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Have toy, will travel: best travel toddler toys

There are a few plane trips coming up for us and our 1.5yo toddler.  Please help me think of the best easy-to-pack, always-entertaining, not-too-messy toys to pack.


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When we flew with my very active 14-month old, her favorite thing was an old breastmilk storage bottle, its cap,and two small toys that fit inside. She would put the toys in, cap on, cap off, toys out, over and over and over again. The other hit: a new fuzzy-texture book about animals. I don't know if that is helpful -- the one constant is a toddler's unpredictability, especially with toys!

We love the small sized Magna Doodle because they can draw and draw, and it never makes a mess! Also, small cars are always entertaining for my son :)

Yeah, as JK commented, it is the unpredictability of the toddler that makes packing for a plane trip the most difficult. Personally, we have found a combination of snacks, favorite books and fun apps on the iPad to be our best bet. Plus a new toy / game that they can “unbox” while on the plane can also keep their attention for some time.

Although roaming down the aisle and making new friends seems to be our precocious boy’s favorite pastime.

tape, I once kept a 2 year old happy for 3 hours on an airplane with one roll of tape and a few pieces of paper.

stickers - same concept of tape.

A couple of favorite books.

While it is tempting to pack small toys, in my experience they just seemed to get dropped and then you are cramped and fishing around for an item.

And, though it won't be popular, an ipod or DVD player with Thomas, Blues Clues, elmo shorts, whatever. We do not allow tv during the week and only an hour or two on the weekend, but the media players have saved us on several cross country plane, train, and car trips. Right around 18 months we introduced it and the headphones 'special ears' - just make sure they aren't too loud.

We found plastic cups (from the flight attendant) and straws (from fast food stand at the airport) to be a hit. Also,
lowering the window cover, opening it back up and over again :).

I have a little travel pack made from an old make up bag with a zipper and inside I have a bunch of little $1 toys from Target including a toy airplane, a mini-slinky (which is a big hit), some stickers, a little soft brush, a few crayons and whatever other little toys catch my fancy. Sometimes the fun is the bag (emptying it out, filling it up and zipping/unzipping it), sometimes the fun is the toys themselves. Also, Elmo DVDs on either your laptop or iPod. we bought some little kiddo headphones to go with it. Seriously - a lifesaver! A little snack pack dish that your child can reach in and get their own raisins and cheerios (hungry toddler = bad news). And never unestimate the fun in the little plastic drink cups from the plane and a few pieces of ice.

We like the baby Einstein apps for the I pad. Good luck!

a small flashlight or bike light the child can operate independently and a scarf or small blanket (silk is nice because it packs down into a tiny space and doesn't weigh anything). the light is fun anyway, then the scarf can be a little tent that makes the light even more fun. also, a compact mirror that the little one can open and close, and a small bank for putting coins into and taking out of again and a again. these were life savers for us on several cross-country and international flights.

and i completely agree with the advice to avoid too many small toys. retrieving them from the floor between seats can be so difficult - and can become the whole focus.

we've had good luck with "find it" toys... grammy and nonna's in st johns carries them (not sure where else). oh, and "perplexus" for the 5-99 crowd.

This is about the age I broke down and did the Elmo dvd too for long travel. After the snacks, toys and my back wore out Elmo and Dorothy were there to save the day. My guys weren't allowed any television at this age and so when they did get to watch they found it so completely mesmerizing that travel became a breeze for us and for our fellow travelers. They also loved the Wiggles which I'll never understand.

Stickers and play-doh! And if your child is past the toys in mouth stage, we have had really good luck with a miniature plastic piggy bank and coins. Our daughters loved to take the coins out from the bottom and then put them back in the slot at the top one at a time, over and over again.

DVD player and bubbles.

I found these to be a good website for travel ideas:

(good links from travel savvy mom)

Happy Travels!

The small water bottles they (sometimes) give you on the airplane, and old magazines for the kid to tear up and maul. Also, I've had good luck with My Big Book of Everything (DK), which is popular on and off the plane. Mostly, just hope you have sympathetic seatmates. Good luck!

We just completed a roundtrip flight to Florida and back with an 18-month old. We brought one zipper tote bag of new (to us) thin books and a few toys. We also brought a DVD player and Elmo videos (and we don't have TV at home). I also printed a bunch of photos with the different people my daughter knows (family members, folks and friends at daycare, family friends, neighbor people and pets) and put them in two cheap and thin one-photo-per-page books (~$2 at Target) - she could flip through these books and name everyone. It was helpful for reminding her of the people we were going to visit too. The last-resort DVD player bombed - she didn't care for it. She spent most of her time moving the magazines between the seat back pockets, pushing the window shade up and down and practicing drinking from a plastic cup - we'd add a millimeter or two of water and let her throw it back. Throw a straw in the mix and there's another 20 minutes of entertainment. The photo books were reasonably successful too. We also brought a large-ish stuffed Elmo (who is like her brother) and one of her blankets.

