Off Topic Reader 1,000 AAdvantage Miles Giveaway: Share your best advice for traveling with a 5 year old


This is a little off topic, but I’m traveling this weekend with my five year old nephew (just call me Uncle Points). We’ll be joining the family for a beach vacation.

His mom and dad are going out ahead of us to get things ready, to go to the grocery store, to buy some supplies. My nephew and I are flying out Monday to join them.

He and I have traveled together before, but always with his parents. This is our first time fly together without them.

Keeping him entertained in the air should be easy (it’s good to be alive in the age of iPad and Angry Birds), he enjoys riding in an airplane, and he’s a great litte traveler so everything should go pretty smoothly.

Of course, it never hurts to be prepared or to “know before you go”, so for this weekend’s Reader Giveaway, I’m asking for your tips.

Share you best advice for traveling with a child. And if you don’t have any, just make something up.

I’m giving away 1,000 Free AAdvantage MilesΒ and this cool AAdvantage tin of airplane shaped paper clips – they have an unpainted metal finish, so they even look like AA planes!Β (Both items are courtesy of American Airlines – thanks AA!)

Just leave your advice in the comments section, I’ll have a random drawing on Monday. One entry per person. The deadline to enter is Sunday, June 10 at 11:59 PM Pacific Time.

Good luck and have a great weekend!



  1. iPad/ other electronics are a good idea but it’s very important to not give it to them until after electronics are approved. If you give it to them before takeoff, your at risk for a huge tantrum when you have to take it away from them.

  2. Keep them informed of what’s going on: when you’re headed, how long it will take, any stops, etc.

  3. A new, little toy for as soon as the doors close. Matchbox car? Then by the time he’s bored with it, you’ll be able to bust out the iPad. πŸ™‚

  4. A natural calming agent like Natural Calm will help them be relaxed and hopefully sleep as well.

  5. Let them know about the trip ahead of time and board early so the Chaos doesn’t get to them.

  6. An Ipad or Iphone with a good Disney move works great. It will occupy them the entire flight if you aren’t going far. Bring a snack for them to eat until you get to altitude, then put the headphones in and play the movie on the ipdad. One more tip. If you have purchased any Disney movies on dvd or blueray chances are at least one of them has a digital copy and you may not realize it. look at the flyers in the sleeve. If you have one it only takes a few mins to redeem and load the movie through itunes and you don’t have to go buy anything πŸ™‚

  7. You need to have a few different things. At age 5 he will lose interest with something after about 20 minutes. 1 – have him pick out some snacks and a drink before you get on the plane. 2- let him pick a toy he wants when you are planning the trip. Try not to say you will buy it, but have it for his surprise when he loses it. 3- have multiple games. There are many travel size games, happy hippos,cards, coloring books, etc. just have enough multiple things to go with the flow. AND enjoy it!

  8. Make him part of he proccess. Kids get bored doing adult stuff, but if you can give him things to do to “help” you it goes a long way to keeping him from getting bored, and he probably likes to help. With mine, i give here a small backpack and ask her to carry some light things for me. I ask her to help me push the luggage (of course i am pushing instead) but she feels like she is helping so it keeps her engaged and not bored. bored equals trouble. On the plane I aske her to show me how to do my seatbelt, and to read the inflight magazine to me, and tell me which things she likes. You get the point.

  9. Don’t!

    Ah, but seriously folks…have a few small items, and dole them out slowly over the course of the trip when they start getting antsy. Simple read-along books; favorite stuffed animal; coloring books; a small 25-piece puzzle (available at dollar stores everywhere) that can fit on the tray table; pipe cleaners and other simple non-messy craft items; and so forth.

    As for non-PC answers, I have a co-worker who always brings Children’s Benadryl as a final option if her kid is hyperactive for hours on end in a plane. While I would personally never recommend semi-sedating a kid, my daughter is a great flyer and doesn’t need that kind of thing; your (air) mileage may vary.

  10. Talk about the trip before hand to prepare them for the trip..pack snacks, water, hand sanitizer, books to read, coloring books, games, ipad,headphones their favorite small stuffed animal, extra clothes and a small blanket and pillow. Have her/him pack what they can in a small backpack, this helped my daughter feel empowered and like she was contributing to the effort. And most importantly make sure they use the bathroom before you get on the plane..also, take advantage of pre-boarding with children (if still allowed) and you might get as lucky as my daughter did and took a picture in the cockpit with the captain!!!

