Phew. It took less time to get through security than you expected. (It helped that you explained to your little one why the airline officials needed to “take a picture” of her lovey.) But now you've got to entertain the kids in the airport as well as on the plane. No sweat - as long as you've got a well-stocked backpack at your side. Here's what you need:
- LAP TOP, iPAD, OR PORTABLE DVD PLAYER (they’ve gotten smaller and less expensive!) with headphones and movies the kids have chosen.
- PENCIL AND PAPER so that you and the kids can play word games or draw funny pictures. Throw in a pad of Post It notes or a roll of masking tape and they can make no-mess designs wherever they're sitting.
- WASHABLE MARKERS and a coloring book are always good bets for younger kids. Crayola even has a no-mess finger paint, Check the latest from www.crayola.com
- MAP OF THE COUNTRY or where you're going so that the kids can get a sense of how far they're traveling. Try Rand McNally's Kid's Map of the United States
- DECK OF CARDS so that you can teach your gang your favorite game - and they can teach you theirs. Check out Flying Rubber Neckers (You can get them on Amazon.com) or Go Fish (and three other card games in one deck) for Wildlife (www.birdcagepress.com)
- STAMPED POST CARDS so they can write one to themselves or their dog on the plane. If they send cards home about their adventures all along the way, they'll have a travel journal waiting when they get home.
- EXTRA LONGLASTING BATTERIES like Duracell or Energizer so their electronic games don't conk out mid-flight.
- BAND AIDS because they always need one when you don't have one. Get some colorful ones. When they get bored, they can play hospital with their dolls and stuffed animals.
- WATER BOTTLE like those durable ones from Nalgene that come in many colors. They become souvenirs when the kids paste stickers on them from all the places they've been.
- A BOOK for the kids about the place you're going. If you're going to New York, for example, try my new KID'S GUIDE TO NEW YORK CITY. (You can order on www.amazon.com.) Ask your local children's librarian for suggestions.
- HEALTHY SNACKS like fruit, dried fruit, pretzels or granola bars. Bring sandwiches from home to avoid pricey airport spots. Look for specially formulated power bars for kids.
- A SURPRISE GIFT to pull out when you get to the gate or board the plane. Bring a new book for your preschooler, action figure for the six-year-old, an electronic game for your middle-schooler…And on the trip home, give them that extra souvenir you told them you wouldn't buy.
- They'll be too busy to think about how long the trip is taking.
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