Disclosure: This is NOT a sponsored or partnered post. All ideas, suggestions and content herein are strictly our own, based on our experiences, trial & error, and success.

Stay ahead of the whining and fighting or boredom on long rides by packing a tote full of engaging activities and travel needs. If our journey is an hour or longer, I always pack “the fun bag”, which is simply a tote of fun things to do in the car. 

In years past, I’ve asked my children to help pack this bag with things they are into IN THAT MOMENT. Our travel tote has some standard pieces but for the most part is refreshed for every trip. If there is a particular movie someone just watched and can’t get enough of, then we pack items (coloring book, dolls, music) related to it. Think Frozen… and you get the picture. 

The key to this tote is that everything has to do with the car ride and not the destination. That’s right, I pack all toiletries, clothing, and destination activities separately… this tote is specifically designed to keep my family engaged while on the road. As an example, sunscreen is not packed in this bag, whereas sunglasses and crayons would – if not already stored in our car’s backseat organizer (highly recommended as an alternative or to ensure staple items are always stocked/handy… like tissues and sunglasses). 

The travel tote NEVER gets placed in the trunk and typically sits up front with me (if I’m not driving), so I can manage the activities, make suggestions and distribute whatever comes next. I find it most effective when I offer 2 suggestions from the tote versus placing the bag in the backseat and letting the kid’s “fend for themselves”. It mostly comes down to knowing how to effectively engage your children to keep them pleasantly occupied. 

Ok, so what goes into the tote to make it the BEST travel toolkit? 

Trying to engage their senses and tap into their interests is always important to me. I’ll never just pack a book and expect my child to read the entire ride. It has happened, but it wasn’t the only means of entertainment available. Quiet time vs family engagement is important to consider, as is finding something for them to read versus something to listen to. Here are a few excellent engaging car ride entertainment options: 


Deducktion travel game

Word Find puzzle books

Usborne Books Travel Activity Pad

Dr. Biscuit’s Radical Road Trip Activities

IQ Twist (or others) from Smart Games

Crayons/Colored Pencils

Smart 10 trivia game

Colorforms or Felt Board playsets

And of course we live in a tech heavy world, so naturally packing headphones with a tablet or other device is natural, although I’ve never been one to really resort to tech in the car. I’ll throw in a pack of cards or a simple game like Zombie Dice. I’ve liked having metal or wooden brain teaser puzzles on hand as a decent distraction. 

Don’t forget to pack your family’s favorite CD’s or make a playlist. Audiobooks are wonderful for car rides too, and brings the family together through story. Pack some favorite snacks to get you between rest-stops and consider packing fun snacks – not the traditional items at home or packed for work/school. 

My largest tip or secret: diaper bags. Diaper bags make THE best travel tote because of all the pockets and compartments. You can easily find what you need because diaper bags keep all your items organized. They are the perfect storage size… and it doesn’t hurt that they come in a variety of cool patterns and colors. 

An effectively packed travel tote will find a way to blend much needed solo, decompressing time with equally important family conversation and sharing. Through puzzles and challenges, tongue twisters and riddles, music and story… the travel time can be made into something extraordinary for all parties. Finding ways to make the journey an adventure has always been an exciting part of family travel and my kids would agree that our time on the road was more than an excuse for an extra long nap.