We travel a lot with my eleven month old daughter. Although she’s a real champ on road trips, probably because she’s been traveling since she was three weeks old, long car rides aren’t her favorite activity. As she creeps closer to toddlerhood, it’s becoming more important to keep her happy and entertained while we’re on the road. What happened to the “sleeping six solid hours” thing?? (Not so) suddenly, my tiny baby has become a rambunctious toddler. When we first started traveling, we could get away with packing a bottle and a few toys. Now? Not so much. My new best friend is the busy bag. It’s probably your new best friend too.
To pack a busy bag for road trips, first you need a good bag. I suggest a high quality tote or backpack. You’re going to want a lot of space if you’re taking a long trip, and you’ll need less space if you’re only going for a short jaunt.
1. Snacks. What road trip is complete without snacks and a drink? Keep yourself from having to stop at that sketchy gas station in the wrong part of town because your kid has “never” been hungrier by packing some snacks and drinks. Bananas, toddler puffs, cracker sandwiches, apple slices, and juice boxes were made for times like these.
2. Toys. We like to buy Critter a new toy before each road trip. We don’t give it to her at the start of the trip– we wait until we’ve hit traffic, red lights, or construction. Then, when things seem dire, we pull out the new toy and buy a few more minutes of calm, happy baby. For an especially long road trip, I suggest buying a pack of toys like the Playgro Play and Explore Gift Pack . We received this for Critter to review, and she recognized that it was for her immediately. Five toys instead of one means that we can buy a little extra time when we get stuck behind a multi-car pile-up in Atlanta. These brightly colored toys include a soft ball, a key ring, a stuffed elephant, a stuffed dog with a spinning belly, and a rattler. They’re brightly colored to keep baby’s attention, and they have a variety of textures for tactile stimulation. These are becoming a fixture in our busy bag!
3. Tablet. I’m not going to lie, all of our screen time rules go out the window on a long road trip. Having a tablet or a few downloaded episodes of your child’s favorite cartoon on your phone can be the difference between an hour of calm or an hour of screaming. We like to keep a playlist of kid and family friendly songs downloaded and ready to go for those times when nothing is on the radio.
4. Books. The great thing about books is that they can grow with your child. These days, we pack a touch and feel book for Critter, but as she’s older, we can add in activity books, coloring books, and even chapter books for her. If your kid gets carsick easily, consider downloading an audiobook or borrowing one on CD from your local library. We also pack her TinyMe Amazing Alphabet Book . Not only is her name featured throughout the story, we downloaded the free app, hover it over the page we are reading and the book comes to life right before her eyes. She’s captivated by hearing her name throughout the story. It’s like a high tech version of the alphabet books we used to have as kids.
5. Something to burn off steam. Traveling with kids means more stops that traveling as adults. When you make a stop, you want to make the most of it! We like to bring something that lets Critter get some energy out. A ball is a great idea for kids, or consider a play tent from Pacific Play Tents. We received an Peek A Boo I See You 6ft Play Tunnel for Critter, and it’s going on trips with us from now on. It easily folds flat, so it doesn’t take up much space. Better yet, it gives her something to do when the rest area doesn’t have a play area. No playground? No problem? We’re bringing our own! This play tunnel wipes clean with a damp cloth, so no worries about setting it on the grass. It takes just a few seconds to set up and to pack back up.
Having a busy bag can mean the difference between an easy trip and a trip you’ll never want to repeat. How do you keep your kids entertained on road trips?