And - several packs of anti-bacterial wipes for wiping down surfaces and hands every 30 minutes or so - we didn't get sick!

Snacks, snacks, snacks!! More snacks than you think you will need. Also, we had good luck with those removeable sticker activity books - hours of entertainment at that age and still at 4! I got one of those soft trays that attaches to the carseat - this was and is a life safer - keeps the toys and snacks from falling to the floor. And yes, I agree with Sara - hopefully you have sympathetic seatmates!

my smartphone is all my kids need or want when we're travelling. not sure if that's good or bad. but as long as the battery works and i don't have a need for the phone, it prettymuch trumps any other toy.

I found it helpful to trade with local friends _ I asked for a round-up of small toys that would be new to my kids. In exchange, friends were welcome to borrow anything big or small from our house that we wouldn't need while we were on vacation. That's a good way to do it without spending a lot of $$$, just make sure you know exactly which toys belonged to which friend. Visit the library for softcover books, too. Wind-up toys were also a huge hit for us, and colorforms.

If you're thinking about crayons, get the triangular-shaped ones (I think they're refills for those "Tadoodles" plastic toddler crayon holders thingies). They don't roll off the tray. And they're washable.

Thank you for the timely post! I am flying alone :-( to upstate NY in April with my then 18-month old..... I have so many good ideas now for what to bring! thank you Mamas!!

Delicious Baby has some great toy lists for travel with different age groups:

I agree about not too many small toys as gathering them from the floor is hard and stuff gets lost. At Delicious Baby's suggestion -- I've had great luck with a roll of blue painters tape. Endless entertainment to put it all over the seats, themselves, and us. Plus, easily peels off for quick clean-up.

Now that he's a little older, mazes and spot the differences books work well too.

We just returned from Hawaii with a 3.5 yr. old and 24 mo. old. Along with bringing plenty of snacks, I wrapped up sticker books, coloring books, paper dolls, wipe-off books, Where's Waldo books, card games, etc. and let the kids open either a sharing present or a present each every 1-2 hours. The kids loved it and they were great on all the flights!

We love the small sized Magna Doodle because they can draw and draw.Stickers and play And if your child is past the toys in mouth stage, we have had really good luck with a miniature plastic piggy bank and coins.

UrbanMamas, is there a way to block people from posting a link to their business like the "all weather wicker patio furniture" did above? I can't help thinking that she/he didn't even care about this discussion thread but posted only to have the like to their business posted here. The business is not even related to parenting. it is spam!

I suggest you don't bring with you toys that are too small, not only because they're a choking hazard, but also because you're more likely to lose small objects on a trip. Take care and I hope you have the best time.

Excellent post! I just stumbled upon your blog page and gathered some good ideas for what I am working on. Cheers!

You can make your own piggy-bank-style toy by saving baby food jar lids to use as the coins, and then cutting a slot for them in the lid of a clear plastic food container. I drew pictures on the inside of the metal lids with some permanent markers to make them interesting to look at, too (nothing fancy--smiley faces! stars!). Our 1-year-old finds them fascinating, and the 3-year-old does, too. And drawing on the inside makes it so he can't suck on the permanent ink, too.

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I would nix the compact mirror every time I have traveled with mine it has held up the line in security something about not being able to see through it with the x-ray, and apparently they look like bombs or something. Great ideas all.

Great, ideas, thanks! One thing I read about awhile ago for long plane rides that are partially at night (when the lights are out) and have tried a few times not for the plane ride but for getting through long bus rides after we land. Get a bunch of glow in the dark bracelets at the dollar store (usually they come 5/dollar or 3/dollar for the necklaces). More amusement than you would think in a semi-dark place :)

Having travelled to Disney World (Denver to Orlando) more times that I can count with practically every age, honestly, the ipad is the thing!

Wow, this has been very helpful! I am traveling alone with my 2-yr-old from Alaska to Texas and found a bunch of great suggestions in the this blog. Thanks for all the input - I'm sure it will make the long flights more enjoyable for both of us!

Love these ideas. Here's mine to add to the list: "a kid-friendly airplane cocktail." More on that here:http://hintmama.com/2014/03/21/todays-hint-a-kid-friendly-airplane-cocktail/

I found that my young son was kept entertained with a toy car caddy which was great as it fitted easily into my hand luggage as a scroll. Also found that a chalk scroll can keep the little ones amused for a long time by having them draw different things we saw or were going to see on our trip.
Bought them from Popsy Design - http://www.popsydesign.com.au/

Love all the ideas. I am traveling with my 18 months old all the way to Middle East. It will be a 24 hour long trip and which we change flights 3 times. I feel I got enough good ideas from all of you for my long journey. Thank you.

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