We all know what it is like to travel with kids. The destination brings memories and fun but the “getting there” can be exhausting and overwhelming! This is where surprise travel bags packed by mom can come in handy for the trip. We have divided this into sections based on age and tried to keep it pretty gender-neutral!
My main tip for packing the travel “busy bags” for the car is to cater them to your specific child. All of our kids are different… which means just because my child likes animals, your child might be more into cars, so take these ideas and make them work for your family!
Travel Bags to Entertain All Ages
Let’s start with the actual bag to pack in! There are so many fun options for kids these days so grab one from your closet or pick one of these and get on the road! Tips on picking bags for road trips: try and find one with an outside pocket for drinks. We all know what it’s like to have an accidental spill in a bag – not fun! This helps eliminate that possibility. An outside zip pocket is also a necessity for wipes, bandaids, hand sanitizer, and any other small things you want easy access to!
These precious bookbags come in girl & boy-friendly colors and are customizable for your little one. These bags are amazing because they are an activity in and of themselves! Get a pack of their patches, put them in a ziplock back, and let them add them to their bags in any way they want to!
This fun backpack is the perfect size for them to carry on their own and has all the outside pockets you need for your road trip! And what kid could pass up these fun colors!
Packing in a mesh back makes it easy to see everything and also easy to clean and rinse out once you return from your trip! Plus this one from Amazon comes in so many fun colors and is under $20.
This fun backpack by Paravel folds up into a small pouch for easy storage, which we all know is important these days. It also makes it easy if you want to pack a backpack in your luggage but don’t need it until you get to your destination.
In The Bag
Essentials in All Bags:
Headphones are a must on road trips with kids if you travel with a tablet. You can listen to your music while they can watch movies, play games, or listen to music. These wireless ones are great because they come in fun colors, are made for kids, and even come in a 2-pack if you have more than one rider.
A good water bottle for your little person is a must for a road trip. This one comes in fun colors, has a flip-up straw, and is vacuum-sealed so there won’t be any leaks. Flying, no problem, pack it empty so you can fill it up with whatever they want when you get where you are going!
Hangry kids are never fun so keep them happy and fed! Fill these snack storage options with their favorite snacks and candy and pull them out when you need them! I recommend these storage containers for snacks:
I ALWAYS pack at least one new book for the kids in their car bags. On a budget? Head to your local bookstore and go to their discount section, head to a used bookstore, or run to the library. Here are my favorites, according to age:
- Poke A Dot Books by Melissa and Doug
- Eric Carle: Around the Farm
- Wordy Birdy
- The Legend of Paper Rock Scissors
Early Readers Chapter Books:
Young Adult Books:
Toddlers, with their precious, short attention spans, need to have a little more to choose from than our older ones in their travel bags so here are some of my favorite things to pack for kiddos 3 & under:
Art on the go with itty-bitties can be messy! Grab these for mess-free fun and get a few minutes of peace in the car. Refill the pen with water and use the pages over and over again on your trip.
I love packing magnets for toddlers because it always seems to mesmerize them! This little set is perfect because they can build cars and vehicles with it over and over again. Plus, as a bonus, when you get to your destination, they have a set of cars to play with.
Puffy stickers are perfect for building fine motor skills and keeping your toddler busy. Because they are puffy, they are easier for little fingers to grasp and pull off. The Mondo Llama brand at Target makes some awesome ones in large packs so you can split them up between kids. This is one thing that would probably make kids of all ages happy.
Grab this fun pack of notebooks to put in the kids’ backpacks, no matter the age! The fun monster faces on the front will make them giggle!
Small Wrapped Toys
My final idea for our littlest loves is something that has worked on both plane trips and car trips for me. As I mentioned earlier, short attention spans can be a problem here! So I take small, cheap toys, wrap them in some tissue, and tie them with a ribbon. Then they can open them one at a time along the way and have a few minutes of entertainment. Here are some of my favorite little toys to wrap:
Finger puppets are cheap, small, and come in large packs. These are so much fun for little fingers to unwrap individually and play with! It is also a great way to practice animal sounds and engage in pretend play once they are open.
Mini Cars are another great little toy to wrap up and again give them something to engage with.
Little magnet people have kept my youngest busy for hours! Let them open a couple at a time and then string them together!
Elementary School Age Bags
Art is fun for all ages so pack a pencil box of fun markers and some coloring books to keep them busy for part of the trip. Since they have a little more control than our tiny ones… these color-changing markers can add a little surprise to their coloring books!
Throw in one of these adventure coloring books from OOLY and you are set for at least 30 minutes without hearing “are we there yet?”
Magnets are fun for every age in my opinion! And these magnetic puzzles from Mudpuppy are perfect for travel. They stick to the portfolio they come with so that there won’t be any lost pieces. They have a variety of kinds to choose from as far as themes: space, animals, dinosaurs, unicorns… the sky is the limit!
I know screen time can be a touchy subject for most moms. While our boys do have tablets to travel with, I have had my eye on these screen-free audio players by Yoto. They come with cards that have stories, music, etc that fit right into the player for entertainment that still allows for imagination. Plus you have complete control of the content as the parent. They have a regular size one but I like the thought of the mini one that can be an on-the-go partner!
This fun little game can be played by the whole family and keep everyone engaged and happy. Get your kids looking out the window for everything on these cards like gas stations, someone walking their dog, tow trucks, and motorcycles.
This would be the perfect thing to stash in their bags for a few moments of quiet. The magnetic dot art comes in a little travel box that would fit into a travel bag easily!
Tweens & Teens Travel Bags
It can be super difficult packing a surprise travel bag for teens and tweens because they have hit the age where they are specific about their likes and dislikes. So use these ideas as starting points and hone in on their interests.
Colored Pencils & Coloring Books
I know this may seem a little below their age range but there are some awesome adult and teen coloring books out there! Plus coloring and doodling are incredibly relaxing and an easy way to pass the time. Recommendations:
It may seem silly to get activities that don’t involve their phones but isn’t that what we are all longing for? Let them engage their brains with pen and paper.
Becoming: A Wordsearch Book – This book is actually a favorite of mine but I think it would be amazing for any young woman!
Travel Sudoku -If they are looking for a challenge, get them a travel sudoku book!
Like an electronic Rubix cube, this connects to your phone through blue tooth so teens can challenge their friends and siblings! Battle each other in the car to see who can solve it the fastest!
An Apple Gift Card/Android Store Gift Card
Surprise them with a gift card that they can use to add music or games to their phones. I know this one will excite them!
I hope all of these ideas get the ball rolling for creating your own kids’ travel bags! Get creative and use your own child’s personality as the starting point! Let us know your favorite travel activities in the comment section below!
Looking for more travel tips and tricks this summer? Be sure to check out these posts from Atlanta Mom.