Having been fortunate to have traveled internationally (and nationally) a lot before having kids, we have always been motivated to continue doing so. With our now nearly 3 and 6-year old boys,  it is not quite as spontaneous, and lightweight as it used to be.

We have found that when the proper activities are chosen for the boys, they are worth every penny and every inch of space they take up, whether it’s in the backseat, a carry-on, or around the house.

We usually spend a significant amount of time planning our ‘activity bags’ for each trip, catering them to each child, interests, and mode of travel. After doing this many times for our kids, we realized that other families may benefit from our research and our goal to keep our kids as ‘Unplugged’ as possible. We feel the brain should grow as their awareness and appreciation for the world around them does as well. Although we carry over 600 unique, high quality items, here’s our first list of 52 Unplugged Travel Activities for kids of all ages, in a variety of categories. — Tracyn Thayer from Kids Travel Happy

Classics

1. Rubik’s Cube: 3 x 3 (and if this one has you too ‘puzzled’ check out the Junior “I can do it” 2 x 2, it may give you the confidence you need!)
2. Slide Puzzles: The perfect take anywhere puzzle! Within each 4″ x 4″ tray are eight puzzle pieces that glide into place. Challenging enough to entertain for hours. Kids young and old will enjoy these puzzles.
3. Flexi-Sphere: mesmerizing, It can be manipulated to collapse and expand into many wonderful shapes.
4. Wind Up Flippin’ Pets: oh, so simple, but endless fun (just make sure you have a tray for travel – details below)
5. Wizard Water Games by TOMY: adults will remember these! the coolest thing? take them through security empty, then fill up for on-the-flight fun!

Under $10

6.Pieceless Puzzle: Well, it has ONE piece, but it’s NOT simple. The best part? No pieces to lose! It’s durable and soft. It fits on a standard lap tray. Perfect for travel
7. Lacing & Tracing Sets: these heavy duty chipboard shapes from Lauri Toy give this activity endless combinations. Lace the variety of shape themes, then trace to make a fun scene to color and make come alive.
8. Squiggle on the Go:with a variety of skill levels for 4, 5, 6, 7 and up. Take a ‘squiggle’ and let your imagination take over. Will it become and animal, an object, a place? Comes on a sturdy backing, with a pencil that stores securely with the pad.

Under $5

9. Wire Puzzles: Make sure to hide a few of these in your handbag, pocket or anywhere, and they will save waiting ‘boredom’ anywhere. They come with the solutions, but best to hide those!
10. Inflatable World Globe: “take the whole world in your hands”; packs small, inflates to educate along the way, use at the hotel pool, deflate and pack away.
11. Grabber: 12″ recommended for air travel, 18″ Robot Claw for Car; you’ll be amazed at the uses. no more being on a plane and having to say to the folks in front of you “excuse me, my child’s toy is under your feet”.
12. Triangular Non-Rolling Crayons: from Melissa and Doug, the perfect solution for artists on-the-go.

Idea Books for Things To Do

13. Fun on the Run: 324 Instant Family Activities – perfect antidotes to those “booooring” car rides, endless waits in the doctor’s office, restaurant fidgetiness – all without any special props
14. UNPLUGGED Play: No Batteries, No Plugs, Pure Fun. 710 Games and Activities for ages 12 months to 10 years

Restaurant Games (quiet and group inclusive!)

15. Scramble Squares: The 9 piece brainteaser puzzle – They’re Not Just For Kids! Challenging educational puzzles with powerful graphics keep boys, girls, and adults captivated for hours! Perfect for all of your travel delay passing needs (or rainy day, or restaurant table/food waiting and more!)
16. Bananagrams: a 2009 Toy of the Year WINNER. Does your family have a set?
17. Find It Games: This is a brightly colored contained adventure. It contains 48 hidden items for you to find, conveniently listed on the top of the game. The items found in this sealed container are geared toward kids. SPIN IT, TWIST IT, SHAKE IT! Be the first to find the hidden Penny, Marble, Balloon, Letters of the Alphabet, or …?
18. Tastes Like Chicken– In the Tastes Like Chicken card game, you’ll match a Pig-Frog to a Frog-Cow or a Lobster-Shark to a Snake-Lobster. You’ve never seen crazy mixed-up animals like these before! The goal is to get rid of all your Wacky Animal Cards. But look out for those Tastes Like Chicken cards!

