Travel Tricks of the Trade

Amy Rees
June 19, 2013

School's out, and the beach beckons! Or Grandma's house, or the lake you daydream about during chilly winter afternoons, or wherever it is your favorite mode of transportation might take you.

Walk, ride, fly, float.  Do whatever you need to do to plot a getaway! 

And whether you are packing the kiddies up for a trip across the world or just across town, we thought you might appreciate our tried-and-true Savvy tricks for holding the (sometimes infinitesimally) short attention span of your preschooler during the trip.

Safe travels!

Brain Quest preschool edition

Given how much we dislike reaching down for lost doll shoes in the space between airplane seats, it comes as no surprise that we are big fans of these self-contained, double sets of cards. But it's not just that we are crazy about the way that they pack 300 fully-illustrated questions and answers into two decks of impossible-to-pry-apart cards (although we are), we really love the content too. There are fun I Spy games; there are three scenes that your little one must place in sequence; there are shapes to identify, things to count, body parts to name. Classic preschool real-world themes are the focus - getting dressed, colors, shapes, counting, naming, etc. And the two decks make it immune to sibling squabbling. Well, almost....

Story Starter Activity

Here's an activity you can do before bedtime or on long car rides. Suggest three or four characters (say a pig, a basket, a car, and an apple) and challenge your child to create a story that uses these characters. Then switch roles either using the same characters or have your child pick new ones for you. You can also play this game in restaurants, using the menu and things you see there. This is a great imagination developer.

A Day at the Airport

We count Richard Scarry as one of our most beloved classic authors. We think the way his drawings delight while the jam-packed pages do explosive work on a child's vocabulary is simply masterful. And what better way to spend the day at the airport than with A Day at the Airport—a little dash of metaphysics for the younger set! And because this book is fairly overflowing with things and words and scenes and pictures, in classic Scarry style, it just may justify itself for a spot in all that luggage, instead of the, oh, 19 or so other stories that your little one thinks he just has to bring along.

Post Its

You're scratching your head.  Did we really just jump from Richard Scarry to a 3M brand office supply? Yep. We've never met a kid under age 10 who can't be distracted for a good long while with post-its on a plane. Write on 'em, stick 'em to the tray table, make a flip book, put 'em on your nose. Pass the time. And then pop into the passing garbage bag. (No need to buy on Amazon; you've got a drawer full of them at your desk.)

License Plate Alphabet Game Activity

A fun road trip game: Try to find each letter of the alphabet on the license plates of cars. Start with "A" and the first person in the car to find the letter gets a point. Keep going until you get to Z!

Trunki Suitcase

The world's most ingenious piece of luggage.  Your kiddo can pack what she says she needs and what you say she needs, and then she can ride on its back (instead of yours) as you hustle to the gate!  Full steam ahead! 

Lug Nap Sac Travel Blanket and Pillow

You've read the articles on how grimy airplane blankets are and now you break out into hives when you see them offered.  But your darling's blankie is safely tucked away in the bag for meltdown purposes only.  How to keep out that chilly airplane air so that your little one has any prayer for a cozy flight?  This travel blanket/pillow combo is your perfect answer.  And it's machine washable, so you can look at it without getting itchy all over again. 

Mix-It-Up Storytelling Activity

This is a great activity for long car rides! You and your child (or children) take turns adding to a story. The parent begins by saying the first line (e.g. 'Once upon a time there was a little girl who loved to go the circus. And then one day when she went the craziest thing happened...'). Each storytelling participant then takes turns adding to the story. This is a great way for older children to learn how to create and follow a narrative -- and it's very silly fun!

For even more great travel tips, visit our Savvy Travel Essentials section!

The Savvy Source is an Amazon affiliate. 

From the Parents

  • Parent # 1

    Ooooh - along with post its, pack a box of colorful bandaids! You get at least an hour's worth of entertainment at a fair price.

    over a year ago

  • Parent # 2

    Don't forget Travel Bingo! We found some cards just like we had when we were kids (at Restoration Hardware, I believe), and we play on teams with the kids. It's just competitive enough to be fun, and keeping an eye out for the elusive bird on a wire can make the miles pass much more quickly.

    over a year ago


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