The next time you travel by airplane with kids in tow, be sure to prep the carry-on bag (and your mindset) for just about anything—including delays. We came up with a list of entertaining ideas for tiny travelers that are perfect for the airport; having enough snacks is up to you. Read on for 17 activities to keep kids busy until you hear the words “now boarding.”
1. Find the play area. A lot of airports around offer play areas for kids. If you've got an hour or more to kill, let your little flyers burn off extra energy. Check out our picks for the best airports to be passing through (or stuck in) with kids.
2. Play I spy. This game is one of the best ways to pass time EVER, and an airport is filled with interesting things to spot, so this classic game can potentially take up a lot of time.
3. Explore the food court. Make it a progressive dinner. Have apps at the first place, the main course at your second stop and try dessert at a third and final restaurant.
4. Let the kids unwrap a toy. Something tiny (and wrapped up tight) will keep them occupied. We've got a great list of airplane toys for $10 and under.
5. Watch the planes. Watching planes take off is exciting, and it'll get your budding pilots pumped for their own aviation adventures.
6. Make a new pen pal. Families from all over the world pass in and out of airports on a daily basis. If you wind up stuck with other folks toting little ones (solidarity, people!), strike up a conversation and maybe exchange info. Who knows how many lasting connections you might make?
7. Strike a (yoga) pose. Downward dog isn't the only animal pose in yoga. You can get little hearts pumping and little legs moving by doing a few simple stretches right in the waiting lounge. Some airports, such as San Francisco International, Dallas-Fort Worth International, and O'Hare International even have rooms designed for this exact purpose! Find more kid-friendly poses here.
8. Check out all the artwork at the airport. You didn't have time to hit up the local museum? Well, you're in luck because many airports have rotating exhibits and permanent pieces displayed for everyone's viewing pleasure. If you ask an employee, chances are she or he will have a map and will be able to point you in the right direction.
9. Bust out a busy bag. It's always a good idea to pack a few toys; busy bags are great because you can change them up every time you fly. We love this portable activity kit from Mama. Papa.Bubba because it gives kids so many ways to stay busy, and this LEGO travel set from Fun at Home with Kids promises hours of fun.
10. Go on a scavenger hunt. If you've got paper, a pen, and eager kids, then you have what you need for an airport scavenger hunt. It's easy to prep this activity ahead of time, but it's also a cinch to do it on the fly (pun intended!). If you want to leave this idea to the pros, check out this free printable from Playdough to Plato.
11. Have a thumb-wrestling tournament. 1, 2, 3, 4 ... I declare a thumb war! If there's an easier way to pass the time, we haven't found it. You can create brackets, try two-out-of-three, or challenge other travelers. One thing's for sure— there are giggles to be had any way you play.
12. Make a paper fortune teller. Do you remember making paper fortune tellers as a kid? Check out this tutorial, grab some paper and a pen, and be on your way to seeing the future (does it say when the flight will leave?).
13. Create motor skill challenges. Kids don't need too much space to take on motor skill challenges like "stand on one foot," "jump up and down ten times," "touch your toes five times,'' and whatever other ideas you have. If there aren't too many people in your waiting area, consider using your iPhone to play freeze dance, too.
14. Take a walk. With moving walkways, food courts, escalators, interesting people and shops filled with goodies, taking a walk through the airport is an easy way to pass the time. It's also a great way to find items on that scavenger hunt list!
15. Challenge your kids to a few (hundred) games of Tic Tac Toe and Hangman. Adding a few more easy pen and paper games to your arsenal is a must.
16. Play flick football. Make your own paper football and divide your family into teams for an epic game or three. If it's been a while since you've flicked a football, check out our play-by-play tutorial right here.
17. Get a mani/pedi. If the situation calls for one-on-one time with your princess, see if the airport has a nail salon on the premises. There's nothing like a little primping before going on vacation or ending your big trip with a bang.
Feature photo: Hansen Lu via Unsplash