Road Trip advice (re:surprises?)

We have a trip scheduled shortly and I started thinking today about something I normally do, which is wrap up small surprises and let the kids unwrap one at the start of the trip/rest stop/lunch break etc. It is a two day, 16 hour plus journey for us. This is something that has been fun and makes the trip a little faster/easier to take, for the kids. Well, our first trip was when the kids were 4 and 6. Now DS is 10 and DD is 12. The cute little toys and gadgets from the dollar area at Target just don’t have the same appeal.

I have no idea what to do. I know they would enjoy unwrapping SOMETHING. But in this era of digital everything, I’m not interested in telling them they can buy more Robux for Roblox at each stop. I did get DD an awesome pair of ears; I figured I can give them to her for one present. But this trip will quickly be way too expensive (haha, like it’s not already…it’s a split stay with the Poly on the back end) if I try to do that for each stop. DS is into scratch-off lottery tickets, so I could just buy a bunch of those…kind of boring, but I guess it could work, and they’d both be into seeing if they won something.

Any suggestions? Is it time to give up this tradition?

Disney gift cards (doesn’t have to be a large amount).
Would they like Mad Libs? My DS still finds those funny.
Inexpensive travel games (dollar stores have some).
Disney shirts?


Puzzle books? Adult coloring books? Maybe some toys would spark nostalgia (like play doh or slime)? Also, not something they could unwrap but if they are on any streaming music services, you could make a custom playlist for each kid!


Maybe some kind of activity or craft kits? Depending what it is, you could give it to them in pieces? (either break up the original kit or give them more refill supplies)

Here are a few ideas…make sure to have ziplock bags for the pieces…

My DS11s really loved the bridge kit.

Or a knot tying book and rope licorice?


Are your kids into Legos? Last trip, we got a Lego Brickhead for each of them, they come in various characters. (I think we did Darth Vader and Stormtrooper). We divided up the bricks, and every 100 miles I gave them a few more pieces to add on. It was a bit of a pain for me, because I had to keep track of each step, but they loved it, and I feel like it made the time go by a lot faster! We worked it out so they would complete the build shortly before we arrived.


When we traveled with our two youngest grandkids at that age - they are cousins - they brought beanie babies, Legos, movies, books, music.
What kept them the most occupied were their own drawing pads in which they invented the most fun things - I best remember the submarine they designed. But then they were cousins who lived in different states.


Scratch art (on Amazon) to create colorful pictures/designs on a black background.


I may be way out of line for 10- and 12-year-olds, but we entertained ourselves for hours with a 20 Questions electronic game. It’s more than a dollar; it’s actually $30 now. My kids were 14 and 18 when we used this, and I remember it so fondly that I’m getting a new one for this year’s trip with just my husband. It really surprised me how much we enjoyed it. Maybe there are other similar games to help with the road trip?


Dive sticks to use in the pool after you arrive.
I saw another thread reference a Hidden Mickey book. That might be fun to read to prepared to search
Fidget toys - there are so many varieties now. My DD11 is really into them

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Thanks everyone! Great suggestions!
I’m going to start shopping…maybe I’ll do a trip report and have their reveals in there!

@Dreamer They’ve already seen the Disney shirts I bought/had made for this trip. But Mad Libs is a great idea; they are at a good age for that. Snacks would be a good one for the rest stop (get away from the machines, I’ve got something better in the car).

@jwoandrews Play doh, I think, my DS would enjoy. I wish we could do a regular puzzle in the car, I’ve been wanting to do one with them for a while. I showed them one in the store today and DS said, “Why would we do that? We already know what it will look like in the end!” :rofl:

@amvanhoose ooh, the loom thing is a great idea. DD used to make those rubber band bracelets, so she’s got the concept down. DS had to build a bridge for a class a year or two ago, so he might find that interesting. I might take a trip to Hobby Lobby to investigate. Just looking at shelves would help…they hate licorice. Picky children! But using it to tie rope would probably amuse them greatly.

@EMgoblue unfortunately they are not. We are always amazed at the Lego creations in Disney Springs, but try as I might, I couldn’t get them interested. I got them the advent calendar with all of the Star Wars characters and they lost interest halfway through. What is wrong with these kids! lol

@janamelia I was thinking about getting them each a stuffed animal pillow to start the trip, DD likes these weird soft ones I can’t remember the name of right now. Maybe I could give them each a drawing pad and they could draw their favorite things they see or are looking forward to about Disney.

@illini74 We have done scratch art before, but not in a while. I’ll see if I see some unique ones!

@bay.loftis I’ve never heard of this! Wow, it does sound like something my kids would like. I’ll see if there’s a similar app or something. They LOVE talking to Siri.

@bigsar1 We always see people with pool toys and we don’t have our own. Great idea. And I think I actually own the Hidden Mickey book, need to look for it. DS has been asking for those pop it things, he’s into the fidget stuff too.


My DS7 HAD to have a pop it thing. He doesn’t ask for much, so we let him pick out one on line. I was a proud Liner when he picked a Mickey ears one :blush:


They generally have some inexpensive ones at Target too. I didn’t know that they had Mickey ones!


When my kids were younger they really enjoyed the Guide to the Magic for Kids. Lots of interactive stuff to do throughout the book. Most of it is geared for during and after your visit, but they could preview it on the way there and then it might be nice to have them work through the book on the way home?

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If you are looking for other fidgets, I LOVE these. I have this set at my desk when I am working remotely from home. They help me get through long Zoom/Teams meetings! :sunglasses:

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DD and I bought one pop it for DS at Target. He likes it and messes with it in the car a lot. He asked if he could buy one of the extra large sheet ones on Amazon and I told him no. I usually let them spend their money however they see fit; I can’t fathom paying 25 bucks for permanent bubble wrap.

Those Mini Squigz went RIGHT into my Amazon cart, though. Those are awesome and will give them some much needed fun on car windows and seats! Off to add Windex to my packing list :rofl:

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I got this dive set at Target for our last trip.


That is so cute!