Parents already cringing at the thought of traveling with kids this holiday season may need to add to their Christmas lists.
Given that snacks, books, gear and gadgets are parents’ best friends when on the road or in the skies, we’ve asked some savvy mom bloggers for their favorites, and added a few of our own to make the holiday trek just a bit easier.
Stacy DeBroff, CEO of MomCentral.com and a trend watcher, says it’s all about the electronic gadgets, even for kids as young as babies and toddlers.
“We are raising a generation of digital natives,” she said. “There are definite advantages to being plugged in on long trips — it cuts down on fights between siblings, they’re not bored — but it can also create a cocooning and withdrawing effect that we, as parents, have to put limits on.”
Infantino HappiTaps bear
That said, here are her picks:
1. Apps for kids by Callaway Digital Arts, Inc.: These are interactive story applications for Apple’s iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch devices that incorporate such story hits as "Sesame Street," "Miss Spider" and "Angelina Ballerina."
2. Nabi Kids Tablet with Android: A kid-friendly tablet packed with pre-loaded content like games and learning programs, and a 7-inch screen to watch movies. toysrus.com, $200
3. Infantino HappiTaps: An app called Beary Happi , along with a fuzzy bear case, allows toddlers and young kids to transform an iPhone or iPod Touch into a kid-graspable device that sings, tells stories and interacts. happitaps.com, $20
4. Hasbro MY3D Viewer: Snap in your iPod Touch or iPhone, and movies, games and apps are seen in 3D. amazon.com, $50
Colleen Lanin, founder of TravelMamas.com, touts unplugged play — at least for the first stretch of a trip — and gear that can make long car trips easier.
“I think it’s good to start with snacks, craft projects and games played as a family and then when the kids get sick of you and they just need to chill out, then pull out the portable DVD player or the game device,” she said.
1. CARES restraint system: Leave the 20-pound car seat behind and toss this 1-pound lap and shoulder device into your carry-on. Approved by the Federal Aviation Administration, it keeps kids snug in their airplane seat and is made of the same material as adult seatbelts. Kidsflysafe.com, $75
2. Sticker scenes: These come in a variety of backgrounds (zoos, pirate ships and so on) with reusable stickers, and because the scenes are made on paper, kids can use crayons or pens to further decorate them. Any toy store, $10 and up
3. Lego kits: From building a car to a cabin, kids can stay busy with various kits. Any toy store, $12 and up
4. Arts and crafts kits, which keep everything — scissors, crayons, markers, paper — in one handy case. Buy at any toy store or make your own. TravelKiddy also makes age-appropriate activity kits that come in colorful totes or backpacks, and include separate fun packs for the ride home. Travelkiddy.com, $35 and up
Lanin swears by these two travel tips: For road trips with her two little ones, she throws in an inflatable beach ball and bubbles for running her kids around at rest stops. And when they fly, she leaves behind the bulky pack-n-play and highchair in favor of baby gear rental companies (see TravelMamas.com for a list of rental companies by state).
“Rental companies have gotten much better about providing quality rentals that are clean, and they will meet you at the airport curb with the gear,” she said. “Because of baggage fees now, I’d rather pay a rental fee and not have to lug everything around.”
The Trunki is a small ride-on suitcase in various kid-friendly designs.
And a few of our own finds…
1. The English Magmatic company has two must-haves for parents with young kids: the Trunki is a small ride-on suitcase in various designs such as a ladybug or tiger (Kidstravelhappy.com, around $40); and the BoostApac is a hand-luggage-approved backpack that doubles as a booster seat. alexandalexa.com, $74
2. Chalkboard Placemats are great for the car, plane or for keeping kids busy while waiting for meals. The 2-pack comes with roll-up placemats, chalk that fits inside the pockets and sponge. Leapsandbounds.com, $17.95
3. Car valet by Alex Toys is a fold-out desk and storage unit that attaches to the back of a car or plane seat for easy access to supplies. Amazon.com, $25
4. Travel-size games like Candyland, Hi Ho Cherry-O, and Zingo can also make the miles fly by. Any toy store.
5. The Go-Pod is a collapsible activity seat for babies with a floor pad, seat height adjusters, drink and snack holders, and toy loops. babiesrus.com, $55
6. Potty Protectors: As any mom that has tried them will tell you, these particular ones are ingenious! Biodegradable, with no-shift adhesive strips, and oversized to keep wee hands off the toilet seat. leapsandbounds.com, $6.95 for a 10-pack
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Colleen McBrinn, a freelance writer in Portland, Ore., strives to maintain an active lifestyle of outdoor sports and travel with two wee ones in tow.