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Traveling with toddlers can be traumatic. But before you go rushing to cancel your reservation, know that the hardest part really is keeping them from getting bored. The rest is smooth sailing. Um, flying. Our list of carry-on friendly ways to keep your tot entertained will hopefully propel things right along.

New Toys

There’s nothing like surprises to keep a toddler busy and happy! Hit up your local dollar store and stock up. A few small figurines should definitely be on your list.

Arts and Crafts

Art is a great way to keep your toddler’s focus away from the fact that they’re strapped into a seat. Paper and triangle crayons (they won’t roll away!) are a lifesaver. If you’re into saving paper, like we all should be, a small whiteboard and Melissa & Doug Water Wow reusable water painting pads are wonderful options.


Activity, lift-the-flap, felt and, of course, any of their favorite stories and books about air travel. A Day at the Airport by Richard Scarry is a must.

Building Sets

LEGOs and Plus-Plus blocks can keep your toddler busy for hours and take up minimal space in your bag (just keep an eye out for choking hazards!).

“Restickable” Things

Think magnet activity sets, reusable stickers and window clings like these adorable animal gel clings. And don’t forget the power of tape (masking, Washi)! All of these things can be used to play an exciting, new version of hide-and-seek!

All the Snacks

Snacks that take a long time to eat are going to be your best travel friend. We suggest Goldfish, raisins, a cup of ice from the flight attendant, lollipops (low-sugar versions—you do want them to fall asleep at some point!) and Cheerios (bring a couple of pipe cleaners to have your child string them on and then eat them for a fun all-in-one activity/snack!).

Last, but not least, try to take many trips to the bathroom, and if you have the seat or bag space, bring along their car seat for familiar comfort, headphones and tablet and a portable tray. These are just a few things that will make your and your toddler’s plane experience that much more pleasant (or tolerable).

—Candace Nagy

Mother. Writer. Lover of history and nature. Read more by Candace here.