Toddler Travel Entertainment…Without Electronics!

‘Tis the season for family vacations! And when you have littles along for the ride a certain amount of panic can creep in when you imagine entertaining them for say, 10 hours. In the seat of a plane. Or the back of your car. Are you hearing the horror movie music or is that just me? For kids that aren’t reading yet (or those that get car sick while reading) you have to get a bit creative if you don’t want them to just watch movies or play on the iPad for the whole trip. 

We recently flew to California with our son who is 21 months old to visit my sister and I wanted to avoid a total meltdown 30,000 feet up. I also had two criteria for the entertainment:

  1.  It not be entirely based around electronics.
  2. It not cost an arm and a leg. 

My first stop was the Dollar Tree. This place is a gem for simple entertainment on the cheap. Here’s a picture of all of my loot. 

toddler bag edited

  1. Coloring Book: Dollar Tree has a large selection of coloring books at a fraction of the cost of other stores. For older kids they have educational work books too.
  2. Dry Erase Board & Marker: This board was fun for scribbling in a new way and we also used it as a lap board for other activities.
  3. Threading Boards & Pipe Cleaners: Practice fine motor skills by threading the board, pipe cleaners make this easier for tiny hands and fingers.
  4. Hair Ties: My son is obsessed with playing with “bracelets” which he takes on and off repeatedly. They are fun to sort by colors or count too. This soft and new shaped set was especially fun for him. 
  5. Notepad: Good for scribbling and stickers, small enough for the bag.
  6. Stickers: What toddler doesn’t love stickers?
  7. Snacks: We had plenty of healthy food too but we stocked up on crackers, gummy worms, and mini bags of m&m’s. I found these little containers at the Dollar Tree 3 for $1. 
  8. Flashcards: There are all types of flash cards you are certain to find age appropriate ones at Dollar Tree. Do yourself a favor and grab a pack of book rings while you are there, hole punch your cards and stick them on the ring so you don’t have to deal with a box and or having them fly in the air with you. I used the rings on the threading boards too!

The only items I purchased elsewhere were these Cra-Z-Art Mini Twist Up Crayons which were $2.97 at Walmart and the perfect size for him and prevented dealing with broken crayons and his toddler sized Yoshi back pack also at Walmart for $9. I also stuck one of his current favorite cars in for good measure. 


These items not only kept him entertained on the flight but also in the airport and while we were out to eat on vacation. He was excited to have his own bag and even carried it in the airport so that’s win, too! We did use the iPad for a few minutes of the flight and dum-dum suckers calmed him down when his ears hurt or when he was just plain done traveling.

What items do you find helpful in keeping the kiddos entertained screen-free on the go?



  1. I love these! We are going to be heading Up North soon, and some of these will be great for the car ride. I’m always looking for “screen free” activities for my toddler. Some of them are great for home too.


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