Keeping kids entertained on the road is all about keeping them sane. Just because you’re travelling doesn’t mean their interests will change wildly. They’re still going to want to do what toddlers always want to do – read, play, create art and run at every opportunity.

My number one motto for keeping a toddler amused while travelling is… be prepared!  The last thing you want while you’re waiting in line to enter the Colosseum in Rome is a boredom-induced meltdown. Do whatever it takes to get them through a long wait in an airport lounge or a meal out in a restaurant at the end of a busy day.

Factor in time off from the rigors of travel. As much as you may want to do everything and see everything, kids need time to run, play and let off steam.

Come prepared, schedule in rest days and you’ll have happy toddlers all around!

 

A Quiet Morning Spent Reading on the Kindle in a San Diego Hotel

Toys & Books

Limit the number of toys and books you bring. Allow each child one small backpack to bring their toys and books. Let them take responsibility for carrying their bag when travelling (if they’re big enough) and for keeping their toys tidy and in one place. No need to ask Mom”Where’s my Thomas book?” – everything’s always in their backpack.

Bring along a few of your child’s favourite books and toys along but consider packing up them a week before the first flight. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. Your child will be super happy to see that favourite book when it reappears on the plane.

Bring as many hard copy books as you can manage. Story time can get pretty dull, for kids and parents, if you’re reading the same three books over and over again.

Take a Kindle or iPad. These are invaluable for books, games and puzzles that would ordinarily take up a lot of space. 

One or two little toys isn’t going to hurt – think small like Barbies or matchbox cars. Avoid bringing the whole toybox. Don’t bring games or puzzles with multiple pieces – once one piece is lost, they’re useless.

Sweeping sand off the bungalow deck was a favourite past-time in Koh Phangan, Thailand

Encourage play with found objects when you’re on the road. Tower up the empty plastic water bottles in your hotel room, make paper planes while you’re waiting for your meal to arrive in a restaurant or turn sweeping the patio of your beach bungalow into a game.

 

What kid wouldn’t love a bubble bath and a rubber ducky??

Play Area at Ploy Guesthouse in Kanchanaburi, Thailand

In Hotels

Hotel rooms make great playgrounds. Beds are usually on casters (wheels) and can be pushed around quite easily. Ask for extra pillows and sheets and build forts, boats and tents.

After a few weeks of roughing it in cheaper accommodation with only showers, a bubble bath in a nice hotel is treat.

A guesthouse, apartment or hotel with a play area on site can make a huge difference. On rest days when you’re not out an about, it’s not easy to stay entertained in the confines of a hotel room. A little play area or even different toys and books makes a nice change.

Have a morning off. Stay in bed and watch a DVD on the laptop.

 

Colouring with Elmo on the Road

Arts and Crafts

Crayons and colouring books or scribble pads are easy to throw into the bottom of your daypack. Bring them out when you need to keep your child busy at a restaurant or on a plane.

Help them record their journey. Get a scrapbook or journal and collect bits and pieces on your travels. Leaves from parks, feathers from the beach, ticket stubs from entrances to activities or events. A small glue stick won’t take up too much room in your bag.

Don’t forget to write! Filling out some postcards home to Grandma could the perfect antidote to waiting for a meal or hanging about in an airport.

 

Out and About

Seek out parks and playgrounds… wherever they may be. Even if you’re not so keen on shopping malls yourself, they’re a good place to find kids play areas (especially in hot countries where playing outside all day isn’t an option.)

Any kind of open space beats being cooped up in a hotel room. Head to a park at dusk or down to join in with locals exercising, chase pigeons in a piazza or do a lap of the hotel grounds. Anything to burn off unwanted energy!

If you’re travelling slowly, spending extended time in one place, check out the local daycare and see if they have casual or short term rates. Some time apart, even for a few hours, might make you enjoy your child more.

 

Beach toys can be fun on or off the sand!

At the Beach

If you’re planning a few days at the beach, you probably don’t need any extra gear but if you’re spending weeks or months in beach towns then a few special beach toys won’t go amiss. Nothing beats a good old bucket and spade – they’re not all that portable so just buy something cheap locally and give it away when you’re done.

For a child who’s not that keen on water, a fun inflatable floaty can make the difference between spending two minutes in the water or spending an hour.

 

Make Friends

Encourage your child to play with local kids or other travelling kids wherever you go. It’s surprisingly easy to make friends despite language barriers. Other kids take the pressure off you having to entertain your child all the time. Eat with another family staying at your beach resort or do a toy swap with someone else staying in your hotel.

 

 

Got any tips for keeping kids entertained on the road? Let me know!

 

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Bethaney Davies
A traveller for over ten years, Bethaney started blogging here on Flashpacker Family in early 2012. She founded the site to encourage and inspire travel and travel with small children and to share her own stories from the road.
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  • Alice
    Reply

    This is a fantastic post!

    Also, McDonalds playgrounds if you’re in a country where they have them, even if you’re a vegan and not a fan of McDonalds, hehe!

    Reuby should bring is coloring book next time he travels to our house for a sleepover!

  • Joseff
    Reply

    Wow! This is amazing and I think I’ll need this soon because I’ll be bringing my kids for the first time next month in florida. I’m excited and a bit nervous but with all these great tips you shared, I’m pretty sure will be alright. Thanks for sharing this post!

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