself an unnecessary headache. If you can, pack a backpack for yourself that contains your wallet, boarding pass, phone, and passport. Once you board the plane, please don’t take it out until you reach your destination. You want to avoid unnecessary time standing in line and last-minute hunts for misplaced items. Make taking your carry-on luggage through security a breeze by placing the essentials inside of a cross-body bag that slips over the handle of your rolling suitcase.

You may also like: Thanksgiving Travel Tips For a Less Stressful Holiday

Give Yourself Plenty of Time

This is common sense, but it’s incredible how easy it is to get caught up in the day and forget things like that during the Thanksgiving travel season. Between checking in online (which can save you time), traveling with carry-ons only (less chance of lost luggage), and making sure that your entire family gets fed before you head out for the airport, you’ll find plenty of reasons; to give yourself extra time! Leave enough buffer room in your budget for taxis, unexpected delays, and canceled flights. If possible, book flights that allow enough time for your kids to get up and use the bathroom right before boarding. This way, they won’t have to go when you’re in line trying to find space for your carry-on luggage.

Also, set aside some extra time to have an enjoyable meal with your family before you board the plane. Keep in mind that dinner service may be limited depending on when your flight takes off. You want to leave enough time for your kids to get settled, but you don’t want them to eat too early or too late, lest they become cranky — and hungry — on the plane.

Check-in Online the Night Before (& Self-Check Your Baggage)

If you don’t have a boarding pass on your phone, there’s no reason not to self-check yourself in 24 hours before your flight. You can also check the status of your baggage and even print off a copy for good measure. If you’re traveling with only carry-on luggage, this step is essential. You don’t want to be stuck at the counter, waiting for your checked bag just as the boarding call is being made!

Have any other tips/tricks to keep kids busy while traveling on Thanksgiving weekend?

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