50 Travel Tips & Activities

Summer is here and with it vacations! And while vacations are AWESOME, they involve a whole buncha planning and that daunting thing that gets you where you're going...TRAVEL.

In April I made a 12-hour (each way) road trip alone with both kiddos and survived! So how do we make it through our trips? With a whole lot of activities, snacks, books and a little something called patience. 

I gathered some great tips and activities from some of my favorite bloggers, threw in a few of our ideas and compiled a list of 50 Travel Tips and Activities.

Most of my tips are geared toward toddlers and preschool-aged children while road trippin'.

1. Pack your child's favorite snacks. Now is not the time to try something new! (unless it's a fancy new snack you're sure your child will love)

2. Make a snack together for the trip. We love making Happy Trails Trail Mix for our trips and it's a fun way to connect. It's also fun to talk about how it's a special snack just for the trip.

3. Save up coupons for 100 calorie packs, which are the perfect size for little hands and mama hands! from Adventures in Mommydom.

4. Pack snacks in a fun new container like a reusable baggy from SewEco or a fun little water bottle/snack combo like this one.

5. Easy to eat and mess-free snacks are best, especially if you're traveling alone with your kids. Here are a few of our favorite travel snacks:

  • Boxed raisins
  • Trader Joe's fruit bars
  • Puffed corn
  • Chopped or whole apples
  • String cheese
  • Trail mix
  • Baby food pouches: such as Plum Organics, Happy Baby or Ella's Organics (I know I said mess-free, but these are too great to pass up)

6. Scour Michael's, Dollar Tree, Target's 1Spot and other $1 areas for fun new toys for the trip.

7. Wrap up new (and rarely played with) toys for toddlers (this could work for older kids too, but they are pretty good at opening presents by age 3!). Unwrapping the toys takes time and also makes a great sensory activity! When she was younger, Sweet P usually ended up playing with the wrapping instead of the toy! Toddler Approved recommends this for airplane travel as well!

8. Give your child a box with a latch or a backpack to fill with her favorite toys for the trip. If you are flying, remind your child that she is responsible for the backpack. This can help her decide whether to pack several light items or 2-3 heavier items.

9. Remember to pack any favorite toys or lovies! These can both calm your child during the trip and help him to fall asleep in a new place during your vacation.

10. Play I Spy. This is a great game for any child who knows her colors and can be played in the car, in an airport, or while waiting in line for the restroom.

11. Count semis, cars, train cars or trucks or have your child choose a color for you to look for while driving. from Hands on: As we grow

12. 20 Questions or try "I'm thinking of something that starts with C", continue to give hints until they guess what it is.

13. The ABC game: a great game for preschoolers learning their letters. Find letters of the alphabet in alphabetical order starting with A. Moms and dads can help with tougher letters.

14. Find A...train, yellow truck, red car, motorcycle rider wearing a helmet, billboard. A great game while driving through large cities.

15. I want you to stay sane on this trip, but sometimes kids music is the way to go with kids in the car. Find the CDs or fill the MP3 player with songs you all know well. Play them and belt them out at the top of your lungs! Encourage your kids to clap, dance or wave their arms to the music.

16. Check out children's CDs from your local library. from Creative Connections with Kids

17. Music from musicals like Annie and The Music Man are also fun tunes to teach your kids while driving.

18. Lift-the-flap books are hours (or at least 10 minutes) of fun. Our favorites are Fisher Price Little People lift-the-flap play books. They have about 40 flaps per book and colorful pages for kids.

19. Books that play music. We reserve these for road trips and while they may get annoying after the 100th push of the elephant sound, they keep kids busy and happy.

20. Interactive books like this Elmo ActivePoint book. A friend let us borrow an Elmo and Thomas the Train ActivePoint book for our last road trip. I suggest covering the speaker with masking tape as it doesn't have volume control and is very loud.

21. Check out or bring along books on CD. from Creative Family Fun

22. Buy, borrow or check out Seek and Find books like Where's Waldo, First Look and Find book and I Spy books.

Activity Preparation
23. Put activities in a 3-ring binder for easy access for your child. Place washable markers in a zippered bag inside the binder. Paper, stickers and other flat activities will fit well inside the binder. from Creative Connections for Kids

24. Bring along a cookie sheet as a tray for activities. It give kids a place to write, draw, drive cars and eat snacks. I buy mine at Dollar Tree and they can be drawn on with a dry-erase marker and easily erased with a tissue.

