I’ve been on many long flights with my son domestic and international, from the time he was 6 weeks old until present day (he’s 4).
I try to think of things that are cheap, easy to pack and replaceable.
I’ll try and add to the list if I discover more.
- Balloons – they are cheap, packable, easy to pick up at stores no matter what country or town you’re in. You can blow them up and let them fly around, discover new sounds by pulling the lip of the balloon and there is always bouncing the balloon in the air. This is my favorite pre-boarding gate activity. It’s fun, people think it’s cute, it isn’t loud, and expels a lot of energy. Be careful on flight that it doesn’t become a “spring break” beach ball balloon or that the screech or pop of the balloon doesn’t scare the hell out of passengers – nuff said.
- Wiki-Stix – discovered as a freebie in the kids activity kit at Grand Lux Cafe & PF Changs-Bonus. This is like a pipe cleaner but instead of fuzz, it’s covered in wax. They are cheap, even free if you save them up on restaurant visits. They are quiet and easy to pack. They are flexible to make any shape or figure including jewlry. My son made us all eyeglasses.
They stick to anything. This is a bonus because they stick to windows, bags, tray tables, ect. and are removable. I will tell you this, I have had them stuck to my carpet and stepped on. It’s removable with a little effort and little damage. I’ve had them melted on the patio and they are scrapable with the back of a kitchen knife.
- Activity books – There are TONS in the airport and some at most toy stores. They are usually under the travel section or under books. I prefer the ones with magnets just because stickers can be hard to remove. Be aware that when packing magnets DO NOT store near your electronics, such as a laptop or cell phone. It will hurt the screens at the minimum. My favorite is the bob the buildre typ of books. Ours has a screwdriver. It keeps my son busy fixing things from the taxi ride, to the gate, to the flight. Once on the flight the white noise helps quiet the clicking noise of the screw being turned.
- Games – games like Simon Says (minus the big physical movements) can be great. They are quiet, free and weightless to pack.