Baan Dek

Easy and Cheap Travel Heroes


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It’s a time of year when many people are traveling. In areas of the world where this time of year is particularly dark and cold, families are taking full advantage of the cold to travel somewhere with fun outdoor activities, or using children’s time off school to visit the sun, even for a long weekend.

Travel can sometimes feel like a bit of a four-letter word. It can be stressful any time of year, but particularly if it’s a busy travel season, like around holidays or during high vacation season, or if there’s weather to contend with, or if we’re also eager to see family we don’t get to eat dinner with every day.

We shared a few tips for Travel with Children in this previous post and podcast, but we wanted to share a few “travel heroes,” special items that just make things easier. These can be easily gathered from around the house or inexpensively acquired on a routine trip to the grocery store. The point of this post is not to make more work!

  • Pen and paper. This is classic. It can be used for coloring, practicing writing your name, making a list of things to remember, or a more pleasant version of the old “hangman” game, snowman. This doesn’t need to be a new Moleskine notebook and a glitter pen, though I do my best work in glitter pen; the chewed-on bic and 50-cent spiral notebook work really well. Another favorite: Post-It’s! They come in a million colors and are a bit of a writing and coloring treat. Also, this is one time we do recommend a pen. Pencils are great, until we need a sharpener! If you have one handy, a mechanical pencil works wonderfully in this situation.
  • Action figures or vehicles. This is one toy to pack without a child’s help, since it can be really useful to pack a limited number, say three to five, and not a child’s most favorites. A limited number, so when we’re leaving the rest stop or de-planing we can quickly count and know if they’re all there, and not most favorites, because we want to enjoy travel, not stress about misplacing the most treasured bulldozer. Action figures and vehicles encourage independent play, there’s not a lot to tidy, and can be used anywhere for any length of time.
  • Small servings of snacks. Often when we’re traveling, we can get stuck, or there are unhealthy options readily available, or hungry and tired occur a bit more quickly. Small servings of snacks can help when children (or adults!) are just too worn out to be cooperative, or when unhealthy options are staring at you at every stop on the road or in the terminal. Whether you pack them or purchase packaged options, it’s nice to have something quick and easy to hand out when people are feeling hungry and tired.
  • Playing cards. If you have an older child, travel can be a fun opportunity to introduce solitaire, crazy eights, or rummy. Younger children can play go fish with an older partner, sort cards by color, identify numerals, count cards, any number of activities! Plus, they take up hardly any space at all.
  • Plastic baggies. Whether your family uses the disposable or silicone ones, plastic baggies really are indispensable. Empty ones take up hardly any space at all, and they’re a bit of a life saver when we’re looking for somewhere quick to put a new found treasure, an unfinished snack, or the parts to a toy we can’t find the box for just this moment.
  • One new something. Maybe it’s a new version of one of these items — a brand new mechanical pencil and favorite colored post-its, or a special snack that usually gets a “no” at the grocery store. It’s nice to have a surprise for when a child has been particularly patient and we’re all getting frustrated at the travel delays, or when a nap has been interrupted one too many times. A small surprise can be as big a gift to adults, as to the child who receives it.

It’s a bit of a wonder how much we can help children with just the items many of us keep in our glove box or at the bottom of a work bag. As in the previous post, prepare, engage, and enjoy!

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Written by:

Charlotte Snyder

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