Travel toys for kids can make the difference between a terrible trip and an opportunity for the whole family to relax and have fun. Young kids can be the most enthusiastic travelers. But, long-haul flights can feel like several days when you are struggling to entertain a child on a plane. Whether you are taking a plane ride with kids or a family road trip we have put together a list of the best travel toys for kids, from babies to teens.
The Best Travel Toys for Kids
The beauty of long haul flights is that any premium carrier will provide personal entertainment screens. But, screen time isn’t going to offer hours of entertainment to your children on a long flight.
Not only does the novelty wear off fast, but there really are limited options for kids when it comes to airplane entertainment systems.
That’s why you need to make sure to pack a selection of toys and activities for each of your kids.
This is a comprehensive list of the best travel toys for kids.
Obviously, you don’t need to pack all of these items. But use this as a guide so you pick and choose those which you think would suit your own kids’ interests and ages.
The Best Travel Toys for Babies
Sensory toys are perfect for babies and toddlers.
Not only are they great travel toys to help develop their fine motor skills, but they are also a particularly great distraction during take-off and landing when the pressure may be affecting your little ones’ ears.
A rattle or pretend keys. If you’re traveling with a baby and you have to use the insanely small change table in the airplane bathroom, keeping a small toy in the diaper bag is a clever idea.
These Hit The Road Activity Keys are a great toy that we carried on planes (anything with a mirror is a winner with babies).
We must have taken Sophie the Giraffe on at least 30 flights when Alaska was a baby.
Great for teething, chewing during take off if they won’t feed, or as a travel toy to entertain during the flight or car ride, this is one of our favorites.
Suction spinner toys are the perfect toys to stick to the plane window during take-off to entertain babies when they can get frustrated and tired of being in that infant seat belt.
A tummy time book with a mirror and teethers were one of my daughter’s favorite travel toys as a baby.
It was the simplest and easiest travel toy to carry in the carry-on, the baby backpack or to use in the hotel room for playtime.
Musical pram toys. While most traditional pram toys are too bulky to take traveling, a small pram toy can be surprisingly entertaining for your baby during transit.
We would attach a pram toy like this one to our travel pram, then place it in the car seat of the rental car and use it again when exploring. It easily hooks onto a travel backpack for transit.
Picture books. I’ve mentioned my love of the chew-proof books the Indestructibles series, before. They are lovely and thin, colorful, and cannot be ripped by little hands.
Read Next | What to Pack for Travel With a Baby
The Best Travel Toys For Toddlers Aged 1-2 years
Toddlers love to build and flex their growing independence.
The best travel toys for toddlers are colorful and tactile and help them master their hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills.
Soft toys are one of the best travel items for toddlers who can easily be overwhelmed by the intensity and unfamiliarity of a long-travel day.
Bringing a soft toy (not their favorite) from home is a really important comfort, particularly for little kids.
If you choose to buy a new soft toy for the trip, buy one that has either a keychain or a hook so you can attach it to the pram or bag while in transit or an educational soft toy that serves a double function – play and comfort.
Busy books are the perfect travel toy for toddlers. Small children love exploring with their hands so these books are ideal.
You don’t need a huge busy board, simply choose the right size quiet book that’s the right size for your carry-on.
A Melissa & Doug refillable water pen and coloring pad is a genius idea as there is no mess, no fuss and you don’t have to watch them like a hawk as you do if you carry markers or sharp pencils.
A magnetic play set will get their little fingers working and test their imagination as they design different scenes.
Animal playsets are the best toys for your toddler to take in the car, plane, or even the bath. You don’t need to pack a whole set, just throw a few in their pencil case.
A Duplo set is a double-duty travel activity as your toddler can build the scene and then use it for imaginary play.
Fingers puppets are a super packable fun travel toy for toddlers. Choose silicone or plastic as they then double as bath toys.
Popper fidget toys are a simple yet effective travel activity for toddlers. The mickey mouse poppers with a key chain are easily attached to your travel bag for entertainment while in transit.
A silicone coloring placemat sits neatly on their tray table and is another fun way for kids to color and draw and is reusable.
