Since I am so particular about what my daughter plays with, I set about making my own activities. Here is what I came up with.
1 inch 3 ring binder
plastic cover sheets
Various colors of card stock
Dry Erase markers and a towel or something to wipe off marker
I made a variety of puzzles, mazes, activities for my toddler to work on. I made simple mazes with markers and then made them a little more interesting by adding reposition-able stickers at the beginning and end (as in help the baby duckling find his mama at the end of the maze). I also did an assortment of matching games. The sticker book I bought had various animals and then animal prints, so I have several pages of matching the print to the animal. I also had matching adult animals with baby animals, and colors (I picked up some paint chips at a hardware store).
Since we are starting to work on letter sounds with her, I had several pages with letter sounds as the theme. I made an "A" page with the letter on top (made in dots for her to trace), and various items that begin with the "aaaa" sound (alligator, Africa, apple, ant, ambulance).
I felt a little better about making the books because they offer a bit more variety and they really did seem to do the trick. Plus, everything is removable and reusable. When I get back home I can take the stickers off and make new mazes or use the as a completely different activity.
Another activity that I made for our road trip was a button snake.
It is felt squares (about 2 inches) with a slit cut in the middle. I strung a piece of ribbon through a wooden button, and tied off the end with a piece of felt. Tootsie Roll can then put the felt pieces on the ribbon to make a snake and then take them off. Honestly, this one wasn't as big of a hit as some of my other activities but it did occupy her time for a little while. Like the binder book, when we get back I can disassemble this activity and use the felt for other projects as well as the ribbon and button.
I have no idea what kind of seeds these are, but Tootsie Roll and I found them at a playground one day, so we collected quite a few of them and have been using them as counters.
I made these felt pieces a while ago after we picked up the book "We're going on a Bear Hunt" by Michael Rosen. We brought along a smaller felt board (which doubled as a hard surface to work on in the car seat) and Tootsie Roll had several felt play sets to play with.
And finally, last but not least one of my more ingenious ideas. On a trip out to eat we passed by some toothpicks, and I grabbed a few and some straws to entertain Tootsie Roll while we waited on our food (she put the toothpicks through the straw). She enjoyed it so much, that I grabbed a few more on the way out for back at the hotel. Well, instead of dropping them through the straw, I gave her a sheet a paper that I had drawn an outline of Australia on, and had her use the toothpick to poke holes in the paper (she was sitting on the carpet). She LOVED the activity, and so did I. Fine motor control, concentrating, pre-writing pincer grip, etc., etc. for the early childhood educator in me. Since then we have used newspapers with interesting photos to poke holes in as well.