If you’re the one in charge of ensuring pleasant vacation travel for your family, there are a few simple rules to follow. First, don’t pack too many toys. You shouldn’t have to pull a trailer with a fully appointed playroom. Next, don’t pack toys with too many pieces: They’ll get lost, children will cry and tempers will flare. Finally, make sure the toys you bring are creative, entertaining and tailored to the child’s age.
Here are some travel-tested toys and activities that can make your car trip memorable — in a good way!
If you’re traveling with infants, take a toy that doubles as a teether. Two inexpensive and very portable choices are Twisty Teether Figure 8 (Munchkin, Inc.) and Lanky Links Monkey (Lizzybee Toys). The Twisty Teether forms and maintains a shape no matter which way baby moves the curved plastic links. Lanky Links Monkey fastens to a car seat, crib or stroller, and its squeaky head and crinkly ears attract baby’s attention. If rear-facing infants need an entertainment center, try the Lamaze Back Seat Fun Center (Learning Curve). Attaching easily to most backseats, it features colorful characters and a mirror.
For toddlers and preschoolers, small comforts are essential, so don’t forget your child’s favorite “blankie” or teddy. To keep their little ones giggling, some parents hold a Sound Contest, encouraging youngsters to imitate the noises they hear in places such as home, street, farm or zoo. After 20 minutes of that, you may want to try the Quiet Contest — whoever can be quietest the longest wins a prize.
A moving car is probably not the best place to play lullabies, but it’s a great place to hold family sing-alongs. The old standbys like “Puff (The Magic Dragon),” “The Wheels on the Bus” and the Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine” are still fun for very young children.
If you want to play prerecorded music, some exceptional toddler and preschool albums include A Cathy and Marcy Collection for Kids (Rounder Select, ages 3-8); Children’s Favorites (Music for Little People, all ages); Dan Zanes and Friends — Rocket Ship Beach (Festival Five Records, ages 2-10); Green Eggs and Ham (Koch International, ages 2-5); Shiny New Shoes (Susan Salidor, ages 3-7); and Toddlers Sing (Music for Little People, ages 2-6).