Traveling with trays

The complete set of our in flight activity containers and two trays, ready for take off.

We are heading to California this week so I’ve been gathering items to surprise my boys with for our plane ride. I picked up some new coloring books and stickers, and finally invested in some Crayola Color Wonder markers and paper. I also liked the idea I found on Pinterest of decorating the plane window with gel clings, so I added those to my cart in the dollar section at Target.

Beyond that, I spent some thinking about how we work and play at home and what would make the boys feel comfortable on the long flights but also in the hotels during our ten day trip. The first thing that came to mind was how we pretty much always define workspaces with trays and immediately about a dozen lightbulbs went off at the thought of bringing trays on the plane.

First, it really opened up the possibilities of what kinds of materials we could bring. The lip of the tray will prevent small pieces from falling, rolling crayons, etc. I also remembered that using a car seat on the plane means the table doesn’t fold down from the seat in front. I had visions of magnets and dry erase markers and loose parts.

I set out to find toaster oven sized trays and hit the jackpot at the dollar store. I found trays and also came across a package with small containers that I knew would be great for putting together travel size activities.

Here is what I ended up with in the ten containers.


I thought I might be able to fit the Lego guys, but was thrilled to remember all the tiny extra pieces we’ve collected and filled the container to the brim.  Then, I cut a piece of Lego baseplate and glued it to a lid.


I know it might seem a bit mad to bring paint on a plane but I know it will be a huge hit.  We will be at the ready with paper towels and their excitement will make it worth it.


Nuts and bolts.


Colorful wood beads and string.


I made this color matching activity with clothespins and paint samples.  I cut the samples to fit in the container and glued a sliver onto the clothespin.  Using the gradient scale will be challenging for my older son.  For my two year old, I will give him two choices at a time to make it more appropriate for him.


I intend on encouraging my five year old to use these magnets to practice patterns and of course some independent creativity.


These magnets came as part of a set to build a car.  I could not fit the wheels into the container so they will be using their imagination rather than following the directions.


Last set of magnets!  I pulled these letters off our dishwasher.  Both boys engage with them often, they will be surprised to see them on the airplane.


Loose parts.  I think this is my favorite container 🙂


I’ve had this mini stamp pad forever and just found these little number stamps at Michael’s not too long ago.  They are the perfect fit for one of our activities.




Amazon affiliate links are included in this post, however, I purchased most of my items from the local dollar store and scoured my house for other items.


4 thoughts on “Traveling with trays

  1. I love these. I’m against screen time for young kids, and that includes travel. With a little effort from parents flying with little ones can be a pleasant and productive experience.


  2. What a great idea! Will definitely adapt this for restaurant visits or other “grown-up” meetings, where there is usually not much to do for children otherwise. Love it!
    best wishes from Austria, Maren


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s