Almost a year has passed since our first road trip as a family, and what a year of travel this has been! Since last February, we have travelled around Ireland, Italy, Spain, Sweden and California and the kids experienced several means of transport including ferries, cars, trains and even water taxis!
Each trip has been special in its own way but passing time on the road is sometimes challenging and it took us a while to figure out what to bring with us in terms of toys and activities.
After finding ourselves either short of essentials or overloaded with pointless stuff, we have come up with some favourites that have worked well and now we have a list that keeps the kids entertained on the go and also provides some fun family activities for our evenings away.
Top 10 products to pass the time on the road
1.Colouring books: very few things entertain our kids as much as colouring books. They do a lot of colouring in school and the adagio ‘inside the lines, no white spaces’ has quickly become one of their favourite mantras. They spend hours working on their creations and they are so proud of their accomplishments they usually demand to keep the best ones and pin them to the wall. I have already run out of wall space so I can’t really comply every time, but I sure try!
We started off buying colouring books at the newsagent in the airport/station, but it works much better if we buy them in advance and invest in good quality, interesting ones such as the ones in the photos below which we found in The Works Toys & Games
A stack of good stationery is invaluable during long trips: our kids love pens, erasers and notebooks and have special pencil cases and sharpeners that they keep in their backpacks and take out at their leisure
2. Sticker books. Sticker books are a great alternative to colouring ones and what we use the most on the plane. The main reason why I like them is that, unlike colouring pens and crayons, stickers do not roll on the floor, which in turn means I don’t have to go through crazy contortionists moves to collect them from between the feet of our fellow passengers. Not a small advantage, especially if you are flying long haul and your travel companions are trying to sleep.
3. Magnetic scribbler: Another fabulous no mess toy, especially good for younger kids. My daughter is obsessed with hers and she particularly loves the ones that come not just with a pen but shapes: she thinks the perfect star shape appearing at the lightest touch has something magical to it and indeed, for a little one, it is a pretty impressive trick!
4. Finger puppets We first bought finger puppets for our kids when they were babies but they still work exceptionally well. Sometimes we make stories for them (and in true learning escapes style we make the stories educational and informative about the place we are about to visit) and sometimes the kids play stories to each other. Aside from the occasional fight over who should hold which puppet or whose turn it is to tell the story, they are a great pastime and an imaginative alternative to screen time
5. A travel journal While I love keeping our travel memories on the blog, when it comes to the kids nothing beats a good old paper travel journal. You can make your own with good stationery or you can buy some with templates and ideas, which I find very good for longer trips. For just a weekend away, I usually make our own and the process of buying stationery to make one is almost as fun as creating the journal itself!
6. Snakes and ladder this is one of our kids’ favourite games. To play, you need a table and enough space to roll a dice so we use if when we travel by train or ferry. Other favourites of ours are Guess Who travel edition (compact and without small bits) and ‘Connect 4’, which despite the many discs can easily be contained and doesn’t create mess nor noise
7. Rubik’s cube This one comes with a warning: unless you have one per person (including one for each adult) you will be fighting with your kids over who should have the next turn! The cube can be a frustrating game for very young children but my 6 year old shows incredible concentration whenever playing with it which is a nice change from the often frantic pace of apps and video games
8. Books Nothing beats a good old book when it comes to spending time on the road. We usually bring a selection of books that the kids can read (or look at) by themselves and some that we can read to them.
9. Audio books Motion sickness can be a problem when travelling by car and reading can trigger it. In this case, audio books can be a good alternative: there are many available for almost all ages and with stories of different length – they are a great way to have a break from kids’ music that, let’s be honest, is often a far cry from the road trip compilations we used to listen to when travelling in pre-kids years.
10. Binoculars These are a great travel gadget and not just for when you are at your destination. My kids love to keep theirs around their necks while travelling (check that the straps are child-friendly and can easily come undone) and occasionally use them to look out of the car window but more often they use them to look at each other! They love to see how little things appear is you look in the binocular the wrong way and spend an unbelievable amount of time doing that. The added advantage of this toy is that you can actually also use it properly and spot birds or faraway things once at your destination, so it is not just a good pastime but also one that goes well for light packers like us.
I hope you enjoyed our selection of toys. Do you have favourite products to pass the time on the road? Are they similar to ours?
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