  11. Keep a bottle of Benedryl in your purse for a long flight. It is harmless and a small dose of it will help your child get some sleep.

  12. My 6-year old nephew is a very seasoned traveler! Traveling with a 5 year old will be great! He’s independent enough to do some things on his own, like carry his own little backpack and hopefully past the uber-tantrum age. Here are some things I’ve learned when traveling with my nephew.

    1) A map, handheld GPS, or iPad map app so that you can point out to him the route you’ll be taking and so when the pilot says “we’re crossing over XYZ,” you can point out to him where you are. Bonus if you have the handheld GPS, you don’t have to wait for the pilot to make the announcement! At the age of 5, he’ll eat that stuff up.

    2) Loads of movies downloaded on an iPad, laptop, or a few DVDs and a portable DVD player along with some headphones. My nephew hates the earbud style or heavier earphones, so we just get him cheap foam ones.

    3) A small comfortable pillow. My nephew is at the age where he has a harder time falling asleep in an uncomfortable position. Having some sort of pillow for him is great so he can get comfortable and doze off!

    4) Snacks, snacks, and more snacks. Boredom=I’m hungry for my nephew. So we always travel with bags of snacks, like animal crackers, combos, chips, gummy bears … you name it.

    5) We’ve never done the “surprise” toys for my nephew like I see a lot of other families do. Instead, he’s allowed to pick out just a few toys from home to take on the plane (usually a stuffed animal, some Pokemon cards, and some matchbox cars). We also recently discovered that my nephew loves to play Go-Fish!

    6) If my sister is taking my nephew out of school for travel, she always gets his homework assignments ahead of time. If it’s a longer flight, she’ll have him do a few of his kindergarten workbook exercises (like sight words, practicing letter writing, etc.)

    7) I-spy is a GREAT game to play while waiting to board the plane. Also, see if your departing airport has a play area for kids. Oh, and hit up McDonald’s at the airport and take chicken nuggets with you on the plane for him to eat!

    8) Emphasize that airports can be busy, crowded places and that it’s important to you that he stay very close to you at all times and not run off.

  13. What works well for our kids are puzzle books. They make these for kids with stickers and stuff, and these have literally babysat them for an hour at a time (no small feat). Also, I’m not sure if your nephew is an airplane fan or not, but those airplane play sets that they sell at airports (although cheaper at toy stores) that include scissor trucks and planes are great for when you’re waiting at the airport (not so much in flight due to the small parts)

  14. Find a big enough suitcase so he/she will be comfortable and make sure you put breathing holes in it, so they’re not DOA.

  15. Snacks, gum or a drink at take off to help his hears pop.

    Take him to the bathroom before boarding.

    Have an extra change of clothes handy–for you and him. You just never know what’s going to get spilled/leaked/peed-in-the-pantsed.

  16. If he likes milk, like my son does, make sure you pick some up after you go through security. Also, I found that a new sticker book, loaded with stickers to peal and paste is a real winner.

  17. Honestly, coming from a Dad who has been through this many times, as sad as it is, the ipad/dvd/laptop with shows is going to work best. Make sure the headphones are nice and comfortable. Yes to the markers and crayons – and put them in a ziploc, not just the container it comes in. Yes to the snacks. If his parents are okay with it, bring gum (and buying it in the airport is always more fun for the kids).

  18. Convert a smurfs movie, few tom & jerry’s and other liked videos using Handbrake for iPAD. Upload these on iPAD and let him enjoy the movies while on a flight. I have flown now few times and I always get stares from co-travelers when he keeps on laughing watching the videos πŸ™‚

  19. Though I’m not a mom, I am the proud aunt of 4 boys! I think if your 5 year old nephew is kept cool, rested and fed, you can entertain him with the views outside his window or the games you already mentioned. One β€˜real’ piece of advice I can share would be to have some sort of pharmacist-approved nasal decongestant to keep his ears and head from clogging (nasal spray is my life-line on flights, but I’m not sure if a child can use it). Have fun!

  20. I always show my kid on a map where we are going, and then tell them how long it will take based on 30 min tv shows they like to watch. For example, we will be flying as long as it would take to watch 4 Dora the Explorer’s

  21. You could try to ask it these days, but remember the days where you could ask the crew, that they would take them for 5minutes to the cockpit to say hi to the pilote.

