Kids and travel.

Travel and kids.

This is a serious subject in my household.

My grandmother was a travel agent for years and she taught me all of the shortcuts.  We LOVE to travel, and with kids in tow that makes it a little more challenging.  We have these tiny people who have shorter attention spans and are telling them to sit still for long periods of time and still not lose their little minds.

So, as long as I have set those expectations, I feel it is my responsibility as a parent to aid that endeavor.

Travel Can Be Stressful

I used to stress out about travel.

What did I need to take?  How did I need to pack it? I didn’t want the kids on screens the whole time, but perhaps if they were on screens, it could at least be educational?  I would spend days, maybe even weeks planning for trips.  And by the time I got to taking the trip, I was so stinking exhausted that it was far less enjoyable for me (and I am sure those around me, as well).

After a string of these trips, I found that although I was using some of the same materials, I was taking twice as much time packing and unpacking each time.  I got the bright idea to perhaps just put these same materials in a designated bag for each child so it ready when we decided to “bug-out.”

Consolidation: Bug-Out Bags

I chose a size-appropriate backpack for each of our kids, as they would be in charge of taking this with them during travel.

My girls are five and seven and play fairly well together.  This influenced the choices I made for what was in the pack, as well.

Then, I raided the dollar store.

I mean, I walked in there like Macklemore in a thrift shop.  I grabbed a cart; not a basket.
What, what, what.. what!?

The Hunt was On.

I started with small make-up pouches so I could keep things separate.

Each kiddo got their own pattern, so they knew which bags went in their packs.  Pencil bags would have worked fine here as well, but I liked that the make-up bags laid flatter.

I made sure each pack had a clipboard with a low-profile clip, a double-sided 8×11 white board with a blank side and a lined side and a reusable dry-erase plastic pocket – in different colors, of course.

One of each of their little make-up bags got dry erase markers in all the colors I could find, as I was leaning heavily on this medium.  It ended up being two packs each, and one of the packs had the little erasers on the end – BONUS!

Another of the little bags contained some gel pens.  We already had a load of these at home, but they are available at the dollar store, as well.


Different colored or patterned washi tape on the end of each of these pens helps kiddos keep their own separate from their siblings without much intervention from parental units at clean-up.

We encourage sharing as much as possible, but if we can limit the opportunity for unnecessary conflict, the trip goes smoother, longer.

Disclaimer: If you are like me, pens and markers can be risky – my girls don’t generally have unlimited access to these at home, so it made the ones in their pack a little bit of a novelty. From a logistics standpoint, there is nothing that needs sharpening and they are harder to break than crayons.  Also, because the markers erase, I was using less paper, and thus, less space.  There is such thing as a dry-erase crayon, though, in case markers are just too risky.

OK, back to business.

Fill ‘er up!

The dollar store also has these wonderful little character activity kits.  They are SEALED which adds to the mystery.  My kids get these when they travel, and that is about it. Gel pens are the medium of choice for these projects.  If we are lucky enough to be visiting family or friends, my kids know they can give these works of art as gifts to end up on a refrigerator somewhere and that lightens the load on the way home.

In the school aisle of the dollar store, there are coloring books, word searches, and age-appropriate educational activity books.  I found a couple laminated ones for my youngest so she could use her dry erase markers.  For the paper activity books, I took the pages out and put them in a reusable dry-erase plastic pocket.  My eldest (or I) can flip through the pages in there and put the one I want her to complete on top so that she can use her dry erase markers to complete the activity, and that activity becomes re-useable!

Flash cards and card games are also great compact things to slip into their bug-out bags.

Dice can be used as games or math activities.

Puzzles are another cost-effective item for the bags.  It is a little more time consuming on the front end, but a colored dot can be placed on the back with a marker so that if pieces do get jumbled, it is easy to see which ones go back in the right bag.  Again – we are limiting the opportunity for conflict while fostering responsibility and organization.

And toys…

I keep two of the make-up bags for toys; actual figurines that can be used in imaginative play.

At this point, I have a handful of these bags at the ready in case we are doing multiple trips in a short period of time.  I can swap some of the characters out if I feel they are getting redundant.  We have a set of Barbie, Paw Patrol, DC Comics and My Little Pony figurines.  I also found small fairy doll figurines at a department store a while back and about 10 of them fit nicely in one of those bags.  Toy cars, farm animal figurines, Transformers, Legos, Toy Story, Monsters Inc., and dinosaurs are all other options I have seen at the store.  Part of the novelty, I am sure, is that the girls only get to play with these particular toys on trips.

It is like they are brand new all over again!

Technology is Space Saving

You all don’t actually think that I am doing this bag completely tech-free, do you?

We all have our limits.

Sure, I add a few books to the backpack that the kids can read to each other or to a stuffy.

But my girls also each have a kid-friendly tablet that we can download books, games, or educational activities on.  For those whose kiddos cannot read enough books, or their books are so short that you would need two dozen to get you through the trip, technology can be quite handy.  We are avid users of Audible and their selection of kids’ books is great.  We include ear buds and the kids can either listen on their own or together.  This creates alone time for those introverted kids who need a little “space” to re-charge.

The Tally

If you have been keeping track, this is roughly $30 of activities for each kiddo (with the exception of the tablet), many of which are re-useable.  Upkeep is minimal.  Most of these activities are car-friendly, but also translate well to quiet activities when at your destination.

If you are looking to invest a little more into your bug-out bags, Busy Books or magnetic activity boards/books/tins have been good for us.  We have also included Water Wow or Aqua Doodle books/mats in the past.  More recently, we have discovered light/glow boards and those are quite travel friendly.  Story Cubes or Bananagrams are compact games we toss in a bag for family fun at the destination.

With the holidays coming up, there could be more travel with kids on the horizon.  Or even if it is a short trip to the doctor’s office and you don’t want your kiddos to partake in the shared toys, these bags are a quick and easy option.

I hope you have found these bug-out bags to be a helpful tip! If you have done this type of thing before, what are some must-haves you have included? I’m always up for an upgraded idea.

travel kids

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Rochelle is a desert-rat from Arizona who kept moving north until she hit Colorado Springs; good luck getting her to leave now. She wasted no time snagging her husband under the pretense of athleticism and outdoorsy-ness. Among other things, eleven years of marriage has yielded two beautiful daughters, Harper and Quinn. Momming these super-sassy littles is her biggest adventure yet, and provides for some serious writing material. Rochelle works out of the home also, and has a diverse background in public relations, social work, student advising, youth ministry and pyrotechnics. She is presently finishing up her MBA and is juggling all of it fairly well for a person with little to no hand-eye-coordination. She is a firm believer that it takes a village to raise a child and she is beyond grateful for hers.