Saturday, December 8, 2012

15 Take-Alongs for Traveling with Toddlers

Last June, we took our family vacation to Kiawah Island, SC. Wren was about 19 months old at the time. Because we planned to drive, I decided it was important to be SUPER prepared with lots of activities that would help us avoid boredom, thereby avoiding tantrums. On the way there, we split up the trip into 2 shorter days of travel (6-7 hours each day), but at the end of the trip, we were having such a great time that we decided to stay an extra day and do the drive home in 1 day.

13 Hours. In the Car. With a Toddler.

Luckily, my MIL was in the back with Wren and I, so we could tag team on the entertainment, but I am proud to say that we did not have a SINGLE meltdown.

Let me repeat that for you:

Not a Single Meltdown During a
13 Hour Car Ride with a Toddler.

And to prove that it wasn't a fluke, Wren and I flew to Seattle alone the next week, which was a 4 1/2 hour flight. And not a single meltdown during that trip either, though I didn't take all 15 of the items I will mention, just her faves.

Because I put so much time and research into deciding what to take, I decided to share it with you all. I thought now would be a good time since so many people are on the road for holiday travel.

Being prepared made for such a pleasant experience.
I will start off by saying that we obviously had lots of food, some special "treat" snacks that she wasn't used to geting, and her favorite buddy, Paddington.

I wanted everything to have its own spot and be contained so that we could move effortlessly from one activity to another without her being overwhelmed and without the car getting destroyed, so I went on the hunt for inexpensive zipper pouches that had a clear window. I opted for the ones shown above, which were $1 from Walmart.

Next up, I decided that I'd need a large container for all of the activities. I opted for my Large Utility Tote from ThirtyOne (they are so incredibly versatile!), which was big enough to store everything, but small enough to fit between the seats under Wren's carseat. (She was-and still is-rear facing.)

Next, it was onto what would go into the pouches and the tote...
I googled, I pinterested, I got creative.
Here's what I came up with:

1. Finger Puppets. (Most of ours are from IKEA.)

2. Flashcards. My favorites are from Lakeshore Learning, but I also added in a few packs from the Dollar Store. We had 3 packs total.

3. Chalk-n-Doodle. You heard why this thing is amazing in THIS post.

4. STICKERS! Wren is still obsessed. I grabbed a small lined notebook from the $1 section at Michael's, along with about a million sticker pages and booklets (mostly from the $1 section at Target and during super clearance sales after various holidays). These made the cut for the plane ride, too!

5. Magnetic Writing Board (aka Etch a sketch). We picked this one up for $5 on sale at Lakeshore Learning.

6. Magnetic Letters. TIP!: Grab a cheap cookie pan to take along. This came in so handy for the magnetic letters, but also for her to put her coloring books and paper on so she could write and color (without having crayons go everywhere).

7. Storytelling Glove and Puppets. Also from Lakeshore Learning (I swear this is not a sponsored post, we just happen to love that store!), these storytelling gloves and accompanying puppets are a fun way to tell stories and let the little one take part.

8. Foam Shapes. These were great for working on colors and shapes and gave her something small to squeeze and play with. Found in $1 section at Target, though you can usually find them at any craft store.

9. Coloring Books & Crayons. TIP!: Pick up a set of these triangular crayons. They're nice and big for toddlers to grip, but the shape also means they don't slide and roll around. These are great for restaurants, too!

10. Color Wonder Coloring Pads & Markers. These are fabulous for the car. The clear marker won't show up if they drop it or write on themselves or the carseat.

11. Quiet Book Pages. I talked about the Quiet Book Page Swap I took part in HERE. These were fun to take along and Wren enjoyed the different activities within each page.

12. Books, Books, Books. We took along about 8 books. A few were ones that Wren was really into at the time, and the rest were ones that I knew she'd love but I waited to break them out until the trip. I included a couple Look and Find books that were basic enough for her to search for items, but I knew they'd keep her attention for a bit.

13. Toddler Wallet. I took one of my old used wallets and filled it with all sorts of fun surprises. Used giftcards, old hotel room keys, some business cards, pictures, and interesting little baubles. This also made the cut for the plane ride!

14. DVD Player. This isn't pictured, but we had a DVD player with 2 movies for her to watch. At the time, she hadn't ever seen a movie, so I didn't plan on it holding her attention for long, and I was right. But it did give us 10-20 minute spurts of downtime from having to entertain her when she was awake.

15. iPhone. Also not pictured, but this was used as a last resort. We have tried to limit her use of phones and computers, but she did enjoy the flashcard app that I had as well as flipping through my photos, and watching short YouTube clips of babies or animals. During our trip to Seattle, my friend Megan clued us in to the fun app, Monkey Preschool Lunchbox, and it continues to be Wren's favorite app. I'm actually on the hunt for some good ones, so if anyone has suggestions, please share!

I hope this was helpful! Safe and happy travels!

Let me know if there are items you would add to this list...I'm always on the lookout.


  1. Great post Christina! I'm pinning it now. :) I love PreSchool Monkey too...I've had several since E was little like the Peekaboo Wild games, most all of the apps from Duck Duck Moose, FisherPrice has some cute free apps, Phone4Kids... I also have the Little Einsteins, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, and Bubble Guppies on video. His favorite thing is still the photos I put on and videos of himself playing. He'll replay those over and over! XXX

  2. Great post! Im about to take a 9 hour trip with my 21month old.. I am going to get some fo these items for sure!

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