Travel activities and tips for taking toddlers on holiday

Taking your toddler on a holiday and want some tips to keep them occupied in a plane or car? Read on!

As summer sets in, a few of our little learners are heading away! The festive season is a great time to go on holiday, the weather is nice and warm, and there is a buzz in the air! Travelling with toddlers, especially on a plane, can be intimidating, but there are many activities to keep your little ones happy and engaged. 

We have learned from caring for children full-time that they love variety and enjoy being introduced to new activities as well as the familiarity of old favourites. The excitement we see in our centres when we introduce an exciting activity is infectious! Of course, travelling and potential wait times can change how your little one behaves, so we like to 'hope for the best, but plan for the worst' when it comes to travel - over prepare when it comes to snacks and activities, and hopefully you won't need to use them all.

Take a look at some of our ideas for keeping your toddler busy while travelling.

Take a Walk

When your toddler gets restless, there is nothing better than taking them on a walk around the plane - simple yet effective. Planes are fascinating for our little learners, especially those who have never flown. If you are flying with others and they may be seated away from you, you can visit them. You can see the kitchen areas, show your little one how the food is heated, chat to other friendly flyers and ask for a snack. Many airlines, especially long-haul flights, offer free activity packs for children with colouring in sheets, pencils and activities. A lap or two of the plane will settle restless legs and let your child explore their environment. It will also give you time to stretch your legs and get the blood flowing.

A Present

Getting your child to sit still on a plane can be a nightmare. Filling your hand luggage with all new things can be a great way to keep them occupied. Better yet, if you wrap each new item in wrapping paper, it adds to the excitement (and kills more time). Use the wrapping paper for drawing or origami afterwards. You can pick up puzzles very cheaply from your local op shop, they could be wrapped and added to the hand luggage. You could also ask friends and family if they have any travel games you can borrow for your trip and wrap those to add to your plane loot. The beauty is they are compact, easy to carry and light in the luggage. New colouring books and pencils or crayons are also always a winner. Colouring can occupy your toddler for a good amount of the trip and gives them a reason to be creative. A favourite plush toy could be wrapped and added to the bag when it's time to sleep on the plane; your child can unwrap this and prepare for sleep.


As any parents knows – snacks are an obvious necessity for any flight. They are a great mood improver, distraction and comfort tool. Crackers,  cereal or veggie crisps are great and healthy options to take with you on your travels, just be sure to discard any uneaten food in the bin when you reach your destination. You can pack your snacks in a lunchbox, or why not try a plastic multi-grid organiser box with many compartments to sort out your snacks and give your little one some variety? 

In addition - take-off and landing can be hard for little learners. The air pressure and noise can be overwhelming, and sometimes their ears can get sore with the changes in altitude. The best way to reduce this is to get them to swallow or suck something during take-off and landing. You may have a pouch of yoghurt they can suck on, a water bottle, or maybe even a lolly for a treat. Either way, this will stop them from getting sore ears and keep them calm and content. 

Get Creative

Having to stay sitting in their seats for a long time is not fun for children! At Genius, we find when our children are engaged in a creative activity, they tend to sit and be settled for longer. This can be replicated on a plane or in a car if need be. Of course, try to avoid messy activities! Your local discount store has lots of cheap activity packs that cost nothing and are easy to carry. 

Here are some activity ideas

-           Mini-magnadoodles – reusable drawing fun

-           Mini playdough tray and accessories

-           Sensory pouches

-           Sticker sheets (use them for sorting colours or sticking in books)

-           Busy books, colouring books, activity books – even for preschoolers!

-           Dry erase books that colour with a water pen and then dry back to normal

-           Airplane bingo (draw some things you’d like your child to spot and get them to tick them off, or take a photo with your phone!)

-           Finger puppets to create stories

-           Lego packs for little builders

-           Cereal necklaces (ask them to thread cheerios, fruit loops or nutrigrain on a string)

-           Temporary tattoos

-           Glow-sticks (put a sheet over their chair for them to start their own glow-cubby!)

This holiday season, don't stress about travelling with little learners. Get prepared, get creative with the time you will have together on a plane and use one of these top travel tips. Happy holidays!

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