gift ideas for kids who travel


It’s that time of year again folks, time to start thinking about holiday gifts. We’ll be traveling for Thanksgiving this year, so travel is on my mind as I start making my list and checking it twice. Thankfully, this holiday flight is only a short two-hour hop to the Bay Area. As I shop for my nieces and nephews, I can’t help but take a brief trip down memory lane, remembering how I used to keep my children amused on long flights when they were much younger – and of course, think about what works for us today.

Here’s a selection of the toys and games which worked for me – at different ages and stages. Check it out, let me know what you think. I have two boys, so there’s a noticeable lack of Barbie, Polly Pocket and even Bratz on this list. If you have a daughter and I’ve missed a toy or game which keeps her amused when you’re traveling, please, leave a comment and let me know!

Infant (0-6): The Baby Whoozit was a big hit with my boys at this age.


Toddlers (6-24 months): Ah, the ’20-second-attention-span’ age group. I’m sure I carried half my bodyweight in board books in our carry-on bags when my guys were active toddlers. Books by Eric Carle and Dr. Seuss (The Very Hungry Caterpiller, The Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham) were favorites. Fabric Activity books such as the JUNGLE FUN BOOK by Gund were a nice relief and allowed for a little independent play. Closer to two, reusable sticker books were a big hit.


Preschoolers (2-4 yrs): I don’t homeschool (and would most likely really lose my marbles if I tried), but I do use a lot of homeschooling activity books for travel. They’re very like the Disney-themed activity books easily found in your local drugstore, but without the Disney characters or price tag. These Poof Slinky Buki activity books are excellent for very young children – particularly when there’s an older sibling to emulate :) On one occasion, in a busy Portugese restaurant, I had four preschoolers (one of mine and his cousins) quietly working on math problems using a Pre-K Workbook while their parents chatted – and helped with some problems. No magic, just some age-appropriate puzzles and a little competition.


This is a good age to introduce audiobooks. My boys started with $10 walkmans and only recently graduated to digital music players. You can now pick up an Apple iPod shuffle for less than $50 at Amazon and Walmart. Unfortunately, the trademark white earbud headphones are just a nuisance with little kids. CAM and BigB use noise-cancelling headphones from Sony. Kid-sized, kid-priced. They even come with their own carrying bag.

Elementary School Ages (5-11 yrs): A little Sudoku, maybe a crossword puzzle book, MadLibs, some audiobooks on (4gb) iPod or Zune, a pack of cards and we’re good to go. Oh, yes, and the dreaded handheld video games. Believe it or not, it is possible for a child to play with his Nintendo DS for eight straight hours on a transatlantic flight. I’m not proud of that fact. I wouldn’t mention it except I did enjoy the movie I was able to watch and being able to arrive at our destination somewhat refreshed after a pretty decent nap onboard.

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This entry was posted in Mom Talks Tech and tagged on by .

About wandermom

". . .life is short and the world is wide" - Simon Raven I'm not sure I've ever consciously planned a trip based on this sentiment, but it definitely influences my subconscious! I've been traveling as frequently and widely as possible since I finished school. And I love it. I love the research, the planning, the fervent packing and the curiosity of exploring somewhere I've never been before. My husband & I are both Irish - as in born-in-Ireland. But we live in Seattle. We have two boys: wild, boisterous, regular boys. So, since becoming a Mom, I've been a WanderMom. Given our slightly-unusual family situation, routine "visits-to-Grandma" are international trips requiring passports, 10hr-flights and (oh joy!) airport transfers. I have rants, raves and opinions about how, where & why to travel with kids (start them as young as you can, I say!). I hope to learn even more by researching topics which other wandermoms may be interested in reading about on this blog. Passports, pacifiers, diapers and gameboys at the ready - off we go! Contact Info: Email Michelle: michelle (at) murphnduff (dot) org

5 thoughts on “gift ideas for kids who travel

  1. Victoria

    There is a great children’s publisher in the UK (and elsewhere?) called Usborne that has a range of stuff designed for travelling children aged about two up. They do 1001 things to spot books which are similar to the Where’s Waldo/Wally books. They also do a couple of boxes of wipe clean activity cards supplied with a white board marker. Each box has about 50 different activites targetted at a specific age group, such as spot the difference, puzzles, finish the drawing, sudoku etc. They are so popular with our children that I’ve bought a couple of extra pens so all three can use them at once.

  2. bklein34

    Great ideas! I also love Woodkins. Discovered them at small toy store in Montana on last vacation (after realizing on flight there we DID NOT have enough kids travel toys). Pieces are easy to find if dropped under airplane seat and come in handy plastic bag.

    Love this site, btw!

  3. wandermom

    @Victoria: Usborne! How could I have forgotten. We have some of their ‘mystery-choose-an-ending’ books. Endless fun.

    @Bklein34: Always happy to get a little flattery. Off to check out woodkins…

  4. Jennifer

    Great list! And whoo, does a boys’ list look different from a girls’ list. Sad but true. My daughters are older now, but there was a time a few years back when all I wanted to do with Pretty Ponies was introduce them to the garbage disposal.

  5. Roberta

    I wish I’d read this before, my husband had left for England with my son. (which is why I have time to come on sites and comment).
    By the way Beth, he took the safety money pouch I won in a giveaway from you!! So its getting a lot of use.

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