Chances are, you’ve seen the research. Traveling with your child can help them be happier, smarter, do better in school, be more well-rounded and have an appreciation for other cultures.
Traveling as a family can also help increase bonding. However, we also know that toddlers are little bundles of uncontainable energy in constant need of stimulation—not exactly a good match for long car rides or flights.
So how can you balance a desire to travel with your little one with an equal desire to survive the journey? Planning ahead and packing engaging and fun toys for your toddler can help prevent tears and meltdowns…both your toddlers’ and your own! Below is a list of the 53 best travel toys for toddlers to help make the journey a lot easier for the entire family.
Travel Toys for Toddlers in the Car
Aqua Doodle Travel Version
Most toddlers love to draw and doodle, but the idea of handing your little one a handful of markers in the car might be enough to make you want to turn the car around. Dropped marker caps, dried out markers and the inevitable scribbles on your car’s upholstery are travel headaches waiting to happen. This mess-free doodle pad is perfect for budding artists. Simply fill the pen with water and your child can draw, mess free. No caps to lose and your seat fabric stays marker free. All that makes this one of the best travel toys for toddlers.
LeapFrog LeapStart Interactive Learning System
Chances are, your toddler is already obsessed with your phone or his big sister’s tablet. This interactive learning system lets your toddler learn and explore through educational games and e-books. He gets to learn while feeling like a big kid with his very own “tablet”—that’s a win for sure!
Car Seat Toys
Infantino Hug & Tug Musical Bug
This adorable toddler travel activity has enough to do to keep your toddler entertained for quite a while. It has clacker rings, a little mirror for making funny faces and a variety of fun textures. When you pull the bug down, the music and motion features are activated. For 90 seconds, the bug plays calming music as it slowly shrinks to it’s original size.
Taf Toys Toe Time Infant Car Seat Toy
This kick and play baby and toddler activity center has it all—music, a mirror, lights and toys to tug at. Many of the features are activated by a kicking motion, making it a great option for rear-facing toddlers.
HAHA Baby Soft Hanging Toys
These small travel toys for toddlers attach to car seat handles or can be held by your child. With a variety of animals included, you can easily swap them out on longer trips, keeping your child interested for longer. Each animal has a soft comforting chime and a teething toy attached.
Toys for Really Long Road Trips
Magnetic Play Books
Longer car trips call for toddler travel toys that can be played with in a variety of ways. Magnetic books allow toddlers to create their own stories and the best part is that the magnetic parts mean that you’re not going to be digging pieces out from between the seats.
Kindle Fire Kids’ Edition
When you need to keep your toddler happy and meltdown-free in the car for several hours, a Kindle Fire is definitely the way to go. This kid-friendly tablet has access to games, books, movies and apps, all of which can be managed through parental control and usage limit options. As an added bonus, while the Kindle Fire is relatively kid-proof, if an accident does happen and it breaks within the first two years, Amazon will replace it. Consider it a great option for long road trips with toddlers.
Travel Toys for Toddlers on the Plane
Mini Magna Doodle
This mess-free toddler drawing option is perfect for airport waiting areas and airplanes. Your child can draw and doodle and then easily erase the drawing and start again. You can also pass it back and forth and play drawing games with your little one. My preschooler loves to tell me what letter to write or what word to spell on his magna doodle and then he tries to copy what I wrote. Educational and fun at the same time—it’s one of the best travel toys for toddlers on airplanes.
Little Airport Sticker Activity Book
This inexpensive sticker book is small and easy to tuck into your carry-on. It features several pages of stickers related to air travel. Your toddler will be excited to point out the various items in both the sticker book and in real life.
Playskool Dressy Kids Doll
For little ones just developing fine motor skills and eye-hand coordination, a long flight provides the perfect chance to practice those skills. This doll allows children to practice tying, using Velcro, buttoning, zipping and fastening a pocket. It is also machine washable and it’s soft so it can double as a pillow for your child’s in-flight nap. A terrific toddler travel toy.
