Holiday travel: Tips for keeping kids occupied

Dec 1, 2012 at 4:14 a.m. ET

What's the secret to enjoying holiday travel with kids? Keep them busy! Whether you're hopping on a plane or buckling in for a long holiday road trip, busy kids are happy kids.

Family in car

Red backpackGive each child their own travel pack

Fill a tote bag or backpack with a variety of crafts, games and activities for each child. Wait until you're taking off on your travel adventure and surprise them with their very own travel kit.

Provide a variety of activities

When you choose crafty items, make sure they won't create a mess. Wikki Stix and pipe cleaners keep our kids busy for hours. Crayola Model Magic is a good choice because it's non-toxic, easy to work with and doesn't stick to surfaces. Include some crayons, pencils and a coloring book or sketchpad so kids can draw, play tic-tac-toe or hangman.

Provide individual snack boxes

Instead of fumbling around for snacks to pass to your hungry kiddos, give them each their very own snack pack. We like the LunchBots Quad All Stainless containers with four compartments to fill with a variety of munchies. Skip the sugary snacks, and go for high protein foods like string cheese and beef jerky or peanut butter and apples. Provide bottles of water to keep the kids hydrated.

Pocket Etch-a-Sketc

Surprise them with wrapped gifts

What kid doesn't like to open a present? Pick up items like card games, a Pocket Etch-a-Sketch, a small travel diary, finger puppets or stickers and surprise them with a wrapped gift every hour or so.

Melissa & Doug license plate gameTake breaks for independent activities

A little solitary time is good for everyone. Let kids listen to music or an audio book on the iPod, or have them watch a movie on the iPad. If they're into geography, provide a map of the route so they can follow along as you go. The license plate game is another game that keeps kids engaged during the long drive. You can buy one or print out this free license plate game and have the kids mark the license plates they see with stickers or crayons.

Play games together

Holiday travel is a great time for family bonding through play. Play 20 Questions and have each family member take a turn being the "answerer" while the others try to guess what they're thinking. Teach the kids that I Spy isn't just a book where they try to find things. Look out the window or inside the car or plane for a specific object and give a clue like, “I spy with my little eye something green!” Get communication flowing with a game like Table Topics Family that poses open-ended questions to spark family dialogue. How else are you going to find out which TV show your little ones want to live inside for one week?

Watch: Want even more tips on holiday travel with kids?

This Daily Dish video gives loads of tips on what to pack for the trip.

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