Traveling anywhere with young kids can be stressful (and, let’s be real, sometimes downright dreadful), but you’ll never forget the adventure that makes visiting somewhere new or returning home to see the grandparents so special.
You can definitely do this, dear parents, but don’t go unprepared!
Here are our must-have travel accessories to help you survive that dreaded cross-country flight or stuffed-in-a-car-for-hours dream (or obligatory) road trip. Note: these items are better suited to the 2+ crowd; for the tiny ones, check out our eBook, Flying with Baby.
Note: for your major travel gear (stroller, Pack N Play, etc.), please read Best Travel Gear.
Tablets and DVD Players
For long trips, a tablet or DVD player is your best friend (outside of your flask, that is). Assuming you don’t already have one, here is a quick and dirty list of our favorites for kids —
It’s true, you should limit screen time for young children (and all children, for that matter) in your normal day-to-day life. But for travel? All bets are off, people. So go crazy and watch Frozen 17 times if it keeps the peace 😉
$ – Sylvania 7-inch Portable DVD ~ $46
Do you still own (and buy) DVDs? Adorable. We dig this 7″ wide LCD display that swivels up to 180 degrees and comes with a remote control (no more leaning over the back seat!). Includes a rechargeable battery and power adapter.
$ – Amazon Fire Kids ~ $79
This is our top choice for kids because of the price tag, the kid-proof rubber case, and the 2-year no-questions-asked guarantee. The Fire for Kids has a simple interface, great parental controls, and 1 year of “FreeTime Unlimited,” which is essentially a bunch of free content for kids from PBS Kids, Nickelodeon, Disney, and the like.
$$ – Verizon GizmoTab ~ $249
If the Android operating system is more your style, check out the Verizon GizmoTab. The GizmoTab is basically an Ellipsis 8 HD with a bright case and some child-friendly software optimizations. Also: cellular connectivity, which you don’t get with the Fire.
$$$ – Apple iPad Mini ~ $367
If you’re married to a tech guy, you understand the love affair people have with Apple products. So sleek and sexy. The iPad is actually a powerful computer in a mini-sized package. There isn’t much you can’t do with it. But seriously, kids don’t need an iPad of their own. Get an iPad for you, then share it with them for travel. And be sure to protect it with a case!!
Kid’s Headphones & Travel Pillows
Outside of a tablet, headphones are my #1 travel essential. Adult headphones are too big for kids’ tiny ear canals, plus… they enjoy having their own “phones.” Get a color they’ll get excited about. You can plug them into mobile phones, tablets, and even the entertainment screens found on all airlines except for Southwest (kidding!).
Pro tip: be cognizant of the relationship between devices and motion sickness. As you know, watching or reading anything in the hills or while making a lot of turns is a recipe for barfing; this is true for kids especially—and rear-facing kids super especially!! Some kids (and adults, ahem) even get sick on an airplane! Dramamine for Kids is a parent’s third best friend (flask, tablet, headphones, Dramamine, are you keeping track??). Give this chewable, grape flavored pill to your little one an hour before travel to help ward off motion sickness. It’s non-drowsy (my apologies!! LOL).
Cheap, cute, and kids love them; these panda headphones make a great first pair.
LilGadgets ~ $17 — Editor’s Choice
These foldable, high quality headphones are our top pick for kids. No need for a splitter with these; one side plugs into your device and the other daisy-chains to a 2nd set of headphones for shared audio. Bonus: a portion of each purchase goes towards bullying prevention in schools. Available in five cool colors.
Cozy Phones ~ $18
Cozy phones are essentially speakers built into a headband. They are super comfortable, soft, and washable (remove the speakers!). These are a smart alternative for kids who hate earbuds, struggle with bulky headphones, or have sensory issues like SPD.
Ever seen your kid take a nap in his car seat? Ever think “how can he be comfortable with his head falling forward like that?” Well, this pillow was designed to prevent that. And don’t worry, it has a flat back, so it doesn’t push his head forward.
*For ages 3-10.
Kids’ Backpacks and Luggage
Harnessed backpacks ~ $11+
Is it okay to have a kid on a leash? In a busy airport or a crowded shopping area: yes! Perfect for those 1- to 3-year-olds who tend to run into busy streets or wander off like Dory. Includes a removable, adjustable parent strap and a chest clip for the smallest of adventurers.
Olive Backpacks ~ $16+
Olive Kids makes adorable, highly-rated backpacks for little ones for a great price. The size of the bag is perfect for young toddlers (not too big!). This compact travel pack has an outside mesh pocket for a water bottle. *Coordinates with lunch box and nap mat (sold separately). Super cute.
Skip Hop Backpacks ~ $17
Skip Hop makes another cute and durable toddler backpack (also great for preschool!). Kids love the animal designs (my 4-year-old lost it when she saw the new unicorn backpack!).
