The answer is…iPad, iPad and iPad. But wait!
Young children have a short concentration span and an iPad will not make the cut for a long flight, train ride or other trip. My children also get excited when traveling, so I always need to be prepared for hyped-up kids.
I began to think about how to entertain toddlers when my oldest son was two and my daughter was six months old. We went on our first long-haul flight and I was very nervous about how they would behave and whether they would annoy my fellow travelers. So I wanted to play it safe and decided to be über-organized.
In preparation for our trip, I bought my son a notebook (because sheets of paper flying around drive me crazy), crayons and stickers. Little kids love to peel stickers off and stick them on the exact same spot on the paper—they can do this for a while. I also got a few mini plastic animals, a couple of small pots of playdoh, a little plastic container (which was the packaging of one of his toys). I added a couple of books, kiddy magazines, since they are light, and of course his favorite “doudou” (i.e. security blanket). I packed them in a Ziploc bag, which I put in the diaper bag.
On the flight, I took the Ziploc out and he rummaged in it to find his toys, which was part of the fun. He then scribbled, made playdoh food for his plastic animals, opened and closed the container in which he put whatever could fit. He also looked at his books and napped. He obviously watched cartoons, but knowing that he would not be bored allowed me to be more relaxed. My daughter on the other hand only needed a few bottles and a soft baby toy. I think that the key to not having screaming children when traveling is to keep them busy. It is exhausting, but worth it to avoid dirty looks, stares and other unpleasant remarks—and we managed!