Flying With Kids

Flying With Kids

We took an eight-hour flight home from England last night (and it was loooong), but thankfully I remembered my mom’s tried-and-true way to entertain kids on planes: Usborne activity books. Have you ever seen them? My mom would give my sister and me one of their books at the beginning of every flight we took, and I remember how smart and gripping they were. The spy one was my favorite, and my sister still has it on her bookshelf. This activity book and the sticker book are great, too. Just a tip for those of you dreading flights!

How do you entertain little ones on a plane? Any other suggestions?

P.S. Ten tips for traveling with a baby.

(Photo by Stella Blackmon for Cup of Jo)

  1. I think this is an informative post and it is very useful and knowledgeable. I really enjoyed reading this post. big fan, thank you!

  2. I had that book as a kid! My brother and I would roll leaves up around pencils to make secret note depositories and leave dumb things for each other to find.

  3. Rita says...

    We made three trips around Christmas time with our almost 2 and almost 4 year olds, and were surprised that the queues were the worst part. We queued for almost 2 hours for one of the flights and the boys were beside themselves by the time we got on the plane. Thank goodness for sticker books, a colouring book with invisible ink pen, lots of little packaged snacks (doled out like gifts these can really eat up time, ha), airport pastries, and taking the double buggy all the way to the plane and ‘checking’ it in at the gate.
    Our two year old spent several hours putting stickers on a picture of a hot air balloon until they were three deep, then colouring over them all with felt pens. Another passenger came over to tell me what a wonderful mother I was for letting him make a big mess instead of trying to get him to sticker and colour ‘nicely’. If you ever want to make a mother’s day, tell her she’s doing a wonderful job while she’s wrangling her kids on a plane!

  4. Kate says...

    Great recommendations! Am I the only one who hasn’t heard of the Usborne books? We are about to fly with our 1 and 4 year olds so I just ordered a couple. Great post!

  5. Love the Usborne Books shoot out! I am an independent consultant for Usborne Books & More and love seeing and hearing praises for these amazing books :)

  6. Love the Usborne Books shoot out! I am an Usborne Books & More Independent Consultant and love hearing and seeing other people praise this amazing books :)

  7. Jenn says...

    For our trip to the UK, I stockpiled small toys and kept them hidden until we got on the plane. (Schleich dinosaurs, mini sticker books, etc.) Worked well on the way over. On the way back, it was iPad games all the way before our 3-year-old finally conked out.

  8. Seraphim says...

    I agree that Usbourne sticker books (specifically ‘Sticker Dolly Dressing’) are great for travel – my 5-year old daughter loves them and will spend hours playing with them on the plane and during long road trips. I like that they have vacation/travel, work, and ‘adventure’ girl themes in addition to the standard princess/ballet fare. My 2.5 year old son is harder to keep occupied but we found that buckles (, a truck coloring book, and a variety of Little Golden Books (lightweight and easy to stash in a carry-on) helped keep him in his seat. They also both love surprise ‘treasure’ pouches (age/gender appropriate trinkets in small zipper bags – rocks, plastic animals, old keys, strings of beads, etc…)

    • Thanks for these recommendations for a 2.5 year old. Will be purchasing them for our upcoming trips :-)

  9. I wish there was something that captivating for a 1 year old kid. I have a 18 hour long flight coming up and it’s first time for me and wife traveling with our 1 year old kid. I am absolutely scared of being judged by fellow passengers like we have been doing till now.

    • Rita says...

      One of the first flights we made with a toddler and baby, a sick and crying baby, we had just taken our seats when a couple walked past and the woman said “only an hour and a half to go!” I’ve been unsympathetic to families with children, especially crying babies on planes but also mothers with large strollers in small cafes and more, and I recognised her displeasure. This particular flight there was a Goth angel sitting one seat ahead and across the aisle, she turned back to my miserable babe and reached out a beautifully manicured hand for him to grab. Her nails were glossy dark green with letters on each nail in some curly font, I can’t remember what words they spelled. She ‘cooed’ and soothed and held her hand for him to play with for the whole trip and he was besotted. It still fills me up when I remember her kindness.

  10. Meg says...

    Flying 25 hours in December with a 23 month old and a 5 year old, Perth Australia to NYC – are we crazy? Yes. Will we make it? Who knows. After reading these comments I am really starting to worry!

