At home, you might call these things 'time wasters.' Time passers are small things that are easy to pack in a carry-on bag or in the back seat of a car that can keep your child absorbed during the sometimes-tedious process of getting to your destination. These might include pocket-sized electronic video games, iPods that have been loaded with music, movies, games or television shows, books or travel-sized versions of your child's favorite board game. Additionally, you can increase your child's enthusiasm for the trip by packing a few small surprise toys or games that you can give out during the trip. A new toy or game can help relieve the boredom and frustration that can come from being confined to a seat for long periods of time. When it comes to time passers, the novelty is often more important than the expense, so think quantity, not quality. Several cheap travel board games and puzzle books are better than one expensive doll or truck.
Often, children are spectators on family vacations. The trips are planned out in advance, and kids have little control over where they stop, what they eat, or the attractions that they see. However, if you give a child a memory maker, such as a disposable camera or a journal, so that they can write down their own impressions of their trip, you also give a child a sense of control. With memory makers, a child gets to write down their own thoughts or take pictures of the things that interest them. Additionally, journaling gives them something else to do on long trips and in hotel rooms during the evening. In years to come, a child may look back on these memories fondly.
One way to get a child excited about the trip is to engage them in making the packing list, and putting them in charge of 'helping' you to remember essential items. A child's packing needs will change depending on where you are going. In advance, you and your child should put your heads together and think of what essential items that he or she may need for the trip. A trip oversees may require documents that show proof of citizenship and immunizations, while no trip to the beach is possible without a swimsuit and lightweight cover-up. Younger children especially take their responsibilities seriously if you entrust them. Don't be surprised if your child reviews the list several times while you are loading your car.