Heather’s Bag of Tricks: Beyond the Ipad

We made it to Mexico…thank god it’s over.

Love vacations….just hate getting there. And we have always traveled often since the grandparents live far away. I’ve even traveled alone quite a bit with my 3 kids–anything for a few days of sunshine during a long, gray winter. The more you do it, I promise, the easier it gets. I’ve become a pro at packing for the plane and have a few unusual items (scotch tape, address labels, string) have become my friends.

I used to love the looks when I’d  walk on the plane alone with the 3 kids, carseat hooked over my arm: eyes growing wider with shock and dread (please don’t sit in my row!!!). I immiediately “make nice” with my neighbors and assure that their first drink is on me.

Before our first trip with my oldest, we got some advice from a friend: “Pack extra clothes–not just for the baby, but for you.” She went on to tell me her airplane horror story. Her child got sick on a flight back from London. After he threw up, she took satisfaction in knowing that she’d packed him extra clothes. But then he threw up again–on her.  And then on her husband. And then on himself again and so on. By the time they exited the plane, her baby was down to a diaper and her husband walked off the plane bare-chested in a blue blazer because he offered his dress shirt to my friend. To make matters worse, while she was changing into his shirt in the cramped airplane bathroom, she forgot to lock the door and a man walked in on her topless. Needless to say, I always pack extra clothes…for everyone.

For snacks, it hopefully goes without saying to keep the sugar to a minimum. And don’t forget about yourself! I am usually running around like a lunatic the morning that we leave and forget to eat. Pack fruit, nuts–protein is good!

For entertainment, my list will look odd, but I’m telling you, my tricks work. And although an iPad can be your friend, when they’re really little even that doesn’t always keep them entertained. Plus, during take off and landing, it’s not an option!

Here is my carry-on packing list from when we traveled with a three kids under the age of 5: 
• pacifiers
• sippy cup (for water)
• 2 changes of clothes
• extra socks
• extra tee for me
• 3 blankets
• lovey
• wipes
• diapers
• changing pad
• clorox wipes–wipe everything they put their mouths on before you get settled in
• baby tylenol
• oragel
• swimsuits and swim diapers (so we can head straight to the pool)

Tip: Pack the extra clothes and blankets in ziplocs and release the air to make them more compact.

In My Bag of Tricks…
1. Scotch tape. Let them try to pull it off the roll; I’d put tape on their fingers and they’d giggle trying to break free.

2. Plastic placemat, address labels and stickers. I’d tape the mat to the tray table. One, it would be clean. Then, I’d bring address labels–the kind that non-profits send you so you’ll donate money–and one by one I would hand them to my daughter and she would stick them onto the placemat.

3. Roll of string. Play with it, teach them to tie, see if they can untie it, tie objects onto it like their pacifier, toys, a sock. Bring beads for older kids for them to string. or make a necklace with cherrios or apple jacks.

4. Ziploc with strange objects. My kids loved taking things out–of a box, a tissue box, a ziploc. I’d fill it with things I wouldn’t care about losing: colorful sparkly pipe cleaners, ribbons, cotton balls. Think about filling it with different textures and colors. Obviously, depending on your child, be careful about including objects that they might be tempted to swallow.

5. Crayola Wonder. OMG this saved me plenty of times. They can color on their face, on the seat, and it won’t show it. It only works on the Crayola Wonder paper! Bring it to a restaurant or a friends’ house who doesn’t have kids and watch their reaction when your kids starts to draw on the wall.

6. Clorox wipes. Watch them go to town cleaning everything in your row.

7. “Colorforms.” Melissa & Doug make something similar to colorforms–reusable sticker scenes–that my kids loved. I’d bring a few because they’re so thin: princesses for my oldest, transportation for my middle and animals for my youngest.

8. Candy Dots: This was always a perfect treat and activity combined. I’d only buy it when we traveled. Even though it’s candy, it’s time consuming to peel the little candies off the paper. And you don’t have to worry as much about the sugar because they’re so small. Candy dots

9. “I Spy” books or just play the game. I Spy

10. The shoes on their feet. Use the time to teach them to tie their shoes.

11. Bubblewrap. They loved popping the bubbles. Bring the small bubbles and they won’t make as much noise.

12.  Rubik’s Cube. Even when they were little, they liked turning it. Older kids can try to actually solve it.

13. Balloons–an instant packable ball. While you’re in the waiting area, find a space where you can play.

14. Silly Putty or Thinking Putty. They can stretch, tear, shape, roll, and squish it. Also with the new ones, they get more vibrant in color from the heat of your hands. Thinking Putty.

15. Magnetic sticks. These are small, easy to pack and they can build with them. Tplay

16. Fidget Spinner. God help me, I’m sick of them, but they do seem to cure my kids’ antsiness!


• Cheerios or apple jacks
• frozen string cheese
• dried fruit
• candy dots
• candy necklaces–fun to wear and eat
• small peanutbutter
• crackers
• lollipops for take off
• almonds for me


More of Heather’s Posts…
10 Places ALL Kids Love…and All Parents Hate.

“If You Want Even One Bite, Get Your Own.” 
Tips for Living with a Non-Sharer.

Should You Sleep with Your Kids?

Being a Little Bit Irish

A Letter to My Teacher:
I Never Would Have Come to NYC if It Weren’t for You

Fiber-Rich Avocado & Greek Yogurt Open Sandwiches

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Author: Heather Zachariah

Former Art Director for Home Magazine, Heather Leahy Zachariah, left her career in publishing after baby number number one. She now works from home as a freelance graphic designer and a chauffeur to her 3 busy kids. "Working on TipsFromTown has been a wonderful outlet for me. It renewed my love of publishing where I can design colorful, enticing pages online and allows me to share the things I love about being a mom." Heather grew up in Shaker Heights, Ohio, a place that still is near and dear to her. " After living in Brooklyn for 18 years and studying Graphic Design at Pratt Institute, she now lives in the Jersey burbs. "I love living so close to NYC, but in my heart, I'm an Ohio girl."