    • Tanya says...

      Good luck! We are in Perth as well and my husband’s best friend has moved to the US and is getting married in St John’s in Canada next March. My twins will be 23 months old.

      The furtherest place from St John’s in the world? Albany ? We are almost flying to the opposite end of the world!

  11. Rebecca says...

    As ever, you are so incredibly timely! Thanks for these tips. I’m currently filling up my carry on for flights from LA to Paris to Toulouse to visit family with a (near) 3-year-old and a 6-month-old. 11 hours in a plane with 2 munchkins (and hubby)…eek!

  12. Amy says...

    The Usborne sticker books are great! I’ve bought almost all of them at this point for our frequent road trips….

  13. Jess says...

    Ooo thank you for the Usborn rec! The last time we made the 10 hour flight to England from LA with our then almost 2 year old, it was inevitably the things ON the plane that kept him most entertained. The touch screen and seat belt fastening and unfastening ended up being way more entertaining than the books and toys I packed! And somehow, someway we survived the whole flight without a meltdown. Whew!

  14. We’ve never taken a flight with kids but I (when I was a kid) took a few. Sticker books are the best!!! Just be careful! Make sure you get all the stickers off of clothes before you wash them because your clothes will end up with a gross adhesive spot that is a pain to get out! Haha! #momlife

  15. Yael says...

    OMG I had the spy one, too! Loved it so much that I was looking for it again recently as a present for someone.

  16. We recently went a 5 hour flight with our 2 year old, and while he’s too young for activity books, sticker books were a savior! We had two new ones for him on each flight to and from. We also had a small army of trucks, cars, and airplanes. When all else failed… we totally handed him the iphone which we had loaded up with Daniel Tiger, Thomas, and this Lego train building app he seemed to really enjoy.

  17. Alexandra says...

    My son is a bit too young and restless (almost 2) to really get absorbed in activity books. We had a six-hour flight recently and by far the best time-killers I brought were:

    – a pill case filled with stuff. You know like those daily pill sorters that ill or old people use to keep track of their medication? They usually have a push-button opening mechanism, for arthritic hands, which toddlers can do on their own. I filled the pill parts with some cheap pony beads, pom poms, pennies, a couple Shopkins here and there, whatever. Stuff I didn’t mind losing. Opening and closing the lids, moving stuff from one box to the next – it ate up a ton of time.

    – a roll of masking tape. This was the big one. I ripped off pieces and he stuck them wherever. On his face, on the seat, on my arm. Masking tape comes off super easily so I didn’t need to worry about residue or leaving a sticker-covered tray or anything.

    • Rita says...

      These are brilliant ideas, thank you!

  18. My husband and I just took our almost 2 year old on her first flight and I literally just wrote a post with some tips on traveling with a toddler on a plane! I took all of the most important tips that I gleaned after my travels and shared them in this post:

  19. This is a fantastic tip! We’re headed on a lengthy road trip soon and those books would be perfect for my twins.

  20. Thanks for sharing this! We recently traveled with our twin 5-year-old girls to Hawaii and they did great. They were enamored with having their own little tv and choice of movies. On the way home, however, the entertainment system on the plane was broken. We brought some activities but they did get bored with them after awhile. These activity books would have been amazing!

    XOXO, Amy @ Jeans and a Tea

  21. Renee says...

    We loooove Usborne activity books! They are expensive for one-time use but worth every cent. My kiddos love the dress-up ones. This awesome toy is our secret to entertaining a 2 or 3-year-old on a long flight:
    On our last flight to London, however, my 2-year-old dropped the stylus between the seats before takeoff and we could. not. find it, even with flight attendants helping us. I had brought nothing else for him to play with as I was counting on it so much! Talk about parental panic. :-)

  22. Aimee says...

    Yes! Great tip! I have a 16 hour flight next week with my 4 year old and 11 year old! Wish us luck :)

  23. Lindsay says...

    Couldn’t agree more. Love Usborne. One of their sticker books kept my 3 year old going for a whole 6 hour flight and while his little brother napped during our holiday last summer. Will be getting another for this year’s holiday!

  24. Sadie says...

    So timely! Our family is moving to the UK soon, and I’ve been coming through all your travel-with-children posts for tips! My son is about the same age as your Anton, if I remember right. My biggest fear is long TSA lines with a little guy who is already quite anxious to get on the “huge plane!” Since we have to be fingerprinted for our visas, I’m hoping we will be able to sign up for TSA pre-check at the same time, but I’m dusting off my waiting strategies.

