Best Travel Toys for Kids, from Babies to Teens

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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. These toys and activities will make road trips, flights, and train travel easier and more enjoyable. Below I highlight some of my favorite distractions for family vacations by age — babies and toddlers, preschoolers, grade school children, and tweens and teens. Here are 30+ travel toys to buy before your next trip for fun on the go.

Best Travel Toys for Kids, Babies and Teens

Travel Toys for Babies and Toddlers

The key to finding the best toys for toddlers and babies is to stick with simple, lightweight playthings that will bring the most joy. One trick is to look for toys that do double-duty, like bath toys that work at the beach, too. Noisy toys are a no-no so stick to items that have no sound or for which the volume can easily be lowered. Of course, you'll want to bring along your baby's favorite stuffed toy, but a few surprise toys will go a long way.

Traveling toddler with stuffed toy
Bring along a favorite toy or two plus new surprises for traveling babies and toddlers (Photo credit: luzgareva, Depositphotos.com)

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 kids want to play with their parents' cell phones. Keep your smartphone 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 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 small children love. You can turn the volume down so that you don't annoy other passengers on the train, airplane, or other public transport.

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. Toddlers and babies tire of these over time so be sure to swap them out regularly to keep their attention.

Pastel toys may be pretty but keep in mind that babies see contrasting colors like black and white better than muted shades. Bright colors help with brain development, too. This black and white stroller toy makes a great option.

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 is not only fun in the tub but also during the journey. This is one of my all-time favorite travel toys for toddlers.

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 Disney Junior bath toys would be especially fun for a Disneyland or Walt Disney World trip. In addition to Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse, children will enjoy vacation bath time with Doc McStuffin, Lambie, Kermit, and other beloved characters.

Bubbles

When traveling with toddlers and babies, bubbles are a must. A small travel bottle will do. Pack it in a small Ziploc bag to avoid spillage.

Bubbles work wonders in entertaining young kids at pitstops or while waiting in theme park lines. Toss one of these in your diaper bag for easy entertainment wherever you go.

A beach ball is a great toy for preschoolers and kids of all ages
A beach ball is a great toy for traveling preschoolers and kids of all ages (Photo credit: FamVeldman, Depositphotos.com)

Travel Toys for Preschoolers

The preschooler set loves to learn through play. Choose travel toys that spur imaginative play. Most traveling preschoolers love to keep their little hands busy by creating arts and crafts projects, too. When flying, choose activity kits that work well on an airplane tray table.

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. Even if this is not possible, you can play road trip games and sing songs together as you drive.

No-Roll Crayons

For starters, get some triangular, no-roll Crayola crayons.

Coloring Books for Kids

Add a coloring book or two to help your budding artist create on the go. This jumbo coloring book with simple images is great for children aged 2 to 4.

This airplane-themed coloring and activity book would make a great diversion when flying with children.

Sticker Scenes

Sticker books are also a big hit with the preschooler set.

Peaceable Kingdom makes several sticker scene options. Look for an airport scene, zoo animals, fairies, and more.

Melissa and Doug's sticker sets are lots of fun, too. These reusable stickers can be used on more than one trip.

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 includes markers, a carrying case, and a table surface in one. This makes it a great choice for travel.

The Color Wonder Activity Set is a good choice for traveling preschoolers. In addition to a carrying case, it comes with a stamp pad, four stamps, a stamp holder, a 24-page blank Color Wonder book, three sticker sheets, and five Color Wonder markers.

Replenish with plain paper, glittery options, and metallic paper.

My kids loved picking out a new Color Wonder activity pad before every family vacation. Choose from themes like nursery rhymes, Disney Princesses, Paw Patrol, and beyond.

Lacing Boards

Lacing boards provide an engaging activity to take on the road, without taking up too much space. They help preschoolers work on their fine motor skills while playing.

The lace board below gets high ratings on Amazon and is the lightest option made by Melissa and Doug, weighing in at just over half a pound (9.6 ounces). It contains five lace boards for preschoolers.

