Category Archives: Travel Tips

Favorite Preschool iPhone Apps for Travel

It’s mid-December, so it’s probably time for you to get on a plane with the kids. You would rather wait in line at the DMV for six hours with no coffee.

Thank goodness for modern technology!

Here are the apps that saved us on a 4-flight journey (round trip) to see our family in Florida. The Momsicle Facebook community helped me improve my selection of iPhone apps for the kids (ages 3 and 1). Please leave a comment to let us know what your own favorites are!

Momsicle’s Favorite Preschool iPhone Apps

Trucks by Duck Duck Moose

K-Pants–the three year old–could choose to drag a car through the mud and then wash it; collect trash and recycling; load and move dirt with construction equipment; direct traffic with a traffic light; or fix flat tires at the mechanic.

Finger tapping is incredibly simple in all options except the trash and recycling game (but still not too hard there). Since we couldn’t pack our Tonka trucks in our carry-on luggage, Trucks by Duck Duck Moose was the next best thing.

Toca Train by Toca Boca

This game feels like being on the Island of Sodor. If your child is a Thomas fan, we highly recommend it.

Kids can drive the train around, blow the whistle, pick up passengers, and carry and drop-off freight. It helps to have an adult practice with the preschooler for at least the first time or two, because they might miss stations or have trouble with the speed lever. But once or twice was all it took for K-Pants to be independent.

Monster at the End of This Book by Sesame Street

It’s a classic and Sesame did a great job bringing the book to life in this app. K-Pants thought Grover was so funny.

K-Pants’s favorite parts were the interactive pages: snapping the ropes and breaking down the brick wall (above). It helps to show your preschooler how to switch to a favorite page. The down side to this app is that it can take a while to load from page to page, and preschoolers don’t have much patience.

Toca Kitchen Monsters by Toca Boca

Toca Monsters

Kids choose a monster and then decide what to feed it from the fridge. They can choose how to cook the food (chop, steam, sauté, blend).

Toca Monsters Kitchen

K-Pants really loves to blend things because the blender makes the phone vibrate. He ground up a lot of sausage and raw meat. Luckily his monster preferred them that way…


A HUGE thank you to the Momsicle Facebook community for suggesting so many apps. We were saved because of it! We downloaded lots more that we really liked. These were the standouts. 

Note: All of these games are more like toys: you can play with them in various ways. Which is great for preschoolers (it can be stressful to try to “win” a game, especially when it’s hard enough to master the controls of each game). Also, I was not in any way sponsored by any of the developers of these games.

14 Tips for Flying with Young Kids

The quickest advice: Don’t do it. Now go have a glass of wine.

Everyone hates to see a family with young kids get on the plane. And you know who hates it most of all? The parents. I would rather be getting an enema, washing my hair with hot tree sap, or eating a can of spray cheese topped with Lucky Charms and mayonnaise. If you know me, that’s about as low as it can get.

But we just got back from Tampa and we survived four flights with a three year old and a one year old. Everyone is remarkably intact. K-Pants threw up on the first flight during the bumpy descent, so that was awesome; but because I was prepared with a full extra change of clothes for him and Baby Woww (whom he also sprayed), things were alright.

How to Survive Flying with Young Children

1. The short answer: drugs.

I packed liquid melatonin, children’s Dramamine, adult Dramamine (don’t forget to take care of mama!), Ibuprofen, and nighttime Orajel (Baby Woww was teething). We’ve used Benadryl in the past, but I forgot to buy it in a small enough container to pass through security. I am NOT a doctor, so don’t consider this medical advice. But I will say that I experimented with each thing before taking it on the plane, to make sure nothing had the opposite effect on the kids. And I follow dosage instructions. If you’re going to give the kids something, make sure you do it 20-30 minutes before you want it to take effect.

2. Pack in advance. I’m admittedly neurotic, but I feel like packing one week before the trip is crucial. That way you can assess what you need to go to the store to get. I knew to go find the Orajel that was missing from the liquids/drugs bag, and I had time to search out extra headphones and phone chargers. It’s the worst feeling to realize at midnight the night before the trip that you need something critical. Plus, the night before your trip, you NEED to sleep.

3. Use technology to your advantage. We have an iPhone and a tablet that–thanks to you, readers!–were filled with kid-friendly games. We bought the Fisher Price iPhone Apptivity case, and it worked great for the kids to hold, and–bonus!–it made it easier for me to find my phone in the seat pocket or travel bags (it’s hard to lose a phone when it’s being hugged by a colorful baby rattle). If you have a toddler who doesn’t constantly press the home button on your phone, then don’t worry about a special case. The one year old always pushes the home button, and the case has a feature that makes it so the child can’t do it.

4. If you can separate the kids, do it. This was unexpected. I feel like when we travel together I can only survive if my husband is next to me as another enforcer and source of moral support. However, the biggest problems we had were generally due to the baby wanting something the preschooler had, or vice versa. So they mainly fought over things, and there’s no good place for time-out on a plane (although for something egregious, the back area near the restrooms will work). On our return trip my husband got upgraded to first class with the baby, and it was much less stressful for each of us. And I have to give my husband credit here, he let me choose where I wanted to sit and I chose coach with the three year old, because flying with kids aged 9-months to just under three years is the WORST.

