There’s usually a great debate between veteran traveling families on the topic of toys. Should you bring them? Should you not? Should you just buy toys when you get there?

I think for older kids bringing iPads or Kindles would be enough but it gets trickier when you have little ones.

Toddlers aren’t really entertained for long periods of time by a TV show. They’re not very good at playing games on an iPad. They really aren’t good at staying in one place like an airplane seat.

Best Practices of Flying With a Toddler

The trick to flying with toddlers is to keep switching out activities. They get bored easily so having a new activity every so often helps keep them from turning their attention to destruction.

The problem is that you only have so much room in your luggage and you can’t pack up the entire toy store to bring just to keep your toddler entertained on a flight.

What I’ve found to be true is that you don’t need to bring that many toys. You just need to be careful in choosing the toys you bring.

There are certain toys and activities that are both great at entertaining toddlers and great at being transported half way around the world.

For example: a small trampoline is great at entertaining a toddler but not at all easily transported.

While a bag of Duplo’s is great at entertaining toddlers AND easily transported. Win-win!

So after much trial and error. (Read: times when I’ve caused havoc in an airport by bringing a bunch of bouncy balls.) I’ve found 5 tried and true toys that will entertain your toddler and also not require you to hire a sherpa.

These toys are easily rotated and can be played with again and again. They work for both girls and boys and for various age ranges.

I wish I had this list when I first started traveling with our firstborn!

Alas, such amazing things did not exist on the internet back then 😉

The Best 5 Toddler Travel Toys You Need to Stay Sane

So what I do is unpack these toys before the flight and put them in plastic baggies. This saves room in the luggage and also prevents you from dropping little bits of cardboard all around your seating area. (I tried to clean it up I swear!)

The plastic baggie system also works well when it’s time to put a toy away and move to the next one. If you want to get really organized you can even draw numbers on the baggies so you have a rotation going.

The nice thing about bringing versatile toys is that you won’t just use them on the flight but also during your whole vacation.


1. Duplos

I am a big believer in Lego and think it’s one of the best toys kids have these days. Duplos are super versatile, easily packed and provide hours of entertainment. Again I would take the Duplos out of the box if you buy them new and put them in a baggie. I would also make sure to include a Duplo figure or two and a car if you have it since it’s more entertaining than just plain Duplos to the toddler set. My daughter loves this set because she can have the little figures go on the slide and she can put them “night, night’.

2. Crayola No Mess Markers

I don’t know if Crayola was thinking of traveling parents when they invented these but they work like magic. Toddlers get to color and scribble without making a mess. It’s amazing. Crayons and markers are a great way to entertain young kids but there’s always the downside of the mess. With this set you have no mess. They are more expensive than regular markers but very much worth it for travel purposes.

3. A Magnetic tin set

These sets are essentially small metal boxes with a bunch of character magnets inside that kids can stick on the backgrounds that are also included in the box. The fact that it’s magnetic helps keep everything in one place. The key to these tin sets is to get the character set that your toddler is currently obsessed with. Little kids get some pretty intense obsessions with characters or animals. There’s a tin set for everything. For example, if I was getting one for my toddler I would probably get this Curious George one or a Peppa Pig set. The love it.

4. A toy set with a carrying case

Seeing you pack and unpack your toddler will most likely want to get into the packing spirit. That’s why I’ve found that bringing a toy with a little carrying case lets them practice this skill over and over again. Again it’s best to choose something your toddler is really into, whether it’s puppies or dinosaurs. I really like these animal toy sets, because the not only serve as a carrying case but also another set of toys to play with.

5. Books

But not just any books, I’m partial to the really skinny cheap paperback types. You can buy 5 of these and they still take up almost no room. I like buying news for the trip since they have the benefit of novelty. Again, I always look for books with characters or topics my kids are interested in. I also like the lift the flap books, granted be ready for the flaps to get ripped, but they are entertaining. These are the types of books I’m talking about. They’re pretty cheap and my toddler would be ecstatic because she loves Peppa Pig.

The theme that runs through all of these toy recommendations is to choose things that are classics but to tailor them to the interests of your kids. Novelty also helps, so if you buy some inexpensive new books they may hold your toddler’s attention for longer.

I love toys that can be played with in multiple ways.

That’s why I don’t include things like puzzles because there’s really only one way to play with those. Also, my toddler would be the first to throw all those pieces on the floor. That’s another element of a good toddler travel toy, is if the toy is still fun even if you lose some pieces. Trust me, you will lose some pieces.

On the return trip, we often grab a couple of things from the country we visited or the airport. Usually, we can still re-use the travel toys we flew with and just add a couple of things to keep the little ones interested.

What do you think? Do you have a tried and true travel toy you love?

Here are a few more ideas if you’re looking to stock up for your next trip:


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