Kid Entertainment Essentials for Family Travel

By Holly Homer


Traveling with kids is always an adventure. And not always the type of adventure you want to photograph and add to the family scrapbook. This truth is something that I have learned over the years as a mom of three boys. Boys are wiggly and passengers are expected to be calm.


I found that with my boys, the hardest time to keep their energy under control was during wait time in airports, drive time in a car trip and that first hour you get somewhere and the adults have to get everything settled before the fun can begin.


Our solution is what we call the entertainment bag. Each boy has one. Each boy carries one. Each boy has learned to pack it himself and be responsible for its contents during the trip. Let’s look at what Rhett, my seven-year-old, is packing for an upcoming plane trip:


  • Nintendo 3 DS with games. We have a suggested limit of five games per trip because the game cartridges are easily lost. With a manageable number to count each time things are put away, the likelihood of one slipping out in a rental car lessens.
  • Pencil, multicolor pen and small package of crayons. This multicolor click pen is an entertainment bag exclusive item. Keeping it for special occasions like trips has kept its entertainment value high.
  • Paper. This is also a special pad of paper that stays with the bag. It is fun to look back at what art past trips have inspired.
  • Earphones. The earphones are a necessity for video game play on the go so as not to bother neighboring travelers.
  • Earphone splitter. A splitter is a great idea if siblings are borrowing dad’s tablet to watch a movie or listening along to music with mom.
  • Book(s). Rhett usually has a few LEGO readers, or we pick up some on the way. My older boys will pack the book that they are currently reading.
  • Activity sheets. Before each trip I try to find something that would interest Rhett that he hasn’t seen before. Depending on his latest phase, this could be mazes, dot-to-dot, word puzzles, drawing assignments or other printables. The Dollar Store, Target’s Dollar Spot or online printables for kids are all sources of inexpensive (or free) entertainment that can be tucked into the bag.
  • Individually packaged wipes. With the restrictions on liquids like hand sanitizer at airports, we have found that the individual packets of wipes are a good thing to have on hand. I might even admit to “borrowing” one occasionally.
  • Special snack. When we travel, snack rules are relaxed. During an earlier trip to the grocery store, they each pick out special snacks they would like to pack. Packaged cookies, granola bars and {gasp} even a little candy is squirreled away in the depths of the entertainment bag.
  • Special spending money. Each boy is given a souvenir fund at the beginning of the trip. Even $10 is a big responsibility in terms of planning and executing the purchase of the perfect memento. I like watching them scour every gift shop, gas station and airport store trying to narrow down the endless decisions about vacation treasure.
  • A little extra room for vacation treasures. Whether it be a souvenir, shells from a beach, rocks from a hike, a package of crayons from a restaurant we visited, brochure or hotel soap, Rhett will NEED it to be close to him on the return trip.


The bags that the boys pack for travel are put away between traveling adventures. This system has not only helped entertain them during a trip but has also completely eliminated the question, “Mom, can you put this in your purse?” What can’t your kids travel without?


Compensation was provided by Sylvan Learning. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of Sylvan.