Airplane Tray Hacks
One handy thing about air travel is the airplane tray! This opens up the door to many toy options that aren’t easy to manage in a car. Just make sure to wipe down the tray with an antibacterial wipe before putting your child’s toys on it.
Sago Mini Jinja’s House Portable Playset
The seatback tray provides the perfect foundation for this tiny playset. It includes a little house and some animal characters for hours of imaginative toddler travel play.
Crayons Color Wonder Color Pad and Markers
Crayola has a Color Wonder set for every taste, from popular characters to neutral metallic color pads. The pens only work on the coloring paper so you won’t have the unpleasant surprise of having to try to wipe marker off of the back of the seat in front of you.
Other Great Travel Toys for Kids that Work Just About Anywhere
Janod Happy Fish Magneto Puzzle
Usually, a puzzle would be the last thing I’d recommend bringing for a busy toddler on a long trip, but magnetic puzzles are an exception. The large pieces on this puzzle are great for small hands, and they are magnetic too so they are less likely to fall between the seats or get lost in the airport security line.
Kids Dinosaur Travel Tray
For those times where your child needs a clean surface to play or color on (or even to snack on!) but they’re stuck in a car seat or sitting in a chair at the airport gate, this must-have travel tray provides a safe and clean surface with sidewalls and pockets to prevent toys or food from falling off.
USATDD Wooden Lacing Big Apple Toy
This Montessori-inspired toy activity helps toddlers develop eye—hand coordination. Children use the enclosed “needle” (a plastic peg) attached to a lace to practice threading the “needle” through the holes on the apple. It’s a wonderful activity to calm and focus your little one after a long travel day.
WikkiStix Rainbow Pak
WikkiStix are yarn coated in non-toxic wax and can be rolled, bent, shaped or twisted into almost any shape, allowing your child to make endless sculptures for hours of entertainment. WikkiStix will also stick to some surfaces, like the back of an airplane seat or to the window, without causing damage to the surface.
WikkiStix Travel Fun Kit
This easy-to-pack lightweight travel kit for toddlers will keep your little one entertained for hours. It not only includes 24 WikkiStix, but also a playboard for creating Wikki scenes and an eight page booklet chock full of fun games and ideas to use with your WikkiStix. It’s truly one of the most creative toddler road trip toys.
The First Years Stack Up Cups
This simple and traditional toy is always a toddler favorite. Not only can it be used to practice building and sorting by size, but the cups can be used in the bathtub, at the beach and even as an impromptu holder for snacks.
Battat Sort & Stack
This set of stacking cups goes beyond the original design and includes a shape sorting lid with shapes and bright colored cups that have numbers and pictures to help your traveling toddler learn counting and math skills.
My First Big Book of Coloring
This book is perfect of budding artists and unlike coloring books that have a character theme, this book has almost 200 pages of pictures that will appeal to a wide variety of children.
ALEX Discover My First Scribble
Rather than a book with pre-drawn illustrations, this coloring book is more open ended, with drawing starters and plenty of room for toddlers to doodle, scribble and be creative.
First 100 Words Sticker Book
While this book is a bit large, it includes over 500 stickers and is great for helping your little one learn new words. The First 100 sticker book series also has a book on animals and numbers, colors and shapes.
Ultimate Sticker Book: Diggers and Dumpers
This transportation and construction-themed book has over 60 colorful and realistic-looking reusable stickers. It is definitely a vehicle-obsessed little one’s dream!
Melissa & Doug’s Reusable Sticker Pad
These fun sticker books include five senes and over 165 stickers that can be removed and placed in a new location in the book over and over again. As an added bonus, they are easy to peel off. This is great because if your kids are like mine, the first place a sticker actually goes is on the window of the car or airplane.
At the Zoo Sticker Fun
I love this adorable reusable sticker set almost as much as my kids do. It includes over 100 stickers showing realistic zoo animal illustrations plus themed backgrounds to place the stickers on. Everything stores neatly in the included box with a little tote handle on top so that your toddler can carry his own around the airport just like a big kid!