For an even lighter option, buy a lacing cards set by Stephen Joseph. These come with a travel bag and weigh just .44 pounds (7 ounces). Themes include dinosaurs, transportation, unicorns, and others.

LeapFrog LeapStart Interactive Learning System

The LeapFrog LeapStart Learning Success provides an interactive way for preschoolers to learn to count and read via educational games and e-books.

Buy the LeapFrog headphones for a quieter ride.

Finger Puppets

During a road trip with preschoolers, get the family into sing-along to Old MacDonald's Farm with these darling finger puppets of farm animals.

Or go all out with this array of 20 finger puppets. Get creative and tell stories to your children during airplane take-offs and landings with these cute characters. They're the perfect travel companions!

Beach Ball

If planning a long car ride, then bring along road trip toys to use during pit stops. A beach ball works well for kids of all ages and is also a compact item for play at the hotel pool or beach. Even older siblings can use this toy when traveling.

Grade school kids at the airport
Traveling with grade school kids is easy…with the right toys (Photo credit: FamVeldman, Depositphotos.com)

Travel Toys for Grade School Children

Big kids can entertain themselves better during plane travel and car trips than younger children. Grade school children still will require a lot of your attention while traveling, however. For older children, buy travel toys that are good for independent play as well as a few interactive travel games.

Card Games

Travel games of all sorts are entertaining for grade school kids. Favorites like Old Maid, Go Fish, and Crazy Eights can be played with a regular ol' deck of cards or with a colorful set like this by ThinkFun.

Travel Board Games

Many board games come in travel versions. These are not only fun for the journey, but also for playing in your hotel room or vacation rental home.

Challenge kids to a classic game of backgammon, chess, or checkers with this magnetic travel set. The magnetic pieces make playing easy, whether by car, train, or airplane.

Connect 4 is another good choice when traveling with grade school kids.

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

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 or car trip.

I especially like the three-in-one LEGO sets because kids can build multiple creations from one small kit instead of buying different sets.

Purchase a LEGO Friends kit with a vacation theme, like this beach glamping kit.

For easy building on the go, be sure to get a LEGO Baseplate.

With so many small parts that are easily lost, you need a container for traveling with LEGOs. Keep all your kids' LEGO bricks safe and sound with a travel case.

Fashion Kits

Creative kids will love fashioning their own imaginary clothing lines with a kit.

This Fashion Plates Travel Kit is sized for play on the go. Kids use a rubbing tool to easily design fashions. It comes with eight fashion Plates, 10 sheets of paper, four coloring crayons, two rubbing crayons, one crayon holder, one drawing tablet with a storage tray, and one idea guide.

You can never go wrong with Melissa & Doug. Their fashion design art activity set is equipped with nine double-sided, textured fashion plates, four pencils, one crayon, a crayon holder, and a storage case.

Kid-Proof Kindle Fire

Watching movies on a smartphone or tablet, like this kid-proof Kindle Fire, makes the miles zoom by no matter the mode of transportation. It comes in purple, blue, or pink.

Wikki Stix

Colorful Wikki Stix are bendy craft items sure to inspire your child's imagination. Use them to build a variety of 3-D crafts. These work well as fidget toys, too.

Get the Wikki Stix Traveler, loaded up with activities for kids on the go in an easy storage bag.

Sand Toys

If you're planning a beach vacation, then sand toys are a must. This sturdy sand toy set comes with its own carrying case for easy clean-up and packing. The pieces double as bath toys too!

Books

Of course, you'll want to bring along books for travelers of any age. Get kids excited about your family vacation by purchasing a travel-themed book or two.

The This Is series highlights such destinations as Paris, New York, Texas, and beyond.

This Is the World includes abridged versions of the most popular books in the travel series.

For more ideas, look at the best travel books for kids recommended by family travel experts.

Tween, teen, mom and dad on road trip
Tweens and teens deserve to have fun on the go, too (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Travel Activities for Teens and Tweens

Are teens and tweens too old for travel toys? No way! These travel puzzles and activities will keep teenagers content whether in the air or on the road.

