If you, like me, have completely stepped over to the dark side in allowing (and even encouraging!!) tech toys on road trips, read on. If you have young kids who you’re trying to keep off devices in the car, because they turn into screen-time monsters (like mine did for SOOOOOOO many years), stop reading this post immediately! Take a look at my old road trip and airplane travel toy posts (even if you’re NOT traveling) for fun ideas with a HEAVY focus on non-tech play…and please check out the great suggestions from readers in the comments of both posts as well.
The Best Kids’ Toys For Road Trips — Tech & Non-Tech Essentials
My children, however, no longer turn into complete monsters after screen time. Now, they actually play video games, watch movies, make Spotify playlists, and listen to Audible books TOGETHER without fighting (which is lovely). In general, as a parent, I’ve also eased up (at least a bit) on my previous practices of desperately trying to distract my children from all technology and video games. There ARE some benefits to guaranteed not hearing a “peep” if I grant them their coveted “screen time”.
I now have the kids pack their own electronics (so I don’t have to hear about if I packed the wrong device or forgot the right charger), and I pack additional non-tech activities and toys to incorporate in to our travel as well.
Tech Toys: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5
Non-Tech Toys: 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12
Reader Suggestion GOLD: 13
1. Nintendo Switch
I wrote a whole post on why I’m a fan of the Nintendo Switch. The primary reason is that there are a ton of family-friendly games available on the Switch. The ability to use the Switch during travel, though, and the kids playing TOGETHER while traveling is huge.
2. Wireless Headphones
My kids beg to use my Apple Airpods, but I’m not totally convinced they’re safe for little ears, so for now, we’re sticking with Puros wireless, which have volume limiting ear protection. My friend V suggested them to me years ago, and they’re still going strong. I’ve heard good things from readers about the new noise-canceling version as well. Those will likely be our next upgrade.
3. iPad & Case
Most used tech during travel for sure. Video games, movies, shows, Spotify, Audible, apps….the list goes on and on. We like this protective case…slim, good protection, and comes in lots of fun colors.
4. Spotify & Audible Apps
These are two apps that we use on repeat together as a family. The kids (and my husband) love making Spotify playlists and then taking turns DJing during road trips or family dance parties. And Audible (or downloading free books from your local library) is a lovely way for the kids (or all of us as a family) to experience a good book, while still being able to look out the window and appreciate where we are in the world. Love being able to take advantage of good technology without having to actually look at screens.
My kids each got Kindles last summer (since we stopped going to the real library during the pandemic). While they could have easily accessed the Kindle app on an iPad, there’s something wonderful about the simplicity of the basic Kindle. It makes a difference limiting temptation/opportunity to wander over to distracting iPad apps. My kids don’t necessarily read a ton in the car ON road trips, but they do love having the Kindle during travel. I would prefer them to have real books, but they’re reading fast these days, so it’s super convenient, obviously, not to have to lug around a whole library.
6. Drawing Zippered Case
I’ve been raving about this zippered drawing case for years now. It’s still our favorite. We load it up with high-quality Prisma Colors and take these cases EVERYWHERE.
7. Paint-By-Sticker Book
Hmmm….is this for me or the kids? I do enjoy working on these books quite a bit. Much easier to manage during bumpy travel than color by number.
8. Mini Perplexus
We love our big Perplexus. It’s picked up and played with by every kid who sees it. This mini one is fun for travel.
9. Plus Plus Set
If you don’t have these construction toys, get them now. They’re fabulous. And always a hit. Even I can’t stop building and fidgeting with them when we dump a pile onto a table, the carpet, or our laps on road trips. They’re fantastic in the car because even when some of them drop to the floor…they’re all the same size and shape so you’re never missing that one special piece that you need.
10. Quibix Magnetic Block Set
Another fabulous building set for travel. The satisfaction of the magnetic clicking is addictive, and they’re very similar to our beloved Magnatiles. BUT…much smaller and easier to travel with. We throw them in these little mesh drawstring pouches.
11. Table Topic Cards
I LOVE these Table Topic Cards. Amazing how many topics we’ve never discussed with our kids that come up when we play with these…and so fun to hear everyone’s answers. On the road or just during family dinners.
12. Mad Libs
My little guy NEVER gets tired of Mad Libs. This travel version is super cute.
13. Fuzzy Unicorn Ear Muffs
I LOVE our readers!!! Reader Erin had SO many absolutely GOLD suggestions on my original Road Trip Toys post, but this one is my favorite. She writes: We mainly do road trips, and one of our forehead slapping additions was ear muffs! Younger kids can use them at nap time. Older kids wear them when younger ones are screaming. Middle children can use them to be passive aggressive. Gold, Erin….absolute gold! And I actually think both of my kids (even my cool 13-year-old) would kind of love this fuzzy unicorn option.
Okay readers…one area I’ve totally dropped the ball in the past few years is researching new iPad apps….especially fun or interesting ones specifically related to travel. Any apps you guys like for your kiddos/tweens/young teenagers? Any other road trip tech suggestions? Or non-tech suggestions? Our readers (and I ) really do appreciate all your comments in these posts…so fun to collaborate.
My 4 and 6 year old love two podcasts: “brains on” and “story pirates” both are great. Brains on is science based and even I learn new things while we listen. Story pirates is laugh out loud funny, so I don’t cringe when either one of my boys requests to play a show.
Habitica is a game changer for helping my kids develop good habits.
We are currently abroad, so our flight was long and included movies and tv, but I found what appears to be a travel toy section at Target before we left and we did get a couple gems. One is the maze travel box, with 50 mazes and a dry erase marker all packed together in a carrying case. The mazes get progressively harder and can be done multiple times and by those ranging in age from 7-44. The other is a “flashlight” seek and find book that included two “flashlights” of varying degrees of difficulty for you to use when finding all the little critters and hidden gems.
Both things have cycled through my four boys and are just delightful for trips.
Oh yes! The tiny toy section at Target has totally saved us a few times when the kiddos were little and it was the day before a trip! And the flashlight book sounds awesome! We used to have a book similar that had a magnifying glass for searching/seeking and it was such a fun novelty for travel. Thanks for adding to the ideas!
My kids love podcasts too. Smash Boom Best (debates) and Julie’s Library (books read by Julie Andrews) are favs. I am excited for Cecilia’s recommendations.
All of these recommendations are fantastic! Thank you guys!!!