I usually start gathering up stuff a few months ahead of time and keep them in a secret hiding spot where the kids can't find them. I use lots of 40 percent off coupons, free printables, and dollar section finds. We also splurge on a few items, but look around to see where we can find them cheaper.
Busy Bags are great for traveling. This one is I found here. I printed the patterns out and laminated them (I have my own, which helps a lot. You can also get self sealing laminating pockets or just not laminate them, but they last so much longer when you do!).
these off of amazon). I think he finished this Avengers one before summer was over.
leapster with some games. This will probably be the last year Ethan uses his leapster (he's getting a little old for it). Ethan, who is almost 8, has been playing a lot of the Ispy game and I'm not going to lie. . . it's got some hard ones that I can't always figure out. Weston likes to seranade us with the Leap Frog punctuation and alphabet songs. . . it's quite fun (for a few minutes anyway!). We also have games downloaded onto the Ipad and a movie that usually plays on repeat. For this trip we had zootopia and last year it was Big Hero 6. It came in handy on days when we spent more time in the car or evenings in the camper when they needed some downtime before bed.
Paper, stickers, coloring books, & colored pencils. Anything to keep their hand and minds busy. I like to stock up on stickers from the target dollar spot. That thing is awesome! This year I am making them binders with paper and pencil pouches and printing out some online travel games. I also made Ethan a travel journal for this trip. We don't take crayons with us on summer trips because they just don't mix well with the heat of the summer. I like Crayola's twistable colored pencils, because you don't have to sharpen them. We also have a pencil box with these coloring pages and some pipsqueak markers that are lots of fun. This year, we are adding the Star Wars pages!
smaller backpack last year and it wouldn't fit. These aren't coming with us on this trip because they aren't exciting anymore. They still get used, but we are getting new things for this trip.
this set at Target and the kids played with it every night in the hotel room. We took that container with us on all our summer adventures last year and it really helped keep them entertained while in the hotel room. We even added to it when we found a Lego store! We will be doing the same thing this year because it worked so well. We were able to leave it in my parent's camper and get it when they made it back home, but this year, we will just have Ethan carry it on the airplane. I think it would be nice to have them in the airport too, to play with while on a layover.
I had forgotten about these roads I had laminated awhile back, and we brought them with us to Disneyland. Weston loves them and can't wait til they come out. These only come out when we stay in a hotel, so they are super special. You can go here and print them out and grab some hotwheels from your child's stash and you are good to go. So sorry for the sideways picture!
Magnetic checkers and tic tac toe
deck of cards
Spot it and Spot it Jr.
Books to read
Traveling with kids doesn't have to be overwhelming at all. As long as they have something to do, during down times (airplanes, hotels, and cars), they are really better behaved. We have gotten compliments on how well our children travel and it's nice to hear. But, they aren't perfect and if they are tired or over stimulated, you can tell. I won't lie. Before we even made it on the airplane, Weston had a meltdown over an airplane and hit his head on a chair. Things are not always perfect, but their surprised filled backpacks really help make things easier.