When you are carting around bottles and formula or huge suitcases of clothing for multiple children, deciding which toys to pack requires forethought and cleverness. Packing poorly can be the crucial deal breaker for whether you end up paying overweight penalties at check-in or you spend half your holiday searching the stores to replace that beloved teddy. Here are some tips and tricks for good, travel-friendly toys.
The first thing to do is allocate how much space you will give to toys in the suitcase – and stick to it. Find a drawstring bag to store the toys in so that they are all in one place and easy to find and to pack up at the end of each day. The sorts of toys to pack are:
· Lightweight toys that don’t take up too much room and will fold down. For instance, opt for a Scruch-Bucket for beach holidays over a hard plastic bucket that could get crushed and broken and will take up space.
· Cheap, free, junky, plastic fantastic toys that you’d probably never want in your own house are ideal. Throwaway toys like flimsy paper board games or the freebies you get with kids’ meals at fast food restaurants make for perfect travel toys. Just use them and dispose of them later. Plus, if they get lost, there are no tears (from parents or children).
· Similarly low budget, small toys available in multiples also work well so you have back-ups when one or two go missing. Think Matchbox cars, miniature trains or miniature LEGO people.
· Balloons are perfect travel companions. They are lightweight and pack easily, but when blown up can be art and craft items or act as makeshift balls for tiny tots or beach volleyball. And afterwards, you just leave them behind.
· Look for toys that have multiple uses. For instance, a small plastic cup and saucer set can work for tea party role play and as a digging tool at the beach. If you can think of at least 3 ways to play with it, the kids will have hours of fun and won’t get bored too easily.
· Bring an art and craft kit. For younger kids, basic drawing implements and a few stickers are usually enough to entertain. For older kids, a glue stick, stamps, crayons or pencils and a blank notebook give the option to create a scrap book to remember the holiday. [For more ideas on how you can document your family vacations, see the suitcases&strollers story Capturing Travel Memories.]
· Source toys that have relevance to the place you are visiting. If you are going to China, invest in some kids’ learning chopsticks. If you are going to Africa, buy small safari animal figurines. This will help correlate what children are seeing in the daytime with what they are imagining back at the hotel.
· Whether it’s an iPod or portable DVD player, a multimedia entertainment device is indispensible. Plan ahead and pre-upload all the music and movies you think you can stand hearing on repeat for the duration of the trip. That will save fights later when you can’t link to YouTube to watch “Gangnam Style” with the third world wireless.
Favourite, expensive or “heirloom” toys unless you are prepared to potentially lose them or guard them with your life. Take a picture of Dolly and bring her along instead or otherwise only bring her out at bedtime, not while touring, and be diligent about packing her away again in the morning to minimise the risk of loss.
For travel tips on travel-friendly toys for infants, see the suitcases&strollers story here.
For ideas about good travel books for kids, see the suitcases&strollers story here.