They are underrated travel toys. But, we have taken beach toys to the beach, used them in the bath, or for park picnics.
The Best Travel Toys for Kids Aged 3-5 Years
Kids’ creativity and imaginative play really flourish at this age, meaning they have a much broader range of interests when it comes to play.
Dot books are a fun travel toy for preschool to school-aged children. They are a new take on a coloring book. Older toddlers will love these too.
Coloring books are the perfect travel toy for a budding little artist. If you travel or go out to eat frequently, I recommend you buy a pack in bulk and keep them in the cupboard.
Twistable crayons are a great idea as there is less chance they will make a mess and you don’t need to carry a pencil sharpener.
They are suitable for toddlers to school-aged children and we’ve found they last a long time compared to regular crayons.
Reusable Sticker Books. Reusable stickers are a clever option over a single-use sticker pad as they can design the scene, pack up and start all over again.
Magnatiles are a great way to play with your child on the plane. You can build structures and shapes together and they easily pack away afterward into a ziplock bag or carrying case.
Suction toys are fun airplane toys but also double as bath toys once you get to your hotel.
A talking flashcards toy is one of the best travel items for toddlers for long road trips. This is a good way of entertaining and educating a toddler while they sit in the back seat as they can learn unassisted.
A small magnetic drawing board. Kids follow the pre-made pattern by placing colored magnets to create a picture.
A mini Etch A Sketch is great for small hands as you simply draw with the knobs and shake to erase.
Wikki Stix are bendable crafting sticks of twine that children can shape into whatever they like.
Both little kids and older kids will like getting creative with these and as they are waxy, they don’t require glue to stick onto surfaces.
An airplane tray table cover. A tray table cover is a simple way to keep your child’s snacks and hands on a clean surface (because we know they never keep their food on a plate).
This cover keeps the space clean while adding a couple of extra activities to their schedule.
A foldable travel tray. If you are doing a lot of long-haul travel or a big road trip, consider a tray table organizer. Your child can settle in and get set up and you don’t have to crawl on an airplane floor every five minutes in search of a missing crayon.
Simple, fun, thin books. Both of my kids love the School of Monsters series.
The Best Travel Toys for Kids Aged 5 to 7
Preschool and early school-aged children love to learn in a practical way. So, the best travel toys for 3-5 year olds are fun, educational, and creative activities.
Kids’ tablets can come in handy when you are on a long car ride or family road trip (or you’re flying with a budget carrier that doesn’t provide screens – check that before flying).
While it’s simple to download shows and movies onto your children’s tablet, they can be educational too by adding games like Reading Eggs, World of Peppa Pig, or the Grandma’s Garden series.
We have these kid’s wireless headphones for our kids to watch tablets or the inflight-screen. They are fun colors, the kids get stickers to customize them and they have a safe, maximum sound limit.
Don’t forget to grab a headphone adapter for flying.
Handheld water games are not only compact but can be quite challenging. These are the perfect game to keep your kids occupied while waiting in those long airport lines.
An activity book is the best travel toy for preschool and early school-aged children, particularly on long trips. They can do coloring, solve puzzles, answer questions, and draw.
We like activity book kits that come themed with their favourite characters and include stickers.
Mini Lego sets will keep those with a keen eye for building busy. There are so many different sets to choose from. These have small parts so be mindful of that if you are travelling with younger children.
Explorer Flash Cards. If your 5-year-old is anything like mine, they won’t be able to learn enough facts in a day and love to show off their reading skills.
So, these cards will be a fun learning activity to do with your kids. Choose one of the different themes for each international flight.
A Polly Pocket travel toy is a small play set that your child can get to play with in the lounge and carry on to the plane themselves with its necklace or fanny pack options.
The Best Travel Toys for Kids Aged 7 – 12 years
The tween age group is all about self-expression and exploring their passions. Creative toys for travel are a great option to entertain your tween kids on your next holiday.
Card games. Older kids will enjoy card games like UNO, Memory, or Go Fish. These are also a fun way to pass the time playing together in an airport lounge.
Foldology is an origami-style game that challenges the brain and coordination by creating different shapes out of paper to reveal a photo.
