Most people can’t wait to be on vacation. What they don’t look forward to is getting there. Long car rides and plane trips aren’t always a breeze, especially when there are kids along for the ride.
Fortunately, there are more ways than ever to keep children entertained while travelling. We’ve crowdsourced a few of the best games, gadgets and activities parents have invented to keep kids busy on the road.
1. Travel Countdown Game
Little ones aren’t so in-tune with the passage of time, but they do understand (and love) a good countdown.
That’s the brilliance of this blogger’s travel countdown game.
It’s simple: create a visual depiction of each hour in the journey, and let kids do something to mark each passing hour (placing a sticker, colouring a number, flipping a card, something fun!)
Then, reward their patience with a small snack and an activity for the next leg of the trip. The treat probably won’t keep them busy the entire hour, but that’s not the point. The point is giving them something to look forward to and a clear idea of how long is left in the journey.
2. Lap Desk
This one’s a favourite of parenting blogs around the web, and we’re big fans as well. Here’s why.
Most kids can occupy themselves with paper and pencil crayons for at least a little while. Problem is, there’s no good work surface in the car. Trying to draw on your lap is frustrating at any age.
The solution? Put a rectangular baking sheet on top of a pillow for an instant kid-size lap desk. This gives kids a surface on which they can play with toys, colour and draw, stick stickers, or sculpt clay.
If you’re not inclined to do-it-yourself, there are products out there that do the same thing (just search “travel lap desk”).
3. Portable LEGO Set
LEGO can burn hours of time, but it’s not exactly travel-friendly. This awesome, easy tutorial changes that.
All it takes to turn an old lunchbox into a portable LEGO set is a flat ‘ground’ piece, a few mounting squares, scissors, and a sanding sponge. There’s space for an assortment of random pieces or a small building kit with instructions.
Either way, building something is an excellent way to occupy a creative kid’s mind.
4. Podcasts and Audiobooks
Ask any frequent traveller how they pass the time these days and you’ll hear a common answer: podcasts.
You might not think of podcasts as kid stuff (and to be fair, some of them definitely aren’t), but there’s a growing number of family-friendly podcasts that are designed to entertain kids and adults alike:
- But Why and WOW in the World, NPR’s two awesome science-based podcasts
- Story Pirates, a show combining improv comedians and creative storytelling
- For very young kids, there’s the Sesame Street Podcast (featuring the real cast!)
For especially long trips, there’s also the world of audiobooks. If you’ve been waiting for a chance to introduce the kids to your favourite childhood book series, here it is!
5. Streaming Video
We’re all for cord-cutting on family vacations, but face it: sometimes, you need the peace and quiet that comes with giving kids a tablet.
Since you won’t always have Wi-Fi access on the road, here’s a hack that saves you the hassle of pre-loading the device with child-friendly movies and TV shows:
- Invest in a portable, wireless hard drive that can stream to mobile devices.
- Save your children’s favourite videos to the hard drive from your computer.
- Download the drive’s respective mobile app to your device, if necessary.
- Make sure the drive and the tablet are both fully-charged and pack their power cords.
- When the need arises, give your kid the tablet and stream on.
How Do You Keep Kids Entertained While Travelling?
Every parent will find different solutions that work for them. Do you give your children expensive gadgets, or keep them busy with old-fashioned games and activities? We’d love to know!