Skip Hop Rolling Luggage ~ $35
If your kids are old enough to pull their own luggage, let them! Trust me, they’ll enjoy it, and it’s one less thing you’ll have to schlep. Skip Hop makes the same irresistible animal styles, but with wheels. It’s the perfect size for an airplane carry-on.
This lightweight rolling luggage by Stephen Joseph is another parent favorite. It has plenty of space for all their gear, including a long outside pocket for colored pencils, etc.
Trunki Ride-On Suitcase ~ $40
The beloved Trunki is the classic sit-on, pull-on luggage for kids. Your wee-traveler can hop on for a ride when you need to get to Gate 41 from Gate 3 (or while flying out of Atlanta/Hartsfield, lol). Fits perfectly under airline seats. Bonus: if you carry your kid’s luggage onto the plane, you’ll have an emergency change of clothes, etc., at your fingertips. Just in case!
Pottery Barn Rolling Luggage ~ $99-$129
Moving up the hierarchy a bit, Pottery Barn kids’ luggage is super durable and totally customizable. Each weather-resistant (yay!) bag features kid-friendly handles, smooth-rolling wheels (many of them come as spinners), and easy-access compartments. The monogramming gives them a sense of ownership and “mine!”ness.
Juno Childsafe Bags ~ $28
America’s poison control centers receive roughly half a million calls each year from accidental pharmaceutical exposures in children; the vast majority of these happen to children under 5. Nearly all of these are a result of unsupervised children getting into medication. Those colorful, delicious ibuprofens are so alluring! And so dangerous. Hopefully you keep your medicines in a safe place at home, but don’t get caught off guard when you travel.
Enter the Juno Childsafe Bag; kids cannot get into it! This is the perfect place to keep your meds when you travel, or even at home. Also!! In our research, we found that grandparents are four times more likely than parents to keep prescription medicine in easy-access places. Please have a convo with your parents about keeping their medicines put away when your kids are visiting— or vice versa.
For me, the Juno is a no-brainer. I have one for my meds and one for the kid’s emergency travel meds, like kid’s ibuprofen, kid’s Benadryl, cough medicine, etc. I use the whole thing as a travel kit with a thermometer, Band-Aids, etc., so everything’s in one place.
Travel Toys & Games
Kids love novelty, so bring a couple of new things to keep them happy on your trip. Even something like stickers will go a long way.
Airplanes going zoom is very apropos.
Wikki Stix ~ $5
Bendy, creative, and fun. It’s my favorite thing to pull out at restaurants, too.
Inspired by car bingo, but with way more cool things to find.
These truly magical invisible markers don’t leave color on anything except the special coloring pad. Crayola’s Stow & Go includes an activity book, four mini-markers, and storage case that doubles as a desk pad. Trust me: kids think it’s magic too!
Boogie Board LCD Writer ~ $24
For your budding artist, this drawing toy has a translucent LCD writing surface for tracing shapes or hands; the pallet grip makes it easy to hold. Includes a double-sided stylus pen for drawing thin or thick lines.
Mobile Apps and Games
Educational, inspirational, creative and fun— don’t leave home without some awesome new apps and games to try out.
Toca Boca Vacation ~ $2.99 ~ Top Pick
Toca Boca apps are the #1 mobile-first kid’s brand in the app store. And for good reason: they design their products from a child’s perspective and offer learning through play. They have no advertising in their apps, so you don’t have to worry about any funny business.
Sago Mini Travel Pack ~ $14
We like the Sago Mini “Travel Pack,” which includes six great kids’ apps.
Puzzingo ~ $Free
For kiddos who love puzzles.
Thinkrolls ~ $3
Perfect for science lovers ages 3+. Problem solve puzzles in order to get to the next level.
Drawing Pad ~ $1
To be honest, this app is fun for all ages ; ). Kids can create their own art using realistic-looking crayons, pencils, stickers, pens, etc.
- Bugs and Buttons ($4) – Count buttons, learn letters, recycle, play tic tac toe
- Hoopa City ($4) – Build your own world with roads, houses, stores, etc.
- I Can Tell Time ($1) – Educational app that teaches your child to tell time
- Sesame Street Makes Music ($4) – Just make sure to purchase a headphone set (above)
Classic Travel Games
Let’s Go Fishin’ ~ $6
Goofy and entertaining, this game board spins as the fish open and close their mouths. What a catch! Har, har. The only downside is all the pieces.
Tic-Tac-Toe ~ $8
All the tic-tac-toe you want and none of the wasted paper. For kids 4+, but I’ve seen 3-year-olds play it too.
Classic (car travel) Car bingo ~ $6 (set of 3)
Who doesn’t remember these??? It makes me feel nostalgic for the two (count ‘em) cross-country trips I took as a kid. No iPads back then (or seat belts for that matter, lol).