Grandma Poppins Bag: big list of suggestions for traveling with kids

What to carry when traveling with children or grandchildren

We are grandparents to six 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 to ensure health and safety, and organizing a tote bag with essentials for travel with children is a good start!


Essentials for Grandparents Traveling with Grandchildren

If you’re traveling for more than one day it is essential that you carry documentation. You will not be able to board a flight or obtain emergency health care with verification that you have permission and authority for the kids. Well before your out of town travel, obtain from the parents:

  1. Letter of permission – includes parents’ names, children’s’ names and dates of birth, grandparent name, and dates for trip. It’s a good idea to have this notarized if possible. Look for templates online for letters of permission to travel with grandparents.
  2. Insurance coverage information for the children (at the very least, a copy of their insurance cards)
  3. Detailed medication and allergy information

If your lucky grandchildren are traveling with you out of the country, they will need passports. Going on a cruise? consult your cruise line for requirements and other cruise travel tips for kids.

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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What’s In Our Bag: Traveling with Young Grandchildren

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

I’ve assembled ‘Grandma Poppins’ bags – totes filled with essentials and diversions for our young charges. They’re easy to pick up and go if we have a last minute adventure come up. And the grandchildren love digging through these bags to find the occasional new games, and always the old favorites.

Mom and Dad will likely have necessities in diaper bags or whatever, but it’s a good idea to come prepared with first aid, 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 my weekly babysitting and occasional daytrips with grandchildren. It’s helpful to know all the basics will be there if I need them.

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

In every bag include snacks and general first aid supplies

  • 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)
  • raisins, pretzels, goldfish, fresh fruit – double check for allergens if you’re likely to meet with other children
  • water, 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, wipes, and hand sanitizer
  • lollipops (when all else fails…)

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

Handheld toys and gear – best for restaurants)

Whether we’re heading out on road trips or just a day trip, 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.

IN THIS BAG:

!!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. Whether it’s a neighborhood park, or a National Park, we can help them to appreciate the natural world around them.

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

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!

What’s In Our Bag – Traveling with Tweens

Our grandchildren are growing up! We’ve been lucky to have shared many adventures with them as little kids, but are thrilled to have time with them now. There’s nothing better than seeing the adult begin to develop in the children we love. We are looking forward to visiting the National Parks and some international travel now and are redoing our Grandma Poppins bags. The essentials remain, especially the letter of consent for the child to travel with grandparents.

The older kids will have definite ideas on what’s important to pack. Make sure to consult with them (and their parents) to see what handheld devices they consider essential, and whether their screen time is supposed to be limited. The challenge will be to get them away from their devices and joining in group activities. Each child will be different so keep your expectations realistic.

What we’ve added to our travel bags:

Many favorite board games are available in travel size. Clue, Scrabble, Battleship, and more are easy to transport and great for an evening’s fun.
Older kids (and grandparents) will be challenged with chess or backgammon. This 3 in 1 chess set folds to 14″ – perfect for a car trip or week at the cabin.
Other sizes – ~10″ magnetic chess set or ~7″ magnetic Purple Cow set
Travel journal – Always a good idea. Journaling gives kids the opportunity to express their thoughts and memories without adult editorial.

Our granddaughter enjoys making her own journal with a blank notebook, stickers, and a set of colored pencils.
Never too early to begin a life long hobby! Pack one of these beginning photography books to get them started.

Consider buying them an inexpensive camera, if they don’t have one already!

Our #1 Tip for Travel with Grandchildren

Where ever you go and whatever you do, be sure to pack your undivided attention and enthusiasm. If you’re excited, they will be too!


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