5. Pack lots of snacks.

This is a no-brainer. Try to make them a real mix of savory and sugary, so that you don’t have sugar highs and sugar lows. Things wrapped in shiny wrappers always work well for us, so we had Luna bars and fiber fruit bars. K-Pants is obsessed with cough drops, so we brought a bunch of those. We also got popcorn and apple crunchy straws from Trader Joe’s. TJ’s is perfect for these kinds of snacks. I recommend trying out any new snacks on the kids before the flight so that you know what they’ll really go crazy for.

6. Pack little toys and games.

This is mainly for the preschool set. Though my friend Emily had finger puppets for her one year old, and felt cut-outs entertained both kids when I stuck them on the seat backs.

7. Bring books, especially audio books. We stopped at the library before the trip and got some paperback books about K-Pants’s favorite things (trucks, boats, trains). It was nice that the books were new. We also looked for audio books that I then downloaded onto an iPod, so that the toddler could listen during the flight. NOTE: we haven’t had any success with either of our babies wearing headphones. But now that K-Pants is three, he wears them fine. We practiced with the headphones the week before.

8. Label things. One of the hardest things when traveling is that everything is packed so neatly in bags that I don’t often use, so it takes me way longer than necessary to locate the medicine or the headphones. Meanwhile, someone is having a meltdown. I went overboard and labeled the zippers on my backpack with “Liquids” and “Technology” and it was awesome.

9. Bring lots of extra plastic bags.

You can never have enough. You’ll need a couple for trash as the kids eat snacks. You’ll need some for soiled clothes or diapers. I also packed all snacks and toys in bags that we could then reuse later. Just throw ’em in and I guarantee you’ll use ’em.

10. Bring your big stroller. We could have gotten by easily with a single stroller in Tampa, but the double allowed us to strap two tired kids in at the airport, or have one child in the stroller with a suitcase in the other side. Options are endless, and you can gate check that bad boy for free.

11. Don’t be afraid to buy media and food on board the flight. I was frazzled and exhausted on our second flight to Tampa. I’d been thrown up on the flight before, and my airport burrito had canned corn in it. I was in a MOOD. Eight dollars for a little tapas box on the plane was definitely overpriced, but it was just the gourmet pick-me-up I needed. And paying for DirectTV came in handy for kids movies, and sports and adult entertainment (not that kind!) when the kids were napping. Just put out of your mind how overpriced everything is: Your in-flight sanity is priceless.

12. Park at a long-term lot that drives you directly from your car to your terminal. You know flying is going to be nerve-wracking, so why start it out with a frustrating trip from the outer banks of economy parking, where you have to wheel all your gear to a bus stop and wait. We used Air Park at the Portland airport, and they come to your car and drop you off at the terminal for a little less than $10 per day. Worth it if you have to leave your car.

13. Practice before getting on the flight.

The kids don’t usually play games on the iPhone or tablet, and I didn’t want the plane to be the first time, because there’s always a little frustration in learning something new. So we talked about how exciting the flight would be, and practiced with the games and the headphones beforehand. We also practiced with wearing the carry-on backpack.

14. Pack a full set of extra clothes for each child. Comes in handy in soooo many ways: accidents, throw-up, spilling ginger ale…

Please add your tips so that others (including me!) can benefit.


Want more family travel advice and ideas? The Travel With Kids page has links to useful travel posts by other parent bloggers.


Toddler Exposes State of Air Travel

I got back two weeks ago from traveling alone with K-Pants on three flights. I get very anxious flying with Mr. Pants. Packing a toddler on your lap for hours and hoping he’ll be saintly is a bad wager. But you know what I realized? The toddler is not the bad part of flying: Flying is. (Especially since I give Mr. Pants a little something to make him sleep most of the way.)

K-Pants is simply the bellwether that exposes the ugly state of air travel.

Like the Terminix guy. We know termites are bad. But we don’t fully understand how horrible they are until the Terminix guy comes to unveil the rotted out house.

K-Pants is my Terminix guy.

Pre-Pants, I could get on a plane with a book and some headphones, pop a sleeping pill, and write off the whole experience as a bad nap. Not anymore. Now I have to travel with my eyes open.

And what I’ve discovered is that the stress on airline workers is so great that many rely on badgering the innocent to let off some steam. I don’t really blame them. Air travel sucks. But I’m a little tired of the maltreatment.

For instance, pregnant and with a toddler in a baby carrier on my front, I wandered up to the boarding gate of my first flight…

  • Excuse me. Will you be boarding families with young children first?
  • The attendant’s eyes popped out of her head: We don’t do THAT.
  • I shifted to show her that I was actually pregnant AND carrying a toddler and a diaper bag and a carry on. That’s about 60 lbs. of human and miscellaneous cargo.
  • She raised her eyebrows with an expression that said, You chose to procreate. We don’t have to cater to your whims.


