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8 Kid-Approved Ways to Stay Entertained in Transit

Easy and affordable tricks to keep everyone happy on the go.

U.S. News & World Report

8 Kid-Approved Ways to Stay Entertained in Transit

Happy family inside car

Packing coloring books, bringing disposable cameras and downloading a few smartphone apps can help keep kids of all ages occupied while traveling. (Getty Images)

Nothing puts a damper on a family vacation faster than bored kids. But happily, whether you're traveling with a teen or a toddler, flying the friendly skies or hitting the open road, there are clever ways to mitigate stressful situations and keep the whole gang comfortable and entertained. With that in mind, here are eight ways to avoid hearing the dreaded "Are we there yet?" chorus from the back seat on your next family getaway.

If You're Traveling With Babies and Toddlers…

Pack Hand Puppets

Interact with your little one over the headrest with a puppet – you won't even have to turn around. Try singing songs, playing peek-a-boo or telling a silly story. Just keep in mind, they'll likely want to hold the puppet, so buy one that's safe for your baby to play with. And if you need a break and you're traveling with older kids, ask them to entertain their younger siblings with the puppets while you enjoy a quick break.

Bring New Toys

If You're Traveling With Preschool and Elementary School Kids…

Play the License Plate Game

There's a new twist on the tried-and-true travel game. Give your child a placemat of the United States and a dry erase marker; each time he spots a new state license plate on the road, he can cross off the state on his map. Make sure to mark your route on your child's placemat with a permanent pen and include where you'll begin and end, along with anywhere you plan to stop. This will help your child gain basic map reading skills and keep his focus off the long drive ahead.

Pack Along a Few Wrapped Surprises

If You're Traveling With Tweens and Teens …

Bring Disposable Cameras

Today's tweens and teens are all too familiar with cameras on their phones, but many have never used a film camera. A few affordable disposable cameras will provide your kids with hours of boredom-fighting fun. Encourage them to take pictures of your trip from start to finish, and create a photo album when you return home to document their memories. If you can't tear your tech-loving teens away from their smartphones, urge them to download the app Nutshell, which turns pictures into short videos that can be shared with family and friends at home.

Ask Your Child to Serve as Your Tour Guide

If You're Traveling With Kids of All Ages

Invest in Audiobooks

From fairy tales to historical fiction, audiobooks entertain even the most restless of young travelers. Your local library is a great source for picking up books on CD and may also offer downloadable audiobooks through OverDrive, a robust collection featuring more than 2 million digitally distributed videos, ebooks and audiobooks. Get the kids involved by asking them to choose audiobook options, and pick one that ties in to your trip. If you don't make it to the library before your trip, stop at a Cracker Barrel – the company features an audiobook exchange program that allows you to purchase audiobooks at one location and exchange them at another Cracker Barrel along your route. You can also download audiobooks from your smartphone through the popular Audible app from Amazon.

Download Movies and Shows

Tags: travel

About En Route

Practical advice on the art of traveling smarter with tips, tricks and intel from En Route's panel of experts.

Contributors have experience in areas ranging from family travel, adventure travel, experiential travel and budget travel to hotels, cruises and travel rewards and include Amy Whitley, Claire Volkman, Holly Johnson, Marsha Dubrow, Lyn Mettler, Sery Kim, Kyle McCarthy, Erica Lamberg, Jess Moss, Sheryl Nance-Nash, Sherry Laskin, Katie Jackson, Erin Gifford, Roger Sands, Steve Larese, Gwen Pratesi, Erin Block, Dave Parfitt, Kacey Mya, Kimberly Wilson, Susan Portnoy, Donna Tabbert Long and Kitty Bean Yancey.

Edited by Liz Weiss.

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