Now that summer’s here, for many families that means vacations and road trips! As much as we look forward to family time once we get to our destination, I have to admit getting there can be a little less than fun. We’ve already taken one trip this summer and have a couple more road trips lined up before school starts, and trust me I’ve heard my fair share of whining and squabbling already.
“How much farther is it?”
“Mom, she’s touching me!”
Read more: 7 Tips for Road Tripping with Young Children
I know just how much of a challenge it can be keeping the kids busy and happy in the car or on the plane for as long as it takes to get there. If you have a trip coming up, here are 50 ideas to keep them busy along the way.
1. Car seat organizer
If you’re driving, install a car back seat organizer behind the front seats. Most will have a clear sleeve to secure a tablet so the kids can watch without the risk of dropping as well as lots of pockets to keep their toys, water, snacks, and supplies close at hand.
2. Favourite stuffed animal
Make sure you pack their favourite stuffed animal for bedtime and other times they need comfort.
We like to bring some old favourites as well as some brand new, never-been-read-before books.
4. Search and find books
5. Audio books
Pop in an audio book the whole family can enjoy (may I recommend Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone narrated by Jim Dale?) or let the kids listen to their own audio book on their headphones.
6. Squishy toy
Bored or cranky kids may respond well to some quiet, sensory play. A squishy toy offers similar sensory feedback without the mess of putty, slime, or play dough.
Encourage older kids to write stories, take notes, or keep a journal of their trip.
8. Crayola Color Wonder
Genius Crayola Color Wonder markers only show up on special paper, not on your upholstery.
9. Invisible markers
These cool UV pens write in invisible ink that’s only visible when you shine the mini UV flashlight hidden in the cap. Kids can send secret messages back and forth or create a secret treasure map.
A small blanket can be used for warmth, for comfort, and can even be draped over car windows or between airplane seats to make a little darkened “cubby” for kids to nap in.
11. Colouring books
Dollar stores are a great source of cheap colouring books.
Be careful leaving these in the car in the summer as the inside of the car can get hot enough to melt crayons into the car door pocket.
13. Sketch pad
Pick up a sketch pad at your local dollar store or make your own by stapling printer paper together.
14. Coloured pencils
Don’t forget to include a pencil sharpener with your pencils!
15. Wikki Stix
16. Window markers
Kids can express their inner artist with these washable window markers, and you can easily clean it off with Windex. Don’t be completely surprised if at least once somebody writes, “Help! We’re being kidnapped!” on the side window.
17. Water doodle mat
Fill the pen with water and draw on the reusable, travel-sized water doodle mat. Their drawings will disappear as the water dries so they can draw over and over.
18. Activity/puzzle book
Depending on their age, look for connect the dots, word searches, sudoku, or even crossword puzzle books.
I know, I know, this may not be for every kid, but mine actually enjoy doing math or language workbooks.
20. Magnetic doodle board
Magnetic doodle boards are perfect for younger kids. Make sure you choose a model where the magnetic pen is tethered to the board.
A clipboard will give them a hard surface to write or colour on, and the clip will keep their colouring books or notebooks open to the current page.
Dollar stores are a great source for jumbo packs of stickers.
23. Magnetic puzzles
If you have a puzzle-lover, look for magnetic puzzles to avoid lost pieces.
Headphones are a must for when kids want to watch a movie, listen to music, or listen to an audio book without disturbing others. You’ll need these on the plane for the movie, and bringing your own means you won’t have to pay for them on the plane.
25. Extra water bottle
Keep an extra water bottle handy for those times when the kids drop theirs under the seat or run out of water before the next stop.
Normally we limit the time our kids can use electronics at home, but the rules change when we’re on the road or in the air!
Besides the usual games and stuff kids can do on the tablet, remember you can also download movies and shows from Netflix, Amazon Prime, Google Play, or iTunes for offline viewing.
Download a selection of e-books or borrow some from your local library before your trip.
28. Portable game console
We’ve logged many miles on our Nintendo 3DS and Switch systems!
29. Portable DVD player
If you already have a collection of kids’ DVDs, then an inexpensive portable DVD player is a good option.
30. Portable CD player
Similarly, if your kids have music or audiobooks on CD, pack an old Discman with headphones.
For older kids, don’t forget to bring along a selection of travel games. Some of these can be played solo, others will need siblings to play along. If you’re seated next to your child on the plane, the two of you can play some of these to make the time go by.
31. Car bingo
Nothing says road trip like this classic Auto Bingo game!
Be first to reach 500 points in the classic family card game of Uno.
33. Magnetic travel games
This travel game set includes 12 retro games like checkers, chess, Ludo, tic tac toe, backgammon, and more.
34. Games on the Go
Games on the Go is a portable collection of 50 games and activities that easily clips onto a bag and can be played anywhere any time. Includes silly guessing games, perplexing word games, mind bending memory challenges, wacky trivia questions, searching games and more.
Who will blurt out the correct word first? This travel version of Blurt! encourages quick thinking, develops vocabulary, and promotes sportsmanship and social skills.
36. Spot It!
Spot It! comes in a tin perfect for taking along in the car or plane. Be the first to spot the matching symbol.
37. Travel Scavenger Hunt
Travel Scavenger Hunt cards will have them looking for a red car, a license plate with the letter ”Z,” or a stop sign.
38. I spy bag
These plastic pellet or rice-filled fabric bags contain small objects that kids can search for and “spy” through a plastic window. You can find an assortment of themed I spy bags on Etsy.
A magnetic travel tangram set contain seven shapes that can be used to create hundreds of unique patterns
40. Story Cubes
Rory’s Story Cubes are a creative way to spark your children’s imagination. Roll 9 dice and create an original story from the images that come up.
Snacks, snacks, and more snacks are essential for any trip. Bored? Cranky? Must be snack time! We try to avoid messy or sticky snacks in the car, and if you have a younger child, you’ll want to steer clear of snacks that might put them at risk of choking in the back seat (e.g., carrot sticks or grapes).
41. Chewing gum
This is the only exception to our non-sticky food rule. We always bring along some gum to help the kids equalize pressure in their ears for takeoffs and landings.
42. Trail mix or granola
Check out my favourite homemade granola recipe!
43. Cheese strings
44. Apple slices (fresh or dried)
45. Peanut butter pretzels
46. Goldfish crackers
47. Beef jerky
49. Rice crackers
50. Banana chips
Do you have any more ideas for things to bring on your next trip? Share in the comments!
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