At least, I reassured myself, I was seated at the back. They board the back first—after the platinum-silver-copper-chrome-varnished-opal members. But I looked at my boarding pass and I was in group 4: code for “steerage.”

Apparently United now boards window seats first, then middle seats, then aisle seats. Right-e-o. So if you’re trying to be a considerate parent and sit on the aisle so you have a quick escape in case of outbursts, you are punished with steerage boarding.

  • Isn’t there anything you can do to help us? I asked another attendant.
  • Well next time you can buy a window seat.

I would love to do that except that next time you’ll be boarding by color-coordination and ambidexterity. None of this makes any sense!

Some very funny blogging friends and I posted tips on surviving air travel with kids a little while ago. And while I do follow the advice, I think the best dictum I can give right now is just stay at home.

Sanity Travel Tips 4: Other People’s Kids

So you are single? Or married without kids? You can’t afford business class, so you’re sandwiched in coach? Read Fizgiggery’s incredibly practical travel tips. You’ll feel better about air travel. I promise.

But what happens when you’ve prepared everything to turn your 6-hour flight into a high-altitude spa, and suddenly you find yourself seated next to someone else’s “little darling”?

Hopefully the Little D’s parents will be like my friend Amy–a mother of three–who is a much better person than I am. She says:

  • Buy drinks for the adults around you if your children are less than perfectly behaved. It will smooth many ruffled feathers.
  • Also, remember how annoyed you used to be at kids kicking your seat or screaming on a plane, and try not to get mad at or self-righteous at others. Yes, they have no clue what you’re dealing with (or they’ve forgotten), but air travel is that much worse with loud or bumptious children. So take the glares in stride, do your best to persuade your child to conform to airplane behavior, and offer that drink.

But on your next flight, if you are stuck with a wild beast-child next to you, whose parents are totally oblivious and are definitely not purchasing you drinks, then try these tips from Marisa (who wrote a fabulous Barefoot Contessa Smackdown post recently)…

How To Use the Items in Your Seatback Pocket to Entertain Someone Else’s Child

The bachelorette weekend has come to a close. Nursing a wee hangover and grinning at the memory of your wild exploits, you settle into your aisle seat prepared for a three-hour flight home. All of a sudden, your freewheeling, child-free life of disposable income and limited responsibilities is interrupted by someone else’s darling in the seat next to you.

You didn’t envision playing Mary Poppins today.

But it’s time to put your big girl pants on and just deal. Don’t turn into a glaring curmudgeon… there’s already plenty of them on this flight and that poor mom or dad sitting next to you doesn’t need another hostile glance. We’re all in this together, so let’s make it fun.

Look in the seat pocket in front of you: these will be your tools for the next three hours.

1. Barfbag Puppet Show: Collect all barfbags from your row. Using ball-point pens or any other school supplies you can find, decorate them with funny faces, mustaches, hair, or accessories. Be sure to drag out this step to consume more time. [Editor’s note: Good thinking! Are you sure you don’t have kids? Also, I love that this one involves collecting ALL the barf bags you can find.] Then it’s time for the show. Add silly voices and familiar storylines from Disney movies–the whole process might consume thirty minutes.

2. In-Flight-Magazine-Turned-Children’s-Book: The reading material won’t keep a child riveted (“Boise’s Top Ten Steakhouses” didn’t have you hooked, either) but you can use the in-flight magazine as a delightful “I Spy” book. Flip it open and play twenty questions. The smaller the kid, the simpler the game. For a two-year-old, just ask, “Do you see a whale?” or “Show me something that’s green!” For an older child, make it a little more complicated. “I see something that’s small and gray. Can you find it?”

For older kids, there’s also the ever-hilarious game of “Find the Craziest Piece of Junk in the Skymall Magazine.” Each contestant gets sixty seconds to find the wildest item in the catalog, and then face off. Who will win: the rock that contains an outdoor speaker, or the BBQ tongs with built-in thermometer and AM/FM radio? Game on!

3. Someone is Hiding on This Plane! While the concept of in-flight stowaways will not entertain paranoid adults, you may be surprised at how entertaining this game is for little ones.  Find out the child’s name. Then open your palm and tell them that there’s a “Mini Michelle” or “Mini Max” on your palm. All of a sudden, the little fairy flies away! Where did he/she go? Ask the child if they can see where their miniature fairy self went. Let them get it completely right on the first try (“Wow! You are so good at this game!”). Then make it a little more challenging. Have the kid ask you “Is it in the seat pocket? In the window? On my head?” You can take turns, too, with the child “hiding” the miniature fairy and you doing the guessing.

4. Fall into a Deep Sleep: If you’re really not in the mood for Supernanny duty, it’s time to collapse into a coma. Put in your iPod earphones and close your eyes tight. At first you might have to fake that you’re asleep, but after twenty minutes you might just trick your body into conking out. If that doesn’t work, it’s Miller Time. Sure, alcohol prices on planes are extortion, but that might be the best fourteen dollars you’ve ever spent.

[Note: This is the last installment of the travel series for now. But I would love to link over to your great travel tips, or post your ideas! Just write a comment and I’ll get in contact!]