    I’m pretty sure he will talk about nothing else for the following hours, days,… πŸ˜‰

  22. Snacks, a lollipop to unclog his ears, his fav toy and a set of playing cards. You can put it in a small backpack so he feels like a grown up with his own bag =] You can also put a safety card in his backpack letting people to call a certain number if he gets lost.

  23. Bring an Ipad, Laptop, or anything where your nephew can watch a movie. Also, a coloring book or something to draw on can help and chewing gum in case his ears pop.

  24. Dole out the games and treats slowly. And don’t let him know everything you have until you give it to him–it will keep him from being overwhelmed with choices.

  25. give him an ipad but make him earn it. so dont give it to him before takeoff or you’ll have to take it back for a while

  26. For my 5yo, I pack one of those $1 coloring books with crayons and stickers in a bag from Target or Walmart for the time between take-off and 10K feet, her travel blanket and inflatable neck pillow we picked up a while back on an AA flight, a few books in her light-weight backback, and of course the iPad with movies and noise-cancelling headphones. If there is wifi, we message notes and pictures back and forth with family on the ground, which really cracks her up. I have her go potty right before we board, then assign her the job of finding our seats on the plane. A happy meal to be eaten on the plane, plus a few snacks and a bottle of juice in my purse in the event of getting stuck on the plane for longer than expected. A packet of baby wipes…because they always get sticky somehow…these dispose of well in the airsick bag. A full change of clothes, including underwear and socks just in case, stored in a zip-lock bag. I also bring a bottle of benadryl and advil…not to sedate the kid but in the event of an alergic reaction or sudden fever on the plane…would rather be able to treat these immediately in the event of an emergency.

    I always try to point out the nice people sitting in front of us and remind my child that when she kicks the seat in front of her, it’s like kicking them in the back and will get them very upset, which usually does the trick.

    Good Luck…I’m sure he will do great!

  27. Make sure you know his eating/bathroom schedule. Some kids are entertained by food (the process of eating it) and others will get sick on planes if you feed them.

    And make him use the restroom before you land. I forgot that once, and had a screaming toddler on my hands as we hit the tarmac. πŸ™‚

  28. Have a different snack and a different game/toy for every hour of flight, and give them out slowly! I’d also wait as long as possible to pull out the iPad.

    If you can work something with the flight attendants to let him sneak a tiny peak into the cockpit, he’d probably love that too πŸ™‚

  29. juice box, cheerios, ipad with a game on it, new coloring books and give them one at a time, not at once, it is going to be a long trip.

  30. I think it’d be nice to prep him about the trip/day of travel. They’re young, but they can still process a few steps ahead. Tell him about the travel plans (ie, taking a shuttle to the airport, wait to get on the airplane,etc).

    Might also help to talk about what to do IN CASE you guys get separated.


  31. Treat the flight/car ride/train ride/etc like a game and offer a “prize” at the end if the child behaves

  32. wow!! ALL THE ABOVE. LOL.
    seriously…..movies are great, especially if flight gets delayed. Dress comfortably. A pillow pet will help if he want to take a nap. πŸ™‚

  33. I fly with our 3 yr old son regularly, and I would agree with what everybody says about holding off on the iPad until later in the flight!

    There’s enough “exciting” things going on at the beginning to hold most kids off for a while.. Talk to him about the planes out on the tarmac, how they work, point out things on the ground as you take off, etc., etc. Kids love learning about that stuff!

  34. We always had my daughter pick out a couple of new inexpensive toys just for the flight as an easy way to distract her and keep her busy when electronics weren’t allowed, she also loved to read so we had books and when allowed, she used mom’s ipod with nice headphones.

  35. It’s all about the carry on! Make sure he selects some of his favorite books, games, puzzles and importantly snacks for this trip. If he is able to help to pack and plan this, he can look forward to it. You might even surprise him with a new book or game to enjoy too! Mostly, don’t assume everything will go as planned and be flexible…

  36. The iPad should work fine for entertainment, but you’ll need something for take-off/landing pressure changes as that is the worst part for kids. Chewing gum works great, as do Dum Dum lollipops. Have fun!

