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13 Travel Activities to Keep Kids Busy

However long your journey, these easy activities will help keep 'em occupied

Whether you travel by plane, car, or train to get to your favorite vacation spot, one thing is certain: you'll want a stash of surefire kid occupiers for the trip. With these simple ideas, you'll be ready to prove that old adage true—getting there is half the fun.

Map it out. Finally, a better answer to "Are we there yet?" than "almost." Print your journey's map off of an online map, mark off several destinations along the way with numbers or colored shapes, and insert it into a plastic sleeve. Give your kiddo a sheet of stickers, and direct her to stick one on different points on the map as you travel along. Make it even more interesting by doling out small toys or snacks as certain points on the map are reached.

Color creatively. Find an old CD case and replace the album insert with plain white paper. With a few wipeable crayons, it becomes a mini white-board. Use a dried out baby or hand wipe to clean off the case between uses. No CD cases left around the house? An old hand-held mirror works, too.

Search for buried treasure. In a large plastic jar, put a dozen or so tiny trinkets. Possibilities include a paper clip, a button, a penny, an earring that's missing its mate, a key, a hairclip, or a piece of hard candy. Fill the jar with rice or dried lentils, then glue the lid on. Challenge the kids to find all the items by turning the jar.

String a stylish snack. Provide them with a length of string, along with a baggie of any o-shaped cereal, and have them make their own necklaces...which they can later eat!

Co-author a bestseller. This activity has two parts, which don't have to be done at the same time. Have your child tell you a story (preferably one he makes up on the spot), as you carefully write down his tale, in chunks of a few sentences, on notebook pages. Then, hand over the book, along with some crayons or colored pencils, and ask him to add the illustrations to each page.

Encourage his inner artist. Pipe cleaners stand the test of time (though now they're more commonly sold as "stems"). Buy the original ones, as well as the thick, fluffy ones and other varieties. Encourage your child to create sculptures with them, and then guess what his masterpieces are.

Wield a wallet. Dig out a few bills of board game money, used gift cards, some coupons, a few coins, a wallet-size family photo or two, and pack an old wallet. Handing this off to an older preschooler will make him feel so grown up, keeping him busy for a bit as he checks out the accoutrements of his billfold. It may even inspire a back seat game of store with his sib.

Book a window seat. Hit any mass retailer to pick up a bunch of gel window clings. Set him up next to the window and let him decorate and redecorate, all the way home.

Nab the middle square. Tic-tac-toe is a universal go-to with kids, but playing on the back of a napkin gets old. Instead, plan ahead. Cut out a rectangle, along with Xs and Os, from sturdy felt. Fold over the rectangle to make a square, gluing or stitching the edges down, to make a pocket to hold the pieces. Draw lines with a thick black marker, and voila! A portable tic-tac-toe board with non-slip pieces.

Yield to fun. Download and print out road trip bingo boards with street and traffic signs, such as stop, no parking, yield, and deer or moose crossing. Play bingo by calling out the signs as you drive past them.

Go outside the lines. Tear out a few pages of a favorite coloring book and laminate them. That way they can be reused, and slip-ups wipe away. Laminators can be bought in craft stores, and big office supply stores will laminate pages inexpensively.

Travel with tin. For a low-cost, multi-purpose play thing on trips, pull out one of your old cookie sheets. It can serve as lap desk for coloring, simple crafts, snacking, or looking at a board book. For kids over 3, magnets, especially the colorful ones shaped like letters, brought along in a zip-top bag, are a no-brainer. Cookie sheets can even slide into the seat-back pocket for storage.

Head out on a hunt. A scavenger hunt-challenging everyone to be the first to spot something-is a simple way to pass time at an airport, in the car, or at the beach. Design a checklist with pictures, either photos or graphics, alongside the names. Customize it to your surroundings, whether you'll be driving past farmlands, seeing city sights, or waiting in a train depot.