Going on long journeys with kids doesn't have to be a nightmare. Sure, there's a learning curve, and your first try might not go as smoothly as you'd like, but you'll learn what works, and it'll get better.
Snacks and toys play a huge role in keeping restless fuss and drones of "Are we there yet?" to a minimum. Store travel-specific toys and crafts in a special bag you reserve for hours of fun on vacations, or make or play a bunch of free games like Silly Stories and Animal Dancing.
Remember, a little boredom is healthy for kids and gives them room to think, absorb, and create. But having travel-friendly options ready to go will save your sanity when the daydreaming turns to whining.
You can go as simple or as fancy as you like with these. A coloring book and pencils can do the trick, or you can purchase travel-sized kits that include everything necessary to make origami or a friendship bracelet from rubber bands.
The former involves folding colorful paper into various animals or other shapes, is scissor-free, and is super safe to use in cars that can move unpredictably. Crafting is therapeutic, engaging, and will kill loads of time. Carry a light lap table if your vehicle doesn't have a suitable work surface.
This one will cost you nothing but a little time. Think of animals, road signs, and objects you might encounter while traveling and make boards with various pictures reflecting these objects. Once someone spots the item, they alert the group and check it off their unique board.
The first person to get five in a horizontal, diagonal, or vertical row wins. You can laminate the boards and use erasable markers for multiple games.
Cards are versatile. A deck of traditional cards serves countless games you can select based on your child's age. Toddlers older than three can play Memory, Snap, or Donkey with you or an older sibling, and preschoolers can play Go Fish, Switch, and Crazy Eights.
Level up for kids in elementary school with Blackjack, Rummy, Cheat, and War. There are loads of other colorful and exciting card games on the market—just make sure to have backup dice. Learn the rules, teach them, and off you go.
Does your kid like assembling building blocks? You can buy travel sets of around 85 to 125 pieces, with various themes such as camping and music. Kids that are old enough to read instructions can follow along to construct the models, and younger kids can use the sets as open-ended toys.
They're a great STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) toy, unisex, relatively affordable, and come with handles for portability. Plus, they take up very little space in carry-on bags or cars.
Magnetic tiles are mostly flat, colorful polygons that allow for open-ended play. They click together to form an array of structures. Kids can build 3D houses, fish, submarines, pyramids, or pizzas.
This is another fab STEM toy to explore architecture and geometry. It also conveniently stick to a lunch box or baking pan, so see what works and is practical to carry with you.
Whether you buy a set of suction toys and spinners that stick to a car or plane window and keep babies occupied, or get one of those figures with sticky hands and feet that flop from top to bottom, your little ones will delight in this screen-free activity.
Plushies and dolls provide inanimate company and cuddles and are a springboard for worldbuilding. Your munchkin can hug a teddy before narrating a story worthy of Paddington Bear, or spend time brushing a doll's hair and changing her clothes for her important job.
Use the promise of ice cream at a gas station to incentivize siblings to prep a puppet show—you'll be firing up imaginations and building memories to last a lifetime.
Children these days grow up with advanced, customized entertainment on tablets. Each child has go-to games and apps they swipe left and right on like total pros—some are educational and teach specific skills such as math.
You can decide when to limit screen time, but a tablet and dedicated earphones on a child-safe device can be a game-changer on long road trips or flights. Look for a gadget with good battery life and a rubberized protective cover.
Stickers are a winner for a wide age range. You can buy value packs that also include space for doodling, as well as travel-related games and activities that reinforce the voyaging aspect of the trip. Siblings can also swap stickers for prized sticker book collections, or work on individual or collective scrapbooks.
Books are a kind of magic. They demand your imagination, and every person who reads or hears a story has a version that's uniquely theirs, no matter how meticulously an author spells out the details.
You can furnish kids of all ages with books, but keep an eye out for possible motion sickness. Often, the kids who can't read without feeling ill also can't look at their tablets in the car. No matter—audiobooks are here to save the day, and you can listen as a family for extra enjoyment.