Best Travel Toys for Kids, from Babies to Teens

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The best travel toys for kids can make the difference between a cherished family vacation and a long journey you’d rather forget. I have spent years searching for the best travel toys, activities, games and crafts to keep kids entertained during road trips, flights and train travel. Below I highlight some of my favorite distractions for family journeys by age — from babies and toddlers to preschoolers, grade school children, tweens and teens.

Best Travel Toys for Kids, Babies and Teens

Best Travel Toys for Babies and Toddlers

Modern Rattle

I have yet to meet a baby who isn’t mesmerized by the Manhattan Toy’s Skwish, a modern and innovative take on a standard rattle.

Play Phone

All little ones want to play with their parents’ cell phones. Keep your smart phone safe from drops and drool. Give your baby or toddler this HISTOYE play phone instead! Although this toy makes sounds and plays music, the volume is low as to not hurt baby’s ears.

Make Believe Computer

Toddlers like to imitate mom and dad. For many families, that means typing away at a laptop computer. This V-tech play computer has lots of buttons, songs and lights—everything young children love. You can turn the volume down, so that you don’t annoy other passengers on the train or airplane.

Stroller Toys

You’ll want a stroller toy or two for your travels. Stroller toys easily attach to your stroller so babies and toddlers can keep busy and content wherever you go.

Bath Toys

Don’t forget to bring a few bath toys along on your family vacation, too. Young children will be excited to be reunited with their travel bath toys on each trip. A set of stacking cups are fun in the tub and during the journey.

Discuss all the types of transportation used during your trip with your little ones when they play with a set of vehicle-shaped bath toys. A sea creature bath toy set with fishing net helps little ones master hand-eye coordination during your family vacation. Meanwhile, these Mickey Mouse and friends bath toys would be especially fun for a Disney trip. Bonus: they come with their own carrying case, which makes storage between trips easy.

Best Travel Toys for Preschoolers

Arts and Crafts for Travel

Most preschoolers love to keep their little fingers busy by creating arts and crafts projects. For starters, get some triangular, no-roll Crayola crayons. Add a coloring book or two to help your budding artist create on the go.

Sticker Scenes

Sticker scenes are also a big hit with the preschooler set. Peaceable Kingdom makes several options including an airport scene, unicorns, princesses, animals, and more. Melissa and Doug’s sticker sets are lots of fun, too.

Crayola’s Color Wonder Kits

Parents like that Crayola’s Color Wonder kits don’t make hands messy. Meanwhile, children are amazed by Color Wonder’s “magic” ink. The Color Wonder Stow & Go Studio is a carrying case and table surface in one, making it a great choice for travel. Choose from plain paper or character books. There are even neon options, glittery princess kits, and metallic paper.

Lacing Boards

Lacing boards provide a compact activity to take on the road. They help preschoolers work on their fine motor skills while having fun. The lace board below gets high ratings on Amazon and is the lightest option made by Melissa and Doug, weighing in at just half a pound (eight ounces).

LeapFrog LeapStart Interactive Learning System

The LeapFrog LeapStart Interactive Learning System provides a fun way for preschoolers to learn to count and read via educational games and e-books. A library of 16 books progress from level one for preschoolers to level four for first graders. Buy the headphones for a quieter ride.

Best Travel Toys for Grade School Children

Card Games

Games of all sorts are fun for grade school kids. Favorites like Old Maid, Go Fish, and Crazy Eights can be played with a regular ol’ set of cards or with a colorful deck like these by ThinkFun.

Board Games

Many board games come in travel versions. Kids can play Checkers, Connect Four, Chess, Backgammon and more on the go. These are not only fun for the journey, but also for playing at your hotel room or vacation rental home.

Bead Kits

Girls and boys alike enjoy stringing beads to make jewelry for themselves or for mama with a Melissa and Doug wooden bead kit.