Craft kits. Let them immerse themselves in some craft with a friendship bracelet-making kit.
Drawing Kits. Fashionistas will love trying their hand at designing with this fashion drawing kit including stencils and stickers.
A Rechargeable Game Activity Cube will test their problem-solving skills and enables your kids to play together too.
It includes arcade games, brain games, and disco lights with music for dance parties when you reach your destination.
Tween coloring book. The young artist in your family will love tween coloring and good quality pencils to keep them entertained on the plane.
Mad Libs is a fun word game that can be played with the whole family – perfect for a holiday road trip.
DIY designer water bottle. Let them get creative and decorate a brand-new water bottle that they can then use on their trip so they get a great travel gift too.
Travel Activities for Teens
A Kindle means your teenager can dive into their favourite new travel reads without having to weigh down their carry-on with paperbacks.
This is the perfect gift too for your teenager who commutes a lot between home and school.
A travel journal. Why not encourage them to record their travel memories for later? They can write, draw and scrapbook as they go.
These travel games will fit easily into their carry-on to ease the boredom when it hits promising hours of fun.
Road trip riddles. Get the whole family involved on your next family vacation with some brain-twisting riddles in this book.
Vlogging camera. Is your teenager an aspiring vlogger? Get them an entry-level vlogging camera so they can record your next vacation.
Tips for Choosing the Best Travel Toys for Your Trip
Be Smart About Which Travel Toys You Take
You absolutely do not have to pack an entire suitcase full of toys for your kids to travel with.
A handful of different toys is the perfect amount. Be smart about what you choose to pack.
The best travel toys for kids are those that are dual-function (like a soft toy with sensory extras like teethers), reusable, compact, and easily washable.
Opt for Quiet Toys
Consider your neighbors on that flight, train ride, or airport lounge. The majority of toys should be quiet toys that don’t disturb others.
If your kids are using a tablet, ensure they have headphones plugged in. And, don’t use musical toys or loud rattles unless you are in the car or out in the open.
New Toys Are Key
New toys are key to keeping them engaged for longer. This doesn’t mean you need to spend a fortune or go overboard with how many you take.
Ration Your Kid’s Travel Activities
Be strategic about the way that you present the travel toys and activities you pack.
You need to ration each activity out. Then you have an ongoing supply of surprise toys which is especially important on a long journey.
Make sure you have some travel toys in your carry-on and some in your checked baggage for when you arrive at your destination.
You may need them for the wait in the luggage hall, the transfer trip, or the hotel waiting area.
How to Pack Kids Toys for the Plane
Encourage each child to decorate their own packing cubes that will fit easily in a carry-on.
Make sure you have two separate bags or activities for younger and older siblings or a bag for each child, so you don’t risk arguments over who owns which toys.
Make sure each child (if they are 5 years old and up) knows they are responsible for their own travel activities, including packing everything away once they’re finished.
When you’re packaging up your toys into different bags, ensure anything that could leak is in a well-sealed snap-lock bag.
Ask For Inflight Entertainment
Don’t be afraid to ask the flight attendant whether the airline has any travel toys for kids.
Some airlines have great kids activity kits like the Qantas kids pack that contains a mini Etch A Sketch style toy.
We hope this comprehensive guide to the best travel toys for kids gives you some inspiration and helps you pack for your next trip with the kids.
More travel tips and inspiration:
Skye is the founder and editor-in-chief of The Fit Traveller.
She is a journalist, writer, photographer, intrepid traveller and a former personal trainer with a passion for helping others reach optimal health.
As a TV journalist and producer, Skye has worked for household names such as 60 Minutes, Sunrise, TODAY and Nine News. She has also written for Women’s Health, Fodor’s Travel and Yahoo7 Travel, among many others.
Equally comfortable in a 5-star resort or hiking a far-off mountain, Skye loves the unexpected and enriching life experiences that each trip brings and can often be found in a backstreet chatting to locals with her camera in hand.
Skye is based in Sydney, working to master the balance between motherhood and her appetite for adventure.
Read more about Skye’s story here.