Cool Stuff from Melissa & Doug
On the Go Water Wow! Reusable Water-Reveal Activity Pads
Using a refillable water pen, toddlers can reveal hidden letters, numbers, pictures and colors on these portable activity books. Unlike traditional paper books, each page is reusable—simply let the page dry and the pictures become hidden again.
Kids Take-Along Shape Sorter
This fun and educational toy from Melissa & Doug allows children to sort colors and shapes. It’s shaped like a small suitcase and zips to keep the pieces from falling out. Toddlers will love carrying around their own “travel suitcase”!
Abby & Emma Magnetic Dress-Up Set
Budding fashionistas will love this set of two wooden dress-up dolls and a box full of different clothing items. All of the clothing pieces are magnetic and stick to the dolls, giving your child hours of fun creating new outfit combinations. The company also sells other magnetic wooden doll sets, such as a career doll and a ballerina.
Games for Kids
Spot It Jr. Game
This game is a fun and fast paced game that is perfect for siblings to play together. In this game, children can practice focusing attention and matching skills while trying to spot the matching pair of animals between different pairs of cards. Kids love racing their parents trying to be the first to spot the match, making it a great toddler car game.
Melissa & Doug Flip to Win Travel Memory Game
This travel memory game can be played solo or with multiple players and is one of my favorite portable games. It comes with seven different double-sided game cards. Just like the card game, the goal is to flip the attached panels and try to find the matching items on the game card. There is even a sliding scoreboard for multi-player games.
HABA Town Maze Magnetic Game
This maze game can help young children develop fine motor and critical thinking skills. Using the attached wand, toddlers drag magnetic balls through the maze, designed to look like a town. Little ones can pretend that they are moving cars or helping people get through the maze.
Travel Themed Games
Spot It! On The Road
Just like Spot It Jr., this fun game helps teach focus and attention to details. All of the game cards in this set are travel and transportation themed. The verdict?: A super toddler travel game!
Rush Hour Junior
While a little difficult for toddlers to play alone, mine loves playing this game with a sibling or parent. It is great for teaching problem solving skills because kids need to maneuver the pieces around the game board in an attempt to get to the ice cream truck before time runs out.
Harness the Awesome Power of the Ziploc Bag
I’m sure every parent has had the experience of finding a really great gift for our little ones. We are super excited to see our child’s reaction but when they open the gift, what part do they like the best? The box. How disappointing! However, this time, a toddler’s tendency to be enamored by the ordinary can come in handy. One of the things I always have on hand when I travel is a simple everyday Ziploc bag – perfect for holding so many kinds of toddler road trip toys.
Create your own travel busy bag filled with your child’s favorite craft supplies and small toys. Placing them all in a Ziploc bag can help keep them clean and organized inside your carry-on.
Washi Tape Busy Bag Roads
Chances are, if your toddler has a tween older sister, you have a whole stash of Washi tape at home. Pack a couple rolls of it, along with some Matchbox or Hot Wheels cars into a gallon Ziploc bag. The tape can be used on the outside of the bag to create roads and parking lots for your child to use with the cars.
These Toys are Easy to Pack
Buckle Toy Bongo
This adorable toy helps young toddlers practice their fine motor skills by opening and closing a series of buckles around the toy. It is great for providing stimulation and distraction in long lines or waiting areas and can be clipped to a suitcase handle or stroller seat belt for convenient storage.
For the vehicle-obsessed toddler, car tape is the perfect solution for hotel rooms. This reusable tape can be unrolled on the hotel room floor, giving your child a two-lane road for playing with small vehicles. It is easily removable when it’s time to pack up and go home and doesn’t leave a sticky residue on the floor.
Mickey Mouse Magnetic Zoo
Perfect for long trips to Disney, this magnetic toddler travel set includes several easy-to-clean background scenes plus magnetic “stickers” for your child to create his or her own zoo scenes. Everything stores neatly in the small tin that easily slides into a carry-on. If your child loves Disney and you’re considering magnetic travel games for toddlers, this may be the one for you.
These Ones are Easy to Clean
Wipe Clean Early Learning Activity Book
If your toddler is ready to practice preschool skills, this workbook and dry erase marker are a great option. Your child can practice writing letters and numbers, tracing and drawing shapes and then the pages can be wiped clean with a napkin or tissue.
