We're all for buying the kids a few new toys to get through a long plane ride or car trip, but frankly we don't want to break the shopping budget before we even leave town. Even more importantly, it can take more time to gather up the right toys than I have in the last few days before leaving on vacation.
- Three words: "blue painter's tape." If you can't figure out what to do with it, don't worry, any toddler can show you.
- Pipe cleaners are fascinating to twist into different shapes and attach together. Who knows, you might even use one to fix something.
- Books. Of course you can bring new books, but it's always comforting to have a couple of favorites from home. One of our favorites for travel is Airplanes by Byron Barton
- MP3 player (or music on a laptop) and headphones loaded with familiar music. Our kids were able to sit still enough to keep earbuds in at age 1.
- Colorforms or reusable stickers. We especially like the original, shape based, ones, but whatever you have will work. If you have a window seat, your child can stick them on the window
- It's no secret that young toddlers love boxes. Save the boxes from your cosmetics purchases and collapse them to put in your carryon. You can put them back together once you're on the flight.
- Crayons & a small spiral bound pad of paper (this way your child can draw in the stroller too). If the crayons get on the tray table, use a wet-nap to clean up. For older kids, you can also play games like hangman and tic-tac-toe.
- Catalogs. Kids just learning to speak think it is super fun to look at pictures of babies & different household items. Older kids will energetically circle every single thing they wish they had and torture your for the remainder of the trip about them (but it's better than having them kick the seat isn't it)
- A lightweight scarf can be used for peek-a-boo or made into dress up clothing (a hat, a cape, a skirt, a purse, a pirate eye patch, etc etc etc.)
- Small playdough container or silly putty. The container itself can be fun to play with long after the dough is gone.
- A deck of cards. You can teach them to count and play simple games, and they'll love watching you shuffle.