Road trip activities for kids that are great for plane travel too! Great travel activities for kids ages 1-7!
Updated June 2023
A few years ago my family traveled to Spain with our toddler and baby. It was an amazing trip, and although very tired, we wanted to prove to ourselves that we could still do something we value, with kids in tow.
And you know what? We did!
Kids are quite capable of being amazing travelers! Most of the time travel is super exciting for them! (There are meltdowns from tired kids too, of course.) But the experiences they gain are worth it:
Wider perspectives, new ways of doing things, new ways of seeing our kids and ourselves––to name a few.
For some of you, maybe travel is by necessity. If you’re like our family, we travel often to visit out of town family.
Whatever reason you’re here, I hope you’ll find some ideas to help give you the confidence that You. Can. Do. This! And as my kids are now a little older, it’s already getting so much easier.
Travel Tips for Families
Traveling with kids is fun, scary and exciting. It can mean handling your child’s energy and excitement on less sleep, in a variety of settings. But you’ll adapt your toolkit and gain new parenting skills along the way.
Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to bring along some packable activities to maintain a sense of normalcy. In general we maintain a lot of the same routines on the road (activities in the mornings, quiet time or naps in the afternoons, and low key evenings).
Here are some of my favorite kids travel activities that have stood the test of time. Most of these are open-ended and adaptable to your child’s specific interests.
One last thing: I recommend keeping these items hidden leading up to your trip to increase the novelty factor while traveling.
These items are all easily packable and don’t take up much space in our bags. (We travel light, with only carry on or personal items.)
Oh and don’t forget snacks! When you think you might have enough, pack a few more! You never know when a flight might be delayed or restaurants might be closed at your new locale. It sure beats hangry kids.
Alright, here we go!
Travel Activities for Any Age
2. Plastilina Clay or Playdough
This clay is a major staple in our household and keeps my active child quiet and busy for many hours, whether at home or while traveling. It’s cheap, never dries out and inspires many creations. I highly recommend!
A small container of playdough will get you by in a pinch and is great for the 1-3 year old crowd especially..
See below for a list of some of our favorite podcasts:
- But Why: A Podcast for Curious Kids
- Deep Blue Sea
- Thomas & Friends Storytime
- Brains On!
- Circle Round
- Garden Keeper Gus
- Wind Riders (actually an audiobook!)
Travel Activities for Toddlers (1-3)
These Melissa & Doug sticker pads are my go-to for toddlers. To me, these are such a great value. They come with a number of sheets per pad that can be rotated through with your child.
These boards seem to mesmerize toddlers and both my kids did them over and over again at this age. A nice mess free activity while on a plane or in the car.
3. Lacing Cards
There are many similar lacing sets out there, but my mom gifted us a set of Wee Gallery stitching cards. I like them because they’re sturdy for little kids to hold onto while learning a new skill.
While in Spain, we were preparing for the flight back and I stopped into a little bodega looking for some new things to help us with the long flight home. Surprisingly, I found these items kept my toddler busy and his imagination active.
Sort and stack the sticks, create a sparkly star or any other shape/sculpture with the pipe cleaners. And all for $.99!
5. A small toy
Often a new little toy can entertain this age for quite a while. Maybe a little car, train or doll––play to your child’s current interests and keep it hidden until that moment.
Travel Activities for Grade School
We stayed at an Airbnb that had one of these magnetic books and our kids played with it the whole time we were there. What a happy surprise! There are many variations and themes to choose from.
Pro tip: This isn’t ideal for plane travel as it’s on the bulkier side.
Written by The Artful Parent founder, Jean Van’t Hul, and filled with fun drawing prompts for kids. Great to slip into a backpack for pulling out at restaurants, etc.
6. Cross Stitch
These sturdy wooden cross stitch kits from Moon Picnic are a great introduction to stitching for kids. Make a sweater for a cat, owl, bunny or bear!
A small bag of pony beads and pipe cleaners is another great alternative!
Kids have fun folding 3D creations out of paper. Skill level lis adaptable for big kids to tweens!
Maybe you remember these little Golden Guides from your own childhood. They add a fun educational aspect for research to match for your upcoming trip.
I hope these ideas are helpful and will spark new ideas for engaging with your own kids while traveling as a family.
It can feel daunting to travel with kids, especially with babies and toddlers. But I find the opportunity to connect with my kids while being disconnected from my normal life, is a really special opportunity.
My kids thrives when they have all of my attention, undistracted. And those memories of our time spent together will last a lifetime.
More Kids Travel Activities
Looking for more ideas for traveling with toddlers or kids?
- Create your own Travel Art Kit for Kids!
- How to Visit an Art Museum with Kids
- Try these Fun Drawing Ideas (+ Printable).
- Or 16 Printable Art Activities for Kids.
- Make a DIY Art Journal to take along the plane, train or car!
If you’re preparing for a big trip, think about what your child likes at home. Is it adaptable for travel? Relatively mess-free? Doesn’t take up too much space?
Post your ideas below, I’d love to hear them!
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