Boredom busting toys and gadgets to keep your tween happy on long journeys
The tween years (ages 9-12) can be a tricky time for any parent and child, especially when planning trips and vacations.
Once highly anticipated activities are now dubbed “uncool,” and around this age, many tweens become less family-centred and more focused on friends and other relationships. This is not true for every single tween in existence, however. The tween spectrum is filled with children at all development stages, trying to figure out who they are and where they fit in the world.
Despite all of the “tween” stereotypes out there, our family still manages to create beautiful memories on a daily basis, and going on trips together is still a joy – mostly! There are, of course, times when everyone needs their space, but we can always come together to laugh and have fun with each other in the interim.
Just like travelling with a toddler, it’s not just what you do, but what you don’t; allowing downtime and individual space is very important. We’re going to explore some tips for travelling with your tween as well as the Best Travel Toys for Tweens to take on your next adventure.
This post is part of our tried & tested travel gear reviews and our best travel toys
Tips for Traveling With Tweens
If you’re unsure how to approach your first vacation with your child since “tweenhood,” here are some helpful tips to help invest them in the journey:
Involve Them in the Planning Process
Tweens like to feel like their voice matters, especially when it comes to planning a big family trip. Since you and your partner will be aware of budgeting constraints, present your children with several options and get their input on where they’d like to go.
You can even put your tween in charge of looking up activities and sightseeing opportunities for each destination so that everyone can make an informed decision.
Put Them in Charge of Packing
A nice thing about having a tween is that they’re old enough to take over the packing process (at least for themselves). Help them create a packing list for clothes and essential items they’ll need on the trip, and then “release the reins” for them to assemble everything in their own luggage.
No, it may not be how you might fold the underwear, but this added responsibility will help them realize the importance of being prepared.
Depending on what sort of trip you are going on, this might involving needing a large backpack with all their clothes, toys, electronics and toiletries, or a suitcase along with a smaller car/plane bag.
(Always discretly double check your tweens packing before you go!)
Set Rules for Screen Time
We have found that it’s best to lead by example when it comes to limiting screen time while travelling. If the focus of our trip is to spend family time together, it’s not exactly fair to forbid screen time for our tweens yet spending hours on our phones and laptops ourselves.
We suggest slotting time each day for screen time and set rules for when phones and tablets need to be put away. If your tween knows the expectations ahead of time, it should be less challenging to maintain consistency while travelling.
Plan Some Down Time
You’ll find that no matter how much fun your family is having, everyone is going to need regular downtime each day. This is especially true if you have younger children as well.
Try to block out several hours of unscheduled time each day for your tween to read, have screen time, or simply snooze by the sand. Many families return home feeling like they need a vacation after their vacation, which might indicate they tried to fit a little too much into each day.
Let Them Go on Their Own Adventures
You’ll need to use your best judgment on this piece of advice, and this essentially comes down to your tween’s maturity and your comfort level. Many vacation spots have supervised excursions that tweens and teens can do on their own, which allows them a level of independence.
We suggest that you research these activities, read the reviews, and ask your tween if any of them sound interesting. Your tween may reject the ideas, but they will appreciate the consideration.
Best Travel Toys for Tweens
Whilst your tween is probably far too cool for a busy bag now, here are some helpful suggestions for what you can pack in their travel bag to keep them occupied on long journeys.
Read on for all the details and what sort of child they’d suit, or pop over and check them all out in one spot on our Amazon store.
- The Try Not to Laugh Challenge – Would You Rather? – EWW Edition
- Educational Insights BrainBolt Brain Teaser Memory Game
- Melissa & Doug On-the-Go Crafts – Origami Activity Set
- Difficult Riddles For Smart Kids
- Blank Comic Book For Kids
- Fat Brain Toys Coggy
- Spot It! Harry Potter Card Game
- Mad Libs
- Choose Friendship, My Friendship Bracelet Maker
- LET’S GO! Binocular for Kids
- Explore Our World – Top Trumps
- Rocketbook Smart Reusable Notebook
- Coloring Books
- Color your own pencil case
- Rainbow Scratch Paper for Kids
- Fire HD 10 Kids Tablet
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If you’re planning on taking a long road trip, put your tween in charge of reading these hilarious (and often gross) Would You Rather Questions for the family.
The whole family can participate, and it will probably generate some side-splitting discussions as each person defends his or her choice. Each person gets points if their explanation gets a laugh out of someone else, and the person with the most “laugh points” at the end wins!
We’re big fans of the BrainBolt Brain Teaser Memory Game because it’s quiet enough to play on flights, although competition may get a little fierce.
Each player has to duplicate the pattern as the light sequence gets more complicated. The memory game can be played solo, or you can join in the fun to see who has the best memory!
