Traveling to visit family or friends, or just to get away during the holiday season is great, but keeping your children occupied during a long plane or car ride can be a real challenge. Some kids can say entertained for hours with electronic devices, but others may get bored and need a change. Or you just may prefer not to have the kids staring at a screen for hours on end. With some advance planning, you can keep the kids busy and make your travel time less stressful at the same time.
1. Activity Books
Your local pharmacy, dollar-type store, used or new bookstore probably has an entire section dedicated to activity books geared towards kids of all ages. These books of puzzles, activities, quizzes and games are easy to transport and keep kids occupied when they need to be still and quiet. Hidden picture books are great, especially for younger kids who might not be able to read well enough to do more complicated puzzles and games independently. The older kids can help the younger ones learn how to do the puzzles, too. Another great choice of car trips is a book of Mad Libs. Mad Libs are silly, fill-in-the-blank games that everyone can take part in while providing hilarious entertainment for the whole car. I bet you had Mad Libs as a kid!
2. Inexpensive toys
Buy age appropriate toys from the dollar store, wrap them up, and give one to your children whenever they start to get bored or restless. Unwrapping a new toy is exciting and the novelty will make each trinket seem like a fun new adventure. And if the toy gets lost or broken, it didn't cost much so it won't be like losing that $40 video game or Lego set. Mazes, magnetic doodle faces or magnetic games like tic tac toe and Trouble will entertain without losing game pieces!
3. Window Decorations
Inexpensive window clings can be an entertaining, non-messy way to let your child decorate the airplane or car window. These window clings can be rearranged, added and removed multiple times, providing long-term entertainment for a child who is trapped in a seat for several hours. Think "Colorforms" from your childhood. How much fun were those?
4. New Coloring & "Painting" Materials
A new coloring book and crayons can be another fun way to pass the time. The novelty of having brand new coloring supplies - particularly if they have to wait until they are in the plane or car to use them - can add an extra level of anticipation to the journey. Paint with water books are great for on a plane. Just ask the flight attendant for a small amount of water in a cup and the kids can paint away! Invisible markers are fun, too, and won't make a mess on clothing or other surfaces.
5. Glow-in-the-Dark Fun
If you will be traveling at night, buy some glow sticks, glow bracelets or glow window clings and bring them along. These can be an endlessly entertaining way to provide each child with their own personal night light.
6. No-Fail Traffic Games
If you will be driving to your holiday destination, there is always the old fallback of the license plate game. Print out a license plate checklist for each member of your family and play all day to see who can spot all the states first. Alternatives are to look for drivers wearing sunglasses or hats, or cars with dogs, or any other specific item or action you can come up with.
7. Story Time
Audio books can be a great way to entertain everyone in the car. Your children will be transfixed and the story can help the long drive pass more quickly.
8. Edible Fun
Buy an inexpensive tackle box or plastic container with multiple compartments and pack snacks. Kids can create their own "stack snack" or eat the items individually, or one compartment at a time. Pack licorice ropes and cheerios or Fruit Loops to make edible jewelry! An over the seat organizer or backpack is a great place to store these items.
Of course, with Google and Facebook Moms pages, you're sure to be able to find a plethora of additional ideas. Whatever you do, wherever you go, have fun and create memories that will last a lifetime!