25. Magnetize activities if you can. If you're using a cookie sheet as a tray this helps your child keep the activity on the tray and minimizes lost pieces.

26. Create your own or bring along a felt board for felt activities. For a DIY version check out this simple (and GENIUS!) version from MamaSmiles.

27. Stickers! Whether you buy a sticker book or just bring along a few of the 100's you have at home (you know you do), stickers are a hit in the car. Make your own sticker book or bring along a cheap notebook for sticker placement. from Creative Family Fun

28. Make a Miniature Mailbox for tiny hands. At Home With Ali made this adorable one for her toddler to play with on their trip.

29. Toy cars for racing, driving, crashing and cruising. The cookie sheet makes a great road for all kinds of cars.

30. Busy or Activity books. Make your own or purchase one from Etsy. These are sure to be a hit with any toddler or preschooler. Find examples at Inspiration Laboratories and Teach Preschool

31. Felt Dolls. You can find several templates online for simple felt dolls. Sweet P LOVED (and still loves) her felt dolls during the trip. Use a felt board to help keep felt dolls and their clothes organized. I love this version from MamaSmiles and we used this template from Smile and Wave.

32. Lacing cards. Ours fit in our 3-ring binder with the laces in a plastic baggy.

33. Usborne Books Sticker Dressing books. We have the "Fancy Dress" book and it was hands down Sweet P's favorite activity on the drive. It's also a great church activity. Sweet P got it as a Christmas gift this year and we'd never played with it so it was new to her. Usborne's sticker books are awesome and reusable, we also have the Soccer version.

34. Our Making Face Magnets were a big hit on our drive as well. These are super simple and cost almost nothing if you have magnets on hand. Don't want to make them? Check out Melissa and Doug's Make-A-Face Sticker pads or other make-a-face stickers. Also a favorite and it's hilarious to see where your toddler/preschooler puts the magnets/stickers.

35. Fill a bag with baby toys and keep it in the front seat with you. As your baby throws or drops toys, hand him a new one. When the bag is empty, it's time for a pit stop. Refill the bag and start over! This worked well for Baby Blue for most of the drive.

36. File folder games. We used Confessions of a Homeschooler's Paint Brush matching printables and our folder fit snugly in our 3-ring binder.

37. Mustache Match game or other magnetic match games or puzzles. Again, magnetizing the games makes them easy to play without dropping pieces in hard to reach spots in the car.

38. Empty notebooks or coloring books for coloring, writing or drawing.

39. Pipe cleaner creations. These bendable craft supplies can be used to make just about anything, including houses, glasses and people. from Let Kids Create

40. Clothes pin activities. I made Sweet P a clothes pin/paint chip color matching game, but there are several other clothes pin activities like this clothes pin number match from Confessions of a Homeschooler.

41. I Spy or sensory bottles or bags. A great activity for babies, toddlers and preschoolers. Make your own for simple fun for your kiddos.

42. Put items you need for pit stops in a separate bag (diapers, wipes, diaper pad, wallet, etc). from Dirt and Boogers

43. Use a simple organizer for things you need easy access to while driving: wipes, sippy cup, activity binder, snacks, etc. from Creative Connections for Kids

Pit Stops
44. If you have a potty-training or recently potty-trained child, bring along a portable potty on a road trip just in case. You never know when a fear of public potties, automatic flushers or dirty bathrooms will arise.

45. Bring post-its or stickers for automatic flushers. Stick the post-it over the sensor to keep the toilet from flushing while little ones take care of business. Forgot the stickers? Put a wet piece of toilet paper over the sensor.

46. Pack a lunch and stop at a playground or park you've scouted ahead of time.

47. If you're traveling through lunch and dinner, stop at a nice restaurant (not McDonald's) for one of the meals. Call ahead of time to place your order so the food is ready when you get there. A tasty meal without the long wait. Brilliant idea from my friend Beth.

Don't Forget
48. Blankets and pillows. These are great in the car, in hotels and while bunking with family or friends. And if you're like my child, you won't sleep well without blankie.

49. An extra change of clothes and underwear for EVERY family member in a carry-on or easily accessible bag because you NEVER know.

50. To relax. Road tripping or flying with kids doesn't have to be stressful. Remember to have fun, play games and sing along!

For more travel tips, activities and ideas visit my Travel Tips/Ideas Pinterest Board.