Grandma Poppins Bag: what to carry when you’re traveling with kids

What to carry when traveling with children or grandchildren

We are grandparents to five children and love taking them on trips or excursions. Sometimes it’s just for fun, and sometimes it’s an opportunity to share our values and interests with the kids.

Whatever the reason, we’ve learned some tricks for making the journey enjoyable for all. Planning ahead and organizing a bag with essentials for travel with children is a good start!

Our tips for traveling with kids – whether for a day or a week:

Being away from home and its daily routines are exhausting for adults and children alike. Knowing when to expect what is especially important for young children. Travel, or just a weekend at a grandparent’s home, disrupt the routine and can make children anxious. Do what you can to keep some of the normal schedule for your grandchild.

  • create a morning routine – allow time for the child to wake, eat a familiar breakfast, and generally prepare for the day
  • plan the day around naps and rest periods
  • schedule and encourage active play times. Children need to expend physical energy.
  • assign older children a task for the day.
  • provide familiar, healthy foods for most meals. If possible, look for an accommodation where you can cook meals the child will eat.
  • stick to regular bedtimes, with whatever nighttime routine they enjoy – stories, songs, etc.

For small ones, it’s especially important to keep them from getting overstimulated. Schedule exciting things in the morning and allow for down time in the afternoon. Read how we enjoyed Disneyworld with a Toddler in this post.

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We keep assembled ‘Grandma Poppins’ bags – totes filled with essentials and diversions for our young charges. They love digging through these bags to find occasional new games, and always the old favorites.

Babysitting Bags: ‘Be Prepared’ is not just for Boy Scouts

Mom and Dad will likely have necessities in diaper bags or whatever, but it’s a good idea to come prepared with activities and diversions for the kids. Choose your bag according to your location, transportation, and kids interests. I keep a bag loaded with gear for our weekly grandma days. It’s easy to reach for this bag when an adventure arises and I know all the basics will be there if I need them.

Here are our packing tips for your Grandma (or Grandpa!) Poppins bag.

In every bag include snacks and general first aid supplies

  • raisins, goldfish, fresh fruit
  • juice or milk (use an insulated bottle to keep cold and eliminate some plastic waste)
  • utensils and reusable straws  or Klean Kanteen makes silicone tipped straws (grandparents, a bit removed from the everyday kid world, can be important voices for encouraging eco-friendly habits in kids)
  • tissues
  • bandaids and antiseptic wipes (we like the Me4kidz set of first aid supplies. The containers can be refilled or re-purposed and are made of recycled plastic!)
  • childrens’ tylenol or childrens’ aspirin (as recommended by their pediatrician)
  • lollipops (when all else fails…)

On the Road Travel with Kids – cars, planes, and restaurants

Handheld toys and gear – best for restaurants)

We carry a small bag filled with little surprises. Stickers, crayons, and a few games will keep the kids entertained for an hour or so. I use a Tom Bihn snake charmer, a bag with two zipped compartments – one side contains the entertainment and the other side, the snacks and first aid supplies. It’s great having this always packed and easy to drop into whatever bag I’m carrying.


!!Paper & Pencil – draw together, play tic-tac-toe, dots and boxes, hangman (we change the name!)

For lots of good ideas see Pencil and Paper Games

Flexi Puzzle – a bendable puzzle piece with designs to copy. Also works for the fidgeter.
Tegu magnetic blocks come in a small case and will entertain your toddler to young child as you wait for a meal or a hotel room.
Tangram magnetic puzzle – travel adaption of the classic shape puzzles. Includes a book with suggested designs from easy to challenging. 
Scavenger Hunt for Kids – classic game to make a long drive bearable!
Melissa and Doug On the Go Secret Decoder Book>For younger kids, the Melissa and Doug Color Blast series – images come to life with water. Disappear when dry to reveal again when wet!

Travel Tote for the Car or Hotel

Flexi Puzzle – a bendable puzzle piece with designs to copy. Also works for the fidgeter.
Create a Scene magnetic playset – lots of different scenes for different interests. This is a go-to item in our cars, but too big for restaurants, etc.
Tangram magnetic puzzle – travel adaption of the classic shape puzzles. Includes a book with suggested designs from easy to challenging. 
Paint by Sticker books – perfect quiet activity for all ages.
For toddlers to preschool – Playful Pets, In the Wild, and similar
Grades 1-5 – Paint by Sticker Kids
Teens to adults – Paint by Sticker Masterpieces
HABA Town Maze board – at 8″ x 10″ it’s a bit large but will keep the kids entertained at the airport. The magnetic balls are secured under a plastic cover.

Nature Adventures – for camping trips, park visits, or an afternoon outdoors

We love the outdoors and try to share this with our grandkids whenever possible. We’ve loaded up a kid sized nature backpack with lots of tools to take on our outdoor adventures.

Packing a nature backpack for kids, what’s essential to include for an outdoor adventure

Your undivided attention and enthusiasm. If you’re excited, they will be too!

Binoculars for Kids – remarkably high quality in a sturdy design
Go Find It – outdoor scavenger hunt game (ages 3+)
Guide Book – On the Nature Trail (ages 4-8)
Nature Journal for Little Explorers – encourage kids to really observe by drawing treasures, noting weather, etc.
9-in-1 Outdoor Exploration Kit – pretty much covers all you’ll need for an afternoon exploring!

Encourage kids to become lifelong travelers by starting them with a Travel Journal of their own!

General Activity Bag – not just for traveling with children

When you’re in charge of the kids, make sure to carry a tote filled with these general arts and crafts items. Best for rainy days or days at home – art supplies, stickers, games, picture puzzles and books in a large tote bag.

Melissa and Doug sketch pad
Washable crayons and/or Washable markers
Crayola Washable Paint Brush Pens – We love these as there’s no paint jar to spill. Only five colors but so far, no complaints from the little ones!
Card Games for Kids – interesting how these old-fashioned games still entertain the little ones!
Learning Journey Tangram game  – this is a great product for grandparents to bring. The kids love them and they learn shapes and strategies. A STEM activity.
Eye Found It game – packs small, but fun for all!

General Tips for Travel with Grandchildren

What do you bring along to entertain kids? Do you have any tried to true games you play?

We keep a bag loaded with gear for our weekly grandma days. It's easy to reach for this bag when an adventure arises! Here are our packing tips for your Grandma (or Grandpa!) Poppins bag.
What’s in my Bag when I’m traveling with grandkids. Tips for traveling with kids