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, then they earn a privilege, like time to text their friends or a pit stop at Starbucks for a Frappuccino. (Psst…you can watch a Rubik's Cube tutorial video to learn how to solve this puzzle.)

Challenge traveling teens and tweens by setting time limits to solve the puzzle. A classic cube works well for newbies but teens seeking a bigger challenge will want a speed cube. These are easier to manipulate quickly for timed play.

My son loves to impress other kids with his Rubik's Cube-solving skills. This brain teaser makes a great ice breaker with other teens.

The traditional Rubik's Cube is designed with 3×3 squares (nine squares per side). Enthusiasts who have conquered solving this puzzle, however, will want to graduate to a more difficult cube. Purchase savvy teens a 4×4 or larger cube instead.

Teen 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!).

Get your tweens and teens talking (and laughing!) with Loaded Questions On the Go. It’s full of interesting queries like, “What is a terrible thing to accidentally throw away?” and, “Whose voice can you best imitate?” The goal is to guess who said what. There are no right or wrong answers!

Mad Libs

Mad Libs is another 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 even on long-haul flights.

Kindle Paperwhite

Want to be sure your teen's Kindle is used for reading only? Then buy a Kindle Paperwhite instead.

Quality Marker Set

Think coloring is just for little kids? Think again! Tweens and teens can while away hours 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!

Colored Pencils for Teens

If colored pencils are more your teen's style, then you can't go wrong with this five-star rated set by Castle Art Supplies. The tin box keeps 72 rainbow-colored pencils secure during travels.

Adult Coloring Book

Be sure to get an adult coloring book, too. How about this Amazing Animals Adult Coloring Book?

Flying Disc

A flying disc (or Frisbee) provides lots of entertainment for teens without taking up a lot of space. Tuck one into the backseat for use at pitstops on a road trip. Or stash one in your suitcase for use during a beach or family camping trip.

A light-up flying disc is extra cool, especially for teens who want to stay up late at your vacation rental or campground.

Stash of travel toys
Pack the right travel toys for your kids at every age and stage (Photo credit: Joingate, Depositphotos.com)

Travel Toy Tips

Now that you know which travel toys to buy before your next family trip, let me share some tips to get the most value from your purchases.

Keep a Hidden Stash of Toys for Travel

I advise parents to keep a separate stash of toys, quiet 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.

Pack a Busy Bag for Each Child

A little planning goes a long way, especially when traveling with kids. Bring along favorite travel toys from past trips mixed with a few new surprises.

For lengthy trips, 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, then use tin foil instead of wrapping paper.

Consider Using Technology to Your Advantage

When traveling with children, most parents (including me!) at some point give in to the lure of happiness and silence that can be induced by technology. Even if you do not allow screen time at home, you may want to consider bending the rules during your family trips. The key is to reinforce regular house rules as soon as you return to “regular” life.

If you allow video games and television at home, then I suggest “starving” the kids of these treats for a week or so before departure. This ensures your kids will be sufficiently enthralled by electronic entertainment when you need it most.

For those who don't want to use any technology as a distraction, read our tips for an unplugged road trip with kids.

Best Travel Toys for Kids from Babies and Toddlers to Tweens and Teens

Save These Travel Toys

For future reference, be sure to keep this list of the best travel toys. Simply pin the image above to Pinterest. Go ahead and follow Travel Mamas on Pinterest while you’re at it!

If you think these are good 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, and games for kids? Let us know in the comments below!

 
About Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama

Colleen Lanin, MBA, is the founder and editor-in-chief of the popular travel blog, TravelMamas.com. She is an expert in travel with kids and without. As the author of the book, "The Travel Mamas' Guide," she teaches parents how to make the most of traveling with babies and children. Colleen loves sharing tips on hotels, cruises, spas, theme parks, and global lifestyle topics. When she is not traveling the world, she lives in Arizona with her husband and two kids.

Comments
  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 http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/my-little-suitcase/id323273261?mt=8

    For traveling: picture books on the iPhone:
    PicPocket Books $.99-$3.99 (17 titles available and more coming soon) http://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/picpocket-books/id321206790

    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 http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/mom-maps/id309570382?mt=8

  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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