Self Contained Toys (come with own storage)

19. Zoom to the Moon: This portable rocketship set is perfect for take-along space adventures with 7 hand-painted wooden figures and 5″ x 8.5″ rocketship tote that has zippered closure for secure take-offs and landings! Figures are hand crafted from rubberwood, an environmentally friendly hardwood, and are hand painted with child-safe paints.
20. Zipbins by Neat-Oh: A Unicorn Set or a Raceway set; two playmat options, bin with cover, and 2 figures per set. Mat fits on an airline tray.
21. Magnetic Animal Habitat Set: Ideal for travel, this wooden magnetic board includes three interchangeable animal habitat cards- farm, sea and savannah, and 26 magnetic, wooden play pieces for educational and creative play. It’s all packaged in a convenient, snap-top, phthalate-free carry case with sturdy handles
22. ZOOB!: an award-winning building set with a difference-the pieces move after you put them together. Try our 20 piece ZOOB tube, the Zoob Jr 30 piece set or the 40 piece ‘Traveler’ with building base. All these sets come with their own storage container.
23. Rush Hour Jr and Railroad Rush Hour: After setting up their game board according to pictures on various challenge cards, players steer their ice cream truck through a jumble of blocking cars, trucks and buses. A playful theme and 40 age-appropriate challenges will keep even the most restless tyke captivated for hours. Rush Hour Jr. is for 6-8, and Railroad Rush hour for 8 and up. Comes with travel bag, and play board
24. Really Big Magnetic Words: (don’t forget to add a magnetic Board to expand the options!) – a ‘lunch box’ full of BIG words easily maneuvered by small hands. Let the stories begin!
25. Tea Set with Travel Case: perfect for real or imaginary travel. Schylling’s classic 15 piece tin tea set is packaged in a sturdy cardboard carry case for easy transport and easy, reliable storage. Set includes 4 plates, 4 cups, 4 saucers, a teapot, a serving tray, and case.
26. Flip to Win Memory Match or Hangman: From Melissa & Doug, No loose pieces, great for on-the-go or play at home.

Family Games

27. Conversations to go: over a hundred little strips per ‘to go’ box to help stimulate conversation on money, travel and more
28. NAMiTs: hundreds of categories, with Junior, Travel and Challenge versions. Kids can’t help but stay busy!
29. Are we there yet?: (Air and Auto Versions): before you know it, you WILL be there! 216 cards in 3 languages, for ages 6 and up. approved by AAA and Rand McNally!
30. Puppets: (take your show on the road.. or, in the air, on the rails) – hand and finger, sized for BIG and LITTLE people. Take a travel ‘stage’ and your show is ready for it’s next tour!
31. Storytelling Games: pick a card, start a story, pick another, add to the story, great for kids, adults or family story time. For older kids, try the Think-Ets game, with objects instead of cards
32. Set of MagPo Adventure Words and Magnetic Board: for older kids we love the Magnetic Poetry words, with the simple addition of a Magnetic Board (who wants to travel with a refrigerator door!). Make up a story about your own adventures, or imaginary journeys!

The Youngest of Travelers

33. Bug Jug Fill N Spill: This adorable set includes a soft spider, butterfly, ladybug and grasshopper to remove and replace in a bright green jug constructed of high quality fabrics and phthalate-free plastic. This durable bug collection will provide hours of creepy-crawly fun!
34. Natural Wood Rattle: Shake it and the wooden ball collides with the ring to product a sound. PlanToys combines learning with fun. Their toys are specially designed to enhance a child’s physical, mental and creative development at all age levels
35. Inside-Out Cube: Amazing soft discovery cube turns inside out to reveal 6 different sides. 12 sides in all!Features engaging images and patterns, multiple textures and beautifully embroidered details. Encourages exploration and teaches lessons in object permanence. A beautiful addition to any child’s toy collection. What we like best aboutthis is that the pieces are all connected so no hunting down lost blocks!