Living Squad Kids Binoculars
These real binoculars are the perfect toddler toy for trips to the zoo, bird watching or sight seeing. They’re shock-proof and designed with easy-to-wash bright plastic that is easy for little hands to grip.
Buckle Toy “Bolt” Airplane
This adorable plush airplane helps children learn to buckle and zip. The best part is that it’s machine washable and easily clips to a stroller or car seat.
These Ones are Kid-Proof.
LeapFrog Scout’s Learning Lights
While probably not the best idea for using in public spaces, this talking remote is good for hotel rooms, outdoor waiting areas or the car. It sings, plays music and teaches counting and the alphabet. The flashing lights, music and buttons to press help to engage multiple senses.
My Quiet Book for Children
This cute portable book from Pockets of Learning is great for plane rides and hotel downtime. The book is soft and provides several quiet activities, such as zipping zippers, snapping snaps, telling time and buttoning a button. It also has a handle that’s perfect for little hands to carry around.
ZipBin Softie Playsets
For kids who love to play with trains, cars or little figurines, ZipBin playsets offer a way to carry your children’s favorite small toys. They then unzip and fold flat, providing a safe and clean surface to drive cars, set up train tracks or play with small dolls. There are various options, including a horse stable, dollhouse and race track.
And These Ones are Mess-Free
Kid O Free Play Magnatab
For the older toddler, this fun toy is great for working on eye—hand coordination and fine motor skills. The magnetic pen pulls the beads to the surface of the toy, allowing your child to create endless numbers of pictures and designs. The beads are completely contained within the toy so its completely mess-free. A big plus when planning airplane travel with a toddler.
COOAU Portable DVD Player
With a 5-hour battery life, an AC adapter and a car charger, this DVD player is a good way to allow your child to watch his or her favorite movies on long flights and car trips. It also includes a game controller and nearly 200 classic game so the big siblings will most definitely want to volunteer to play with your toddler for awhile!
Tangles Fidget Toy
Little hands always seem to want to be moving and grasping at things. The Tangle is perfect for giving toddlers something to hold onto and manipulate. They can be molded into any shape and multiple sets can even be connected together.
Melissa & Doug Pull-Back Vehicle Set
These larger cars are great for younger toddlers who might not have the eye-hand coordination to play with smaller vehicles. These are great for playing with in hotels or at the airport gate. They are also soft so if your toddler decides to throw one suddenly, nobody’s going to get hurt.
Here are Even More Great Ideas!
ModFamily My Brick Case
I know, I know…the very thought of having to keep track of legos on a plane makes you want to cringe. But for the older toddler, this portable lego storage box helps keep legos in one place. Inside the case is a building foundation so your child can easily play with his or her legos without them falling all over the floor or car seat. Another great addition to your arsenal of toddler airplane activities.
Remote Control Cars
Once you get to your destination, a remote control car or two can be a fun surprise for the hotel room or a nearby park. Ones designed for young children are durable and easy for little hands to use, and if you bring more than one, you and your little one will spend hours laughing and racing.
Fat Brain Toys Original Squigz
This open ended toy is great for developing creativity and sensory play. The set comes with 24 pieces in eight shapes. Children build shapes and creations using the suction cups at the end of the pieces. Or, if your child is like mine, they suction cup the pieces to plane windows!
Nudy Ice Gel Teether Keys
Toddler teething doesn’t stop just because you’re on vacation. These gel teethers can be cooled in a hotel ice bucket or mini bar, providing your child relief from teething pain.
Baby Buddy Secure-A-Toy
While this isn’t a toy, no list of the best travel toys for toddlers is complete without one of my favorite toddler products. These straps safely secure pacifiers, rings and other toddler toys to a high chair, stroller or car seat. No more having to bend over and grab the pacifier off the dirty restaurant floor every five minutes. Consider them one of the toddler road trip essentials!
With so many options for entertaining your little one on long trips, the journey might be a little easier and a lot more fun. What are some of your picks for best travel toys for toddlers?