8 Tech-Free Products to Keep Toddlers Entertained on Road Trips

When you're not down with tablet time, traveling with kids can be much more challenging.

by Dave Baldwin

Keeping kids occupied and quiet(er) during a road trip requires a priestly sense of patience and an arsenal of entertainment options. And for most parents these days, this often boils down to a single, well-charged tablet or smartphone loaded with apps, movies, and their kids’ favorite TV shows. And, well, why not? A few episodes of Ready, Jet, Go never hurt anyone. But if you’re still not down with tablet time, however, traveling with kids can be much more challenging. Finding non-tech entertainment that keeps them engaged for long periods of time is tough. So to help you this vacation season, we asked some real dads with real kid-travel experience for the one travel toy, game, book, or accessory they use to keep their little people occupied. Here are the eight products they recommended. May they make your road trip worry-free.

Scholastic Early Learners Marker Books

“Our travel toys of the day are marker books, which let kids trace letters and words and then wipe it clean like a dry erase board. They’re great because kids can do them over and over again and hone in what they are learning through repetition. Scholastic Early Learners has a whole range of developmentally appropriate ones. We let our oldest work on her vocab or math while the youngest doodles in the PreK edition.”

⏤Dan, father of three, Medford MA

Buy Now $9

Boogie Board Jot

“My kids love to draw, but it was a pain to pack enough crayons or markers because they inevitably get lost in the seat cushion or beneath the seats, and I just hear them rolling on the car floor like we’re on some sort of old ship. Then we found the Boogie Board. It’s like an Etch-A-Sketch, but not as infuriating. It has a little stylus you use to draw or write, and there’s an erase button that clears the screen. Nice and simple. When we’re traveling, it’s like our kids have stacks and stacks of paper right there with them (we take a photo of the drawings they want to save). And it’s great to keep track of family games while we drive — license plates and things.”

⏤Craig, father of two, Phoenix, AZ

Buy Now $23

Melissa & Doug Reusable Sticker Pads

“These sticker books are a lifesaver on long road trips. Our 2-year-old son enjoys putting the trains on the tracks and the planes on the runway. And when he’s finished, he spends almost as much time putting the reusable stickers away by trying to match the shapes to the original cutouts. All that fun for less than 10 bucks, can’t beat it.”

⏤Bill, father of two, Amherst, MA

Buy Now $10

Children’s Mess Free Chalk Coloring Book

“I love the versatility of the way they can draw and then erase again and again. And that the chalk doesn’t leave a mess of dust everywhere. We take them in the car, use them at home etc. I bought this one as a gift for my daughter’s friend’s bday. It’s so unique and fun!”

⏤J, mother of three

Buy Now $26

Deck of Cards

“A plain old deck of cards. Sometimes the simplest things can be used for so many things. Cards get forgotten.”

⏤Mark, father of four, Newberry, MI

Buy Now $5

ALEX Toys Artist Studio Car Valet

“If my kids can draw, they’re pretty happy in the car or on a plane. We’ve been using this traveling kit for the past few years. It’s basically a tiny lunch bag that has designated pockets for crayons, markers, and other art supplies. It attaches to a seatback and folds out, diaper-bag style, to provide a pretty sturdy writing surface. It’s good for both staying organized and keeping them entertained.”—Louis, father of three, Houston, TX

Buy Now $25

The Water Wow!

“We love these magic water pens. Kids can “color” the pages over and over (they dry out after a few minutes). I keep a water bottle handy to top off the pens. And the best part is not having to worry about them accidentally marking up the back of an airplane seat, their shirt, my shirt, who knows what else.”

⏤William, father of two, Denver, CO

Buy Now $5

Magna Carry Magnetic Playbook

“One thing we’ve found amazing for our toddler/pre-school, animal-mad son is the Magna Carry jungle-themed board, with a ton of magnetic animals. It’s compact, weighs next to nothing, and he can literally play with the thing for hours, making different scenes, and letting his imagination run… erm …wild. We’ve had to replace the whole set once, when he decided to stuff all the magnetic animals down the back of a booth seat, but for the peace and quiet it gives us in airports, hotels, restaurants, it was a worthy investment.”

⏤Simon, dad of two, New Zealand

Buy Now $15