If your tween loves the art of origami, they’ll love this Melissa & Doug Origami Activity Set. The set comes with enough papers to make 40 different animals, and fold marks indicate a range of skill levels, so your tween can create more intricate folds as their skills improve.
Involve your whole family with these Difficult Riddles for Smart Kids (and adults!). The book is divided into three different chapters that increase in difficulty as you move through it.
The riddles and trick questions test a wide range of critical thinking skills, such as logic, lateral thinking, and memory.
The Blank Comic Book for Kids is one of the best travel toys for tweens because it contains endless possibilities.
With over 100 pages of different templates, your tween can create a visual log of your vacation, their own superhero comic, and anything in between. The numerous template designs allow for one-page stories and longer, multi-page plots with more detailed scripts.
If your teen loves challenging puzzles, this lightweight, portable tween travel toy is just the thing to keep them entertained for long car rides and flights.
The player must arrange the gears to match the included challenge cards by folding and clicking them into position. The challenge cards are divided into four difficulty levels in color and black and white so that your tween can work towards mastering them all!
The Spot It! Harry Potter Card Game is perfect for any tween who loves the book or movie series. Your whole family can test their reflexes and observation skills with this travel toy for tweens.
Instructions for each of the five ways to play are simple, and it’s easy for younger children to learn as well. Be the first to spot the matching symbols on each card, and you’re on your way to victory.
They’re also a fun and engaging way to help your tween remember essential parts of speech, such as nouns, verbs, and adjectives. Have your tween ask for family contributions for each line, and then fill them in. The results are often hilarious!
Keeping hands busy, the Choose Friendship, My Friendship Bracelet Maker is a convenient, travel-sized toy that children of a wide range of ages can enjoy.
This portable kit comes with a large selection of vibrantly colored, pre-cut thread and threading board with a secret compartment for supplies. Your tween can make meaningful bracelets for friends and family – maybe even new friends they make along the way – there are endless design possibilities.
The LET’S GO! Binocular for Kids is an essential tween travel toy for any family trip or vacation. It’s compact, shock-proof, and comes in a wide selection of colors to suit any tween’s individual taste.
These high-resolution binoculars are ergonomically designed for smaller hands, so your tween can use comfortably use them to discover new sights.
A card game that’s well and truly stood the test of time! Top Trumps is one of the easiest and most convenient games for tweens to play on the go on a huge variety of topics. Each player gets half the pack and you battle it out who has the best-rated card. Even younger siblings can give it a go!
If you’re looking for an environmentally-friendly alternative to journals for your tween, the Rocketbook Smart Reusable Notebook is an ideal option.
Your tween can upload their drawings, notes, and journal entries to several different digital platforms, such as Google Drive, Evernote, Slack, iCloud, and more. Once the ink from the included Pilot Frixion pen bonds with the specialized paper, your tween can upload them using the free Rocketbook app.
Many tweens love to doodle, draw, and color, which makes coloring books one of the best travel toys out there for kids of all ages. The choices are also endless due to the widespread popularity of adult coloring books, so you can always find more complex designs and illustrations for your tween to enjoy.
Handy for holding their coloring gear in and they can keep busy decorating it themselves.
This pack comes in a large and small soft case with a distinctive holiday vibe! With its own marker set, get set for some colorful creations to help bide the times.
A seriously fun and absorbing activity that’s easy for your junior artist to take anywhere.
This two pack contains black scratch notepads along with stencils in numerous patters to scratch out, or create your own freehand designs, ideal for your slightly older kids who won’t (often) be tempted to use the scratch pencil as a stabbing tool on their siblings.
If you’re planning on investing in a tablet for your tween, we can’t recommend the Amazon Fire HD 10 Kids Tablet enough. The larger screen allows for enhanced viewing and reading, and you can customize the length of screen time for each day. This way, your tween is responsible for dividing that up based on downtime and other factors.
The kid-proof case protects against drops (they can still happen) and comes in various colors, making it a durable option your tween can use for many years. Don’t forget some headphones or earbuds for your tween:
More items to pack for your tween
Don’t forget to pack for your tween (or remind them if they’re self packing!)
- A water bottle for hydration
- Sunglasses and hat
- A small toiletries kit including comb/brush, toothbrush & toothpaste, deodorant, lip balm
- A battery pack and cord for charging their electronics
- Headphones or Bluetooth earbuds
- Toiletry bag
- Purse/crossbody bag or wallet
You can find a complete packing guide for tweens and teens here – great for when you want them to start independently packing their own suitcase. You’ll also find a super-comprehensive list of gift ideas for adventurous tween girls over here.
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