  37. This is what I would do if I have to travel with a 5 year old niece/nephew:
    all the common tips of ipad, coloring books, snacks, movies are great and they all work to some extent especially if you are their parent and know their likes and dislikes and tantrums. As an uncle, instead of doing all the hard work to keep them entertained and eventually end up exhausted of something I am not an expert of, I would ask A LOT of questions. Not to annoy them but to have them work on educating me. Here is an example, if we are watching one of his or her favorite moives, i would pretend i don’t know anything about what is going on in the movie and have the kid explain me things (again not to annoy them but to a point where they feel like they are helping me learn something new). This trick almost always work when i need to keep a kid entertained for a long time. This will even get some kids to a point where they would want you to leave them alone so that they can quietly watch their movie. Its a reverse psychology technique and nothing harmful.
    I would also agree with some other comments on pointing out things of excitements of the travel so that when they get to the destination they have some exciting stories to tell to parents and friends etc.
    Hopefully you had a great weekends getaway with family (you will be back by the time you get to read this).
    Romeo J

  38. I bet this might not be the first time for you or for the kid. Make sure you have enough rest before the flight and be engaged with the Kid all the time. He may need your attention more than anything. So pack stuff that the kid like.

    Tip: Keep boring him as you do always, he will go to sleep. Problem Solved πŸ˜‰

    Have a safe flight!!!


  39. Before your trip, ask American Airlines to send you 500 more tins of AAdvantage airplane shaped paperclips. Give your traveling five year old “road warrior” all of the AAdvantage airplane shaped paper clips, and challenge him to link them all together before the end of his flight.

    It looks like TSA will permit a five year old to carry on 500 tins of AAdvantage paperclips packed in his carry-on luggage. If he has any left over, please send some of the paperclips to me as I didn’t receive any of the way cool AAdvantage paper clips from American Airlines.

  40. Kids usually find a way to entertain themselves.
    I wish I an Uncle Points when I was a child…
    Are you flying in business class?

  41. Benadryl (just kidding.) An Ipad and no sugar for a few hours before the flight and during the flight. Should be fine otherwise, you would not have bent given the honor of flying with your nephew!

  42. iPad and about 2 dozen apps on it. My 5 yo daughter started learning Spanish on a recent trip to FLA thanks to iPad. Daddy no speak Spanish.

  43. There is a line of activity books called “Dover little activity books” that are sold by amazon for as little as$1.50. They are about 50 pages and are the size of an index card. They have mazes, connect the dots etc. I’ve found that a couple of those and a 4 color pen works as well as a larger coloring book and a bag of crayons for a fraction of the size and weight.

  44. I’m passed the deadline but I would love to offer my tips since I have a 9 month old, a 2 year old and a 5 year old that I travel with.

    1) Electronics – iPad, portable DVD player, portable game player. Any of these things are great for children that want to play their games or watch movies. Depending upon how long you are flying this is your best bet.

    2) I’m not fond of anything that has small pieces or multiple parts (ie: coloring books, puzzles or flash cards) Have you ever tried to find a crayon that just rolled off the tray table? Unless you have one of those suction cup containers that can stick to the top of the tray table, I wouldn’t use those.

    3) How about a plain ol’ book? Yes, those things do exist and can keep my 5 year old entertained. Also, homework, worksheets are also great.

    4) Silly Putty – yeah, they’re cheap and fit into a small container that fits in your hand carry. Great for smooshing around on the tray table and keeping their hands busy.

    5) I don’t like bringing a lot of toys, because toys take up space. Unless it’s silly putty, a container of playdoh, or a small brain teaser toy like a rubik’s cube.

    6) Prepare them for the flight and do some training. Teach them how to go through TSA, how to put on their seatbelt. It’s then a snap for them to do those things by themself.

    7) Snacks – Once again, the snacks is another thing I have issue with. Cheerios and goldfish I do not take because they end up in your seat, their seat etc. I take other snacks like the pouch applesauce, fruit rollups. Things that can’t roll out of the packaging or container and end up smooshed on your butt.

    8) Bring your own cup or cup with lid on the plane. Ever tried ordering from the beverage service? None of their plastic cups have lids. So bring one then you can just pour the drink you get into the proper cup with lid for the child. No accidental hand bump and liquid falls off tray table.

  45. When traveling with small ones, put ear plugs on child as soon as you board, give them something to chew on and keep the plugs on until airport arrival, it worked for me.

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