  25. The present trick, at least one per hour, helps. Though a security guard once unwrapped them all (and they were books, for crying out loud). Activity books, crayons, paper dolls…..once they get to screen age, movies and games keep them occupied.

  26. Sally says...

    Eek, am I the only mother that’s like ‘unlimited iPad time for all!’??

    • Ari says...

      Nope! My air travel motto is airplane buffet: all the ipad you can watch and all the snacks you can eat :)

  27. I don’t have kids of my own but I remember my dad and mom always talking to me back then. They actually talked to me about what I would like to do during the trip, or they would quiz me about school. They also read stories to me. My dad once told me to imagine the plane like it was a submarine and that I was driving it. I was somewhat quiet and just made “submarine noises.” We didn’t have iPads or high-tech gadgets then.

    My young cousins do the coloring book, reading children’s books, or last resort: iPads and iPhones. Sometimes they just fall asleep. Australia to USA can be really tiring.

    Ron | Nearby Wanderer

  28. JulieB says...

    I’m British and thought Usborne Books were just a UK thing. They truly are the best. Have you read the Farmyard Tales series? They are great for toddlers.

  29. I’m not sure if it’s quite a travel tip but that new Pok√©mon phone game sure kept my gorgeous 2 year old niece entertained at a family gathering this weekend.

  30. Lauren says...

    Osborne books are the greatest! And I love their “my first sticker book” line of books. Definitely amazing for my two year old- I have to help her read, but she does most of the work. We have a HUGE stash of stickers that we bring, some sort of new crayon/washable marker, iPad for movies (many of our flights are 5 or 6 hours), Melissa and Doug puffy reusable stickers are a huge hit, small paperback books (light!), pipe cleaners and pom poms are fun (sorting, twirling around fingers, etc), and any new snack. Can you tell we fly a lot? :)

    • Lauren says...


  31. That spy book is the BEST! My brother and I had a copy and we loved it!

  32. I don’t have kid yet, but I always like to take notes on anything related to kids :). I already wrote down those books you recommended as well.


  33. I am co-owner of a company called FlyKids and we make fun custom boxes for kids that contains both snacks and activities (or only the toys/activities) that keep them happily entertained :)

  34. Love this! Always looking for good ways to travel with the kids. Thankfully my little one sleeps most of the way right now, but definitely good to keep these in our back pocket.


  35. VP says...

    Thanks for this! I will definitely come back to it when my little one is older. I just wrote a post on traveling with an 8 month old (cross country from East to West coast).

  36. Good one! We fly 20+ hours twice a year (Singapore/NYC), so I’m always looking for new amusements!

  37. Jessica says...

    We fly red eyes with our preschoolers, and normally they sleep a good part of it. I always grab activity books and coloring books that are new and pack them in their carry ons.

  38. Movies and games. When traveling I throw limits on screen time out the window for the sake of sanity.

  39. Carol says...

    When my kids were little I used the present trick. Every hour, I would pull out a new book or small toy or snack that was wrapped like a present. They could always wait “one more hour” to see what was coming. This is especially good for long road trips where space is not an issue.

  40. Esther says...

    You are making me a better mother. Thank you for the tip!!

  41. Kristen says...

    How do you deal with the time change?!

  42. Marcy says...

    I wish I’d had these for the second half (the boring “let’s get home” half) of our road trip.

    Is it weird that I tend to avoid Usborne books because of the Usborne book parties that litter my FB feed?

  43. Ooh, I’m a long time follower of your blog and longtime fan of Usborne activity books – and just became a consultant for them a couple months ago – I did a party and couldn’t believe how many AMAZING books they have that my kids LOVE. Been so much fun being part of this company :-)

  44. We’re flying to Paris on thursday with our 2 under 2!! Eeeek! I had the same idea and bought a couple of activity books recently which I’m planning to bribe the toddler with and hope the baby nurses and sleeps most of the flight!! Wish us luck!


  45. Stacey says...

    Schleich animals. A sack full kept my 3 yr old entertained for the entire trip to Australia. 23 hrs!

  46. Alice Quin says...

    Omg this post is a flashback!! I loved that spy book when I was a kid.