5 Best Bribes for Travel with Kids

As a parent, I know traveling with kids is a joy. Traveling with kids can also be an interesting challenge. Bribery helps.

LISTEN: Do not the let the kids hear this podcast.

Best Bribes for Kids

Here are some of my favorites. I’d love to hear yours.

1. Candy

Buy a bag of miniature Snickers or Reese’s or whatever your sweets your child craves then dole it out as follows:

  • For good behavior (such as sitting quietly)
  • For stopping bad behavior (such as kicking the seat)
  • For using indoor voice (or lowering the outdoor voice)
  • For buckling up (and if they don’t, YOU must buckle them up)

Some may think this is a too-generous system. Devise your own and let me know how it works.

2. Movies

Little ones must absolutely have the movie that they can watch again and again. A generation ago, it was Parent Trap; more recently, Frozen wore the crown. Doesn’t matter, just be sure you know what your toddler finds most hypnotic and put it in your device.

For older kids, let them choose a few (with your approval).

3. Toys

First of all, don’t spend much; you can find fun toys for little ones in a big box drugstore for a couple of bucks (or less).

  • New toys: Wrap individual dime-store items (cheap plastic toys) and dole out from purse or pocket as needed.
  • Old toys: Pack your child’s favorite stuffed animal (especially if it insures a good night’s sleep or nap) but keep it in a carry-on for easy access. And keep your eye on it; this is one toy you don’t want to lose.

4. Money bribe

If you can swing this financially, it just might dazzle a tween or teen into extra-good behavior. First, ask them to pack a carry-on bag with the understanding that they are responsible for it. In return, they get to keep the checked-bag fee (typically $50, sometimes less) to spend as they like.

5. The friend

If your teen is dragging his or her feet about having to go on a family vacation with the little kids, figure out if you can take a friend of the teen’s along. Unless you’re driving, it may not be cheap but could be worthwhile.

BONUS: Old-fashioned bribes

Just because it’s not electronic doesn’t mean it’s not fun. Suggestions:

  • Travel-size board games: We’ve seen a bunch of these from chess to checkers and more for under $10
  • Books: Download them or brings paperbacks. Many kids enjoy being read to, but it’s more than great entertainment; it’s the priceless gift of your time and attention.
  • Art: Never underestimate the power of a pen or colored pencils and a pad of paper. Tell the kids to draw the plane or a picture of Dad snoring away in his seat. Perfect for rousing games of tic-tac-toe, too.

See Rick’s latest column on this topic for ABC News. See all his ABC columns here.


Updated: July 3, 2015