LEGO sets were a big hit with my nephews when they were in grade school and now both my son and daughter can spend hours building with these colorful toy bricks. Sets like these will buy you lots of whine-free time on your next flight. I especially like the three-in-one sets because kids can build multiple creations from one small kit. Be sure to get a LEGO plate, too, for easy building on the go.

Fashion Kits

Little traveling fashionistas will love creating their own imaginary clothing lines with any of the following creative kits.

Sand Toys

This sturdy, compact sand toy set comes with its own carrying case for easy clean up and packing. The pieces double as a bath toys too!

Best Travel Toys for Tweens and Teens

Rubik’s Cube

Scramble up the colors of an old school Rubik’s Cube before giving it to your tween or teen. If they solve the puzzle, they can earn a privilege, like time to text their friends or a pit stop at Starbucks for a Frappuccino. Challenge them by setting time limits to solve the puzzle for more fun on the road.

Travel Games

A game of Would You Rather? will get the whole family laughing out loud during your journey. Even the driver can play along with this book of silly questions (if someone else reads!).

Mad Libs is another fun and creative way to play together as a family while traveling.

Kindle Fire

Kindle Fire is wonderful for travel because it’s compact and you can load it up with all sorts of books and games to entertain tweens and teens on long trips.

Coloring for Tweens and Teens

Think coloring is just for little kids? Think again! Tweens and teens can while away hours spent in a car or airplane while coloring with pencils or markers. My artistic teen absolutely loves her Ohuhu markers. They even come with their own handy carrying case! Be sure to get a grown-up coloring book, too.

Best Travel Toys for Kids of All Ages

Kid-Proof Kindle Fire

Watching movies on a smart phone or tablet, like this kid-proof Kindle Fire, makes the miles zoom by, no matter the mode of transportation. (It also comes in pink or yellow.)

Books for Traveling Kids

Of course, you’ll want to bring along some books for travelers of any age. Get kids excited about the trip by purchasing a travel-themed book, like those in the This Is series, which highlight such destinations as London, Texas,  New York, Ireland and beyond. This Is the World includes abridged versions of the most popular books in the travel series. For more ideas, take a look at the best travel books for kids according to family travel experts.

Pit Stop Toys

If you’ll be traveling by car, think about bringing along some road trip toys to use during pit stops. For little ones, bubbles are a must. A beach ball is great for all ages and is a compact item for play at the hotel pool or beach. A flying disc makes a good distraction, too, especially a light-up version like one of those shown below.

Travel Toy Tips

I advise parents to keep a separate stash of toys, books, and games specifically for travel. This way, you don’t have to run all over the house pulling these items together for every trip. Plus, as we all know, children tire of their toys quickly. Hiding these toys makes them seem new again.

For lengthy trips you will want to splurge on a few new toys to be unveiled on the go. You can wrap these gifts to buy extra time and add to their magic. If you don’t have time to get fancy, use tin foil instead of wrapping paper.

Be sure to spend some time during your journey focusing your attention on your offspring. If road-tripping with more than one adult, things will go smoothest if one grown-up gets in the backseat to help make crafts and play games for a bit. For airplane travel, plan to forego thumbing through your favorite magazine in favor of reading books to your young child or working on a puzzle with an older kid.

Most parents (including me!) at some point give in to the lure of happiness and silence that can be induced by technology. If you allow video games and television at home, I suggest “starving” the kids of these treats for a week or so before departure. This ensures your children will be sufficiently enthralled by electronic entertainment when you need it most.

Best Travel Toys for Kids of All Ages

Save this List of Travel Toys

Be sure to keep this list of travel toys for kids of all ages for future reference. Simply pin the image above to Pinterest. Go ahead and follow Travel Mamas on Pinterest while you’re at it!

If you like these travel toys, then I bet you’ll love our picks for the best travel games for kids and this list of audiobooks for family road trips!

What do you think are the best travel toys, activities or games for kids? Let us know in the comments below!

About Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama

Colleen Lanin is the founder/editor-in-chief of As the author of her book, "The Travel Mamas' Guide," she teaches parents not only how to survive a trip with children, but also how to love exploring the world with their offspring. Her stories have appeared online and in print for such outlets as the "Today" show,, Parenting Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, Chicago Tribune, Expedia, San Diego Family Magazine, and more. Colleen gives tips on television, radio, and as a public speaker. She has a master’s degree in business administration with a background in marketing. She lives in Arizona with her husband and two kids.

  1. I love this article!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. I like to go to Thinker Things in San Diego to load up on travel toys. They have an excellent selection of travel toys.

  3. Great article. There are now a bunch of iPhone apps made by parents for parents. Here’s a few travel apps I use:

    For the planning stage: By encouraging free choice and independent thinking, kids can participate in the planning process
    My Little Suitcase, $1.99

    For traveling: picture books on the iPhone:
    PicPocket Books $.99-$3.99 (17 titles available and more coming soon)

    For arrival: child friendly destinations in San Francisco Bay Area, New York City, Los Angeles Area, and Orange County. Adding more cities daily…
    Mom Maps $2.99

  4. A well researched site, I’ll link to it from my site thanks

  5. nice

  6. Silas Weather says

    Interesting blog. My colleagues and I were just talking about this the other day. Also your site looks great on my old laptop. And thats rare. Keep it up.

  7. Deandra Redemer says

    Thanks for the useful content. Came across you folks on Yahoo and am subscribing to your blog 😀

  8. Cary Fugo says

    Awesome site, I will be adding your feed to my google reader.

  9. wandering educators says

    Fantastic ideas – i like the broad range of ages. Will be referring back to this often!

  10. I swear by triangle crayons and we had that Fisher Price phone way back when and loved it!

  11. We have quite a few of these. And my kids LOVE the triangle crayons. Have you seen the twist up ones? Those are now my son’s favorite.

  12. Duncan Faber says

    We travel with our 5 kids all the time, and believe me, keeping them occupied is a priority. Not having more kids is another priority. We make sure we have lots of audiobooks on their ipods. It’s so much better than having them watch a dvd. There are lots of great sites to download them.

  13. eileen at FamiliesGo! says

    I’m not sure about beads for traveling. Too much of chance of having to collect them from car seats or plane floors! But I love the Peacable Kingdom reusable stickers. We also rely a lot on small tubs of play-do, sticker books and blocks that stick together (like Tegu). Wax sticks like wiki sticks are very age versatile.

  14. Ellen Lanin says

    I think this might provide some good ideas for birthday party gifts and help for grandparents looking for gift ideas, too.

  15. Claudia Laroye says

    Confession: We bought a surprise set of Polly Pockets for a 10 hour flight to Europe when our boys were young (5 and 7 years old). These were the days before iPads and e-devices (it wasn’t that long ago, seriously). They had HOURS of fun and they couldn’t have cared less that the PPs are ‘girls’ toys. The wee dolls fought well against the bag of toy soldiers and LEGO figures that also made the trip.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Claudia – I love it! It’s so nice when kids are young enough not to care if a toy is supposedly for a girl or a boy.

  16. Great list to look at for Christmas and Hanukkah ideas!

  17. I added a couple of ideas to my list from this! Thanks!

  18. These are all great ideas. I wish we were traveling more this holiday, but I think your suggestions also apply to non-travelers too. My son would love that little laptop. He’s always trying to get to mine.

  19. Jackie Jones says

    Lovely article on toys from kids to teens.

  20. Because Lego won’t make a mess on a flight. -_- beads, really? Like it couldn’t make more mess. -_- common sence please

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Hi Human – Your parents gave you a weird name. I wonder if you act like a jerk in real life too or if it’s only when you’re hiding behind a computer. Next time leave your real name.

