Frugal Ways to Occupy Kids While Traveling
Guest post from Rachael of Nothing if Not Intentional
As the snow melts and ice thaws, many families look forward to getting away for a spring break trip or a summer vacation. And whether you’re road tripping to Grandma’s or flying to the beach, these travel plans often include long hours with little ones strapped into their car seats.
How can we occupy little ones who can’t yet read and don’t like to sit still?
Since my husband is a pilot, our family has had a fair amount of practice traveling with our young girls (7 months and 2 ½ years). We keep a small bag packed that is filled with special travel toys. This bag is updated before trips, and we don’t play with it any other time. This keeps the activities special and new.
Here are a few cheap, screen-free ideas to help you pack your travel bag of tricks!
With diapers, wipes, clothes, and bibs, babies require more than their fair share of luggage. Luckily, there’s no need to fill your car or carry-on with lots of toys.
Play peek-a-boo or let them giggle at the friendly passenger in the row behind you! Make sure the toys you do bring are easy-to-clean. Baby toys will likely end up on the floor or ground.
- paper or magazine pages to rip
- a ball to drop or roll
- rattles that are fun to shake and chew
- a small photo album filled with pictures of friends and family members
It’s tough to keep a mobile toddler strapped into a seat!
Make sure they get plenty of exercise before they’re expected to sit still. Cruise around your boarding gate and do laps up and down the airplane aisle.
If you’re traveling by car, play a game of follow the leader that includes jumping, running, hopping, and skipping each time you stop.
- Finger puppets
- Color wonder markers
- Mr. Potato Head
- Magazine cutouts of pictures toddlers recognize (e.g. animals, food, vehicles)
- Tape to squish, roll, and tear
- Body parts book using pictures of child — see our book
- Small foam blocks to stack, match, or encourage color/shape identification
Preschoolers still fidget and move, but you have the advantage of being able to engage their minds.
Encourage your preschooler to fix and serve a pretend feast. Talk about your child’s favorite memories. Ask your child to tell you his favorite story. Make up a story together. Let the imagination run wild since the body can’t.
- A tiny toy car or plane to drive or fly
- Magna doodle or etch-a-sketch (from a dollar store!)
- Bingo markers (also from a dollar store!)
- Coloring sheets and printables
- Camera (perhaps a real one you’ve retired? Kids love imitating parents and helping to capture memories and moments!)
- Eye-spy books
- Paint with water sheets
- Busy Bags
- Songs—“Wheels on the Bus,” “Old Macdonald,” “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes,” and “If You’re Happy and You Know It.”
With all of these ages, bring snacks, offer drinks, pack a few books, and don’t forget your child’s lovey.
With a little frugal preparation, you’ll be on your way to a travel adventure the whole family can enjoy!
How to you occupy kids while traveling?
Nothing if Not Intentional started as a blog to share stories from Nate and Rachael’s ten trips to Guatemala. It is now an outlet for Rachael’s writing (she’s a former English major), and a place to share stories from their travels (Nate’s a pilot) and life with two young girls.
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