Ideas to keep kids busy on an airplane

There’s no denying that confining kids to the closed quarters of air travel can quickly lead to antsy passengers (not just your kids, but other travelers as well if they have to listen to your children whine and cry through the whole flight). For the sake of all (yourself included) it behooves you to come prepared with plenty of distractions to entertain your kids throughout the flight. In some cases you can count on a snack, the excitement of adventure, and the lulling drone of the engines to send kids off to dreamland. But just in case, here are a few diversions to keep your kids busy when they’re stuck on an airplane.

  • Fire up the Kindle. The original Kindle is plenty good for most kids since you can stock it full of story books (or YA novels for older children). But the new Kindle Fire has a lot more to offer. This handy tablet may not be quite as spiffy as the iPad or Xoom, but with a price tag of $199 you certainly get a lot of bang for your buck. Download just about any type of digital entertainment, from e-books and audible audio to movies and games. And if you can find a WiFi hotspot (or create one with your phone) you can add more media throughout the trip.
  • Download some apps. Savvy kids are keen on technology, so if you need a quick fix for a fussy child, simply preload your smartphone with fun apps. You can load all kinds of games (Angry Birds, Plants vs. Zombies, and Doodle Jump are perennial faves), but you can also find educational apps (like math or word games) and even place-finders (like Foursquare) to let older kids pick a few locales they’d like to visit upon reaching your destination.
  • Coloring books and doodle equipment. Most kids can spend hours coloring a variety of pictures or drawing their own. But if you don’t want to chase crayons and markers up and down the aisle, think about getting your tots a Doodle Pro product. These magnetic drawing boards come with an attached pen (so it won’t fall and get lost) and some stencils to get kids started. And they have an easy slide eraser embedded so that kids can quickly wipe away creations and start anew (a genius invention for any parent who has watched a child go through an entire notebook or stack of paper within seconds, making a single scribble on each page).
  • Portable DVD player. Many parents site these inexpensive devices as a godsend. You can pick up a decent one for less than a hundred bucks, add a headphone splitter for very little additional expense (so more than one child can listen in without annoying other passengers), and bring a travel case of their favorite movies and shows for hours of quiet entertainment. They’re small and lightweight (so you can fit them in little backpacks) and cheap enough that you could get each kid their own to avoid sharing issues.
  • Travel games. These mini versions of your kids’ favorite board games are great for both the airplane and¬† rental cars¬†alike. They can even play them in the hotel. So stock up on classics like Battleship, magnetic checkers, Connect Four, and Mastermind (amongst others) for some old-school fun that isn’t subject to battery life or the whim of the flight crew.

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