Don’t Forget the Travel Trays:

they open up TONS of new options for Travel Friendly Activities
36. Dream Desk Lap Tray: our most popular lap tray for kids 4 and up, comes with soft, fleece covered bottom for comfort (and it’s also detachable and can be used as a pillow!)
37. Star Kids Snack N Play: a soft lap tray for younger kids still in full car seats, packs small to take along anywhere (plane, train, auto)
38. Multi-use craft tray with felt: the most economical and versatile tray for travel. The uses are endless, works great on lap, airline tray, table at home (to contain those loose parts anywhere)
39. Creativity Lap Desk with Art Supplies: comes complete with comfy beaded bottom, crayons, colored pencils, marker, pencil sharpener, ruler and carrying handle

Cool Travel Gear

40. Zoobie Pets: 3 in 1 travel companion: a friend, a pillow, a blanket (not to mention soft, cute and washable!); comes in a smaller size (great for shower gift), or larger for bigger kids
41. Uglydoll Travel Pillow: These ‘original’ sized Uglydolls not only make great companions, they are a perfect (and soft) travel pillow. They’re SO ugly, they’re cute!
42. Mommysentials BabyKeeper:when we first saw this, it cracked us up, then we though, BRILLIANT. It’s worth just checking out the pictures!

Coolest ‘at the destination’ Items

43. Darda Race Track Sets: Discover the magic of Darda race sets. A simple back and forth motion is all it takes to send cars speeding along the race course. Sets come with cars, track and illustrated instructions for layouts. This is NOT for use ‘on-the-go’ but makes a GREAT rainy day, or at the destination toy. NO batteries required
44. Bean Bag Toss: Two bean bag toss games in one. Large 36″ x 36″ mat with bullseye target printed on one side and Feed the Fish game on the other. 4 colorful bean bags packed in an attached zippered mesh bag. Easy to fold, easy to carry
45. Boochie with Travel Case: Get ready for this all new action-packed family game that will have you tossing, kicking, bowling, and throwing like never before! First toss out the soft foam Boochie target and then try to land your ball and hoop as close to it as possible. Keep score on a special wrist tracker that gives you a different outrageous throwing challenge every round. You may have to toss between your legs, behind your back, or even with your eyes closed! The player with the most points wins. Play Boochie… Have a ball!
46. Can you see what I see?: This 300 Piece Puzzle from Walter Wick, the co-creator of I SPY Books provides fun on many levels. First, put the oversized pieces together to make the “Rise N Shine” scene, then find the items listed on the box. Found them all? Make up your own games with the same “I SPY theme”.
47. Pocket Kite: Despite of its size, this fun Pocket Sleddy fits into a little zipper rucksack. The rucksack is provided with a key ring which makes it easy to attach it to your keys or pants.
48. Piscari:Piscari is an action game. Perfect for a layover, rest stop, or other idle time.

Just Pretend You are Going Somewhere (or travel incognito!)

49. SuperHero Starter Kit by Klutz: The Superhero Starter kit holds all the basics needed to launch little heroes. First, there’s a durable, Velcro-strapped and oh-so-shiny Red Cape – that alone sets the mood for brave behavior. We also provide masks, wrist shields and three pages of snazzy stickers so kids can accessorize their newly super selves. Plus you’ll find a ton of heroic advice. For example: Never tuck your cape into your underwear. Written by the editors of Klutz.

For ages 4 and Up

50. My first Pirate Book: EVERYTHING PIRATES! Ahoy! Little mateys will sail the seven seas like real pirates with this innovative package full of swashbuckling adventures. A truly DELUXE activity book kit includes lots of exciting pirate-themed activities that little captains can do on their own or with their crew. Kids can send a message-in-a-bottle, build a telescope, make a new parrot friend, and much more! This is perfect for that budding traveler looking to explore the pirate world!
51. Princess Glitter wand: Every fairy, sorcerer, or other magical being needs a wand, and no better a wand to have than a Wonder Wand! Glitter whirls around inside when the wand is turned.
52. Sarah’s Silks: playsilks, magic pet wands, crowns, fairy wings, wizard capes and more!