  21. Lynn Hayes says

    I think this is a great article. I now have a two year old granddaughter. I am going to have to get some of these for her.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Lynn – Your granddaughter is lucky to have such a thoughtful grandma. Hope she enjoys the toys!

  22. Danielle says

    This past spring we went on a road trip from NY-VA-NC-GA.. My best gadget was my tablet with frozen & Rio downloaded. We left late so the 1 year old & 4 year old would sleep through most of the trip! I’d love for you to check our my HANGit on etsy for your next road trip!

  23. Troy Chadwick says

    Great List! Some of those really classic toys will never go out of style.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Thank you, Troy! So true. I try to keep updating this list to keep the toys relevant and current but some of these will never go out of style!

  24. Large magnet toys and a travel size Simon game. Also a ziploc bag of snack for each child w their name on it. Twizzlers are the perfect traveling junk food. We have 6 school-aged kids. No way to beads or legos or anything else with tiny pieces. Kanoodle is good and intellectual but they might lose the pieces. Take things that they don’t get to do. I save the big magnet toys for trips only. We also have dvd in van. They like Yogi Bear, etc.

  25. Callum Wallis says

    I have a one year old boy and I am sort of dismayed by the extent to which the cars and trucks thing is immediately impressed upon them. But not so for girls whatsoever. It’s like they are being groomed to enter the transportation industry from birth. It’s no wonder we have such big gender disparities in these fields.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Interesting take, Callum! My kids had access to toys typically geared toward both genders and they both loved playing with the kitchen, the stuffed animals, the toy trains, etc. I did find, though, that my son was much more drawn to cars and trucks than my daughter.

    • Caroline says

      Couldn’t agree more. You however can do something about that. Let your child play with whatever he wants as he grows. I raised 3 daughters and a son. They are perfectly adjusted adults and they played with cars, trucks, dolls, climbed trees, rode skate boards, splashed in mud, played basketball, rode motorbikes and drove cars on our farm, dressed up however they liked and generally explored who they were. I am now raising my 6 nieces and a nephew the same. They play with toys they are interested in and enjoy and hopefully as they get older they can follow their dreams. So ridiculous to be defined and limited by gender.

  26. Sapana V says

    These suggestions are really nice. These toys keep kids engaging.

  27. Mark Balkan says

    Great list! Thank you!

  28. I love how to have categorized the toys and games according to age.I think this is a smart move because it means that parents can find a toy or game for their kids irrespective of their age. I like this post! Great job!!!

  29. Amanda Moncrief says

    We are not use something special for my baby in travelling time. But after read this article i realized we can keep some toys for them. I will must buy some of these for my kids that are you recommended here. Hope so they will enjoy their time with lots of fun. Thanks for the sharing such a informative article.

  30. These are all great ideas and I’m sure enough to keep them entertained and engaged. i thought of buying Sophie La Giraffe kind of puzzle toys for my kid but i think i need to change my mind after reading your post., Thanks for sharing such an wonderful post.

    • Colleen Lanin says

      Those are very cute toys! They might be a bit heavy for air travel, though. Happy travels with your kids!

  31. Anonymous physician says

    I like the article. That said, if you have the capability, don’t let kids under two years have a phone/tablet/etc. It can cause brain damage

  32. Keryn Means says

    The Kindle Fire has been our godsend for YEARS! We definitely mix it up with toys, paper and crayons though. Too much screen time makes my youngest a bit nutty.

    • Colleen Lanin says

      I can TOTALLY relate! My son gets cuckoo when he’s had too much screen time too. His normally sweet disposition turns so sour!

  33. Catherine Brady says

    I love this post! I think one of the scariest prospects, about traveling with kids, is how to keep them entertained en route. Great list for all ages. I travel extensively with my 3 year old and I’ve gotten some good ideas from this list!

  34. This article is a life savior! Thank you for compiling such a detailed list. I made one myself with the toys that I normally use when I travel with my little ones, but now I just have to add a few more hahaha.

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