(updated July 17, 2018)
Over the years, my family has had dozens of gift exchanges with friends and family on board a cruise ship, between Christmas holidays and various summer birthdays. So we have gotten a pretty good handle on what makes a good travel gift for a cruise ship based gift exchange. Scroll through below to see ones that we have found to be big hits! (Also, be sure to check out our post on making gift giving easier on a Christmas cruises.)
Key Issues With Selecting Travel Gifts For Kids
When perusing potential travel gifts that you will actually be traveling with, keep the following three issues in mind:
(1) Can you easily pack this travel gift in standard luggage? Remember that these travel gifts must be transported at least two times, from your home to the cruise ship and from the cruise ship to the recipient’s home. So, when considering travel gift ideas you should avoid things that are too heavy, bulky, or fragile.
(2) Can you use this travel gift, at least in part, on the current trip? Let’s face it. Kids want to be able to play with their gifts NOW. Sensible phrases like “wouldn’t it be better to leave it in the box so that none of the pieces get lost and everything makes it home in one piece” sound like gibberish to the eager excited child. A related point, it should not be a travel gift that, once opened, consists of 100 pieces, at least 15-20 will be lost between your cruise cabin and home.
(3) Will this travel gift continued to be used once the current trip ends? I hate the idea of spending good money on travel gifts that turn out to be used one or two times and then shoved in a drawer. One hallmark of a particularly fun or cool gift is whether it will continue to be used and appreciated once everyone returns home.
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9 Great Travel Gift Ideas for Kids
Keeping my three key questions in mind, here are my top recommendations for holiday gifts for kids who cruise. These are all gifts that I have personally purchased and gifted to at least one child in our travel party, or gifts that were received by at least one child in our travel party and were loved. In some instances, the original item has been discontinued or updated, so I am providing a link to the latest version. (Although numbered, we are not “ranking” these suggestions.)
This awesome smartwatch for kids was my 5 year-old’s absolute favorite gift. If was a surprise gift from a family friend and quite the hit! Thankfully, it is easy to charge (with regular charge cables from your phone or tablet) because he has enjoyed hundreds of hours of use from it. In addition to taking pictures and selfies, and making tiny videos, it has several different game features including some that require movement and activity to have the most fun.
This camera lives up to its hype. It is extremely durable and versatile. While my then 4-year-old was ecstatic to receive this as a gift, I had some concerns as to how long it would actually last. He is a kid who loves rough and tumble active play. But this camera has managed to hold up well. It is also surprising small. It can literally fit in your pocket. Box includes accessories that permit mounting on bikes and scooters and for underwater use. With its included accessories, the box weighs about a pound.
Mess-free art kits for kids. These sets originally started out as just coloring, and included special markers that could only color on special paper. So no issues with markers all over walls, furniture or clothes. Crayola has now expanded this concept to other media such as ink stampers and paint. You can also find kits featuring favorite Disney or Nickelodeon characters. Most kits weigh less than 1.5 pounds and are compact enough to fit in a tote bag or carry-on luggage. Recommended for ages 3 to 8. Check out an extended catalogue here.
A tablet can be your best friend when traveling – both on and off the ship. Tablets can be great for downtime in your room, providing entertainment on a long bus ride (with headphones), or during other long waiting periods. A tablet’s also good if you don’t like the sometimes limited options available on cruise television. The 7-inch Kindle Fire is the perfect size for travel. It weighs less than 11 ounces, longest side is only 7.6 inches, and device is less than 1/2 inch thick. Extremely portable and easily slips into a child’s backpack.
Children will be able to make the most travel use out of a tablet, if they also have a pair of headphones. I have come to the conclusion that all kids’ headphones break, get lost or otherwise need to be replaced at some point in time sooner than you would like (but maybe that’s just us). So I have take to buying extras “just in case.” We prefer the on-ear, foldable kind because they travel very well, and are less likely to get misplaced. I also like to find relatively inexpensive ones because we run through them so quickly. These are our current favorite headphones. These have the distinction presently of being one of the styles that has held up the best to date. Even if you don’t get some for travel gifts, these are good items to pack anyway.
This portable memory game one is a true classic. A modern twist on the timeless game of Concentration. Great for planes, airports and waiting around. Designed for travel. All game pieces securely attached. Set weighs less than 1 1/2 pounds and will easily fit into a tote bag or backpack. Manufacturer list recommended age range as 5 to 7 recommended; but can easily be adapted for younger children. Made from real wood and will last for years.
Sticker books can be an excellent travel activity, and they make great travel gifts! Over the years we have gone through quite a few. The best ones have reuseable stickers and plenty of create pages to use your imagination to make your own story. You can buy one or more, mix and match and accommodate any budget and almost any set of interests. Here are some popular ones to consider.
When my son first requested one of these as a gift, I was very skeptical that I would find anything suitable. I assumed it would be too heavy, too expensive, or otherwise too complicated to cart around the world. I was wrong! There are several portable metal detectors designed for kids (aka “junior metal detectors”) that are reasonably priced and actually work. These are great for the beach, park or backyard. Many models weigh less than 1.5-2 pounds and can easily fit in standard size luggage. And the one that we got actually fits in a backpack! So they can definitely work as travel gifts.
Snorkel sets make great travel gifts. Exploring the fascinating world under the sea can be a great water sport for cruisers of all ages. Snorkeling is a great way to explore under the sea without needed any special certifications or dozens of hours of special training. And, it is a water sport that is easily accessible to young children (just remember to add a safety vest!). Most basic snorkel sets for kids weigh about a pound or less.
Any of these items would make a great gift that will be both loved and easily packable!
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