The weather is warming, and that means LOTS of travel. Road trips and RVing have been increasingly popular over the past year for obvious reasons, and many families are back in the air, too. Whether you’re traveling by plane, train, or automobile, keeping the kids content is a top priority.
Earlier this week, we compiled our favorite Travel Toys for Toddlers, and here we’re sharing our picks for kids. We’ve rounded up our favorite things in a few key categories: from family car games to electronics and activity books, there’s something for every kid (big or little) who may or may not be actively considering kicking the back of your chair. Let us help you avoid that.
And if you’re traveling by car, start with our Road Trip Packing List for a round-up of all the essentials for a successful trip!
Coloring Toys for Travel
The coloring options on this list are mostly mess-free, and for the few that have slight mess potential, they’re 100% machine washable. All travel exceptionally well and offer vibrant colors, plus hours of entertainment.
Task your creative kiddos with drawing what they see around them to make taking in the sights extra immersive, or stick to filling in existing characters. No choice is the wrong choice here!
Reusable white pages feature simple line drawings when dry and become colorful images when littles use the included refillable, easy-to-grasp water pen.
The markers show up only on the Color Wonder Pads, so you won’t have to worry about unloading your toddler and wondering how the car seat turned into a rainbow mural.
This doodle book provides a fun way to sketch! It comes with 13 colored pens and a cloth to wipe it clean, but the size makes it perfect for your little one to carry in their travel bag.
Write, draw, doodle, and scribble on this drawing board using the four included texture drawing tools. Then, clear the board with a push of a button and start all over!
One side of this magnetic drawing board provides lower case alphabet practice, and the other offers open-ended creative play. Plus, it has a carry handle and attached stylus pen, making it easy to carry around.
The only choice on our list that’s not mess-free, but the mini markers in this color set are machine washable. Plus, everything fits inside the art case.
Building Toys for Travel
From the perfect on-the-go LEGO storage container to a selection of magnet toys and suction construction, there is a building toy for every kid in your car—or your aisle. Our recommendation? Pick at least two and surprise them with one for the journey. Save the other for your destination and/or the trip home. Build on, babes!
If you have a tiny builder, this is the must-have travel accessory. It has a triangular shape that fits between the legs, two lids that fold out for play space, plus a brick plate that fits inside one of the trays.
The simple design of the Plus-Plus bricks provides endless possibilities—build flat mosaics or work in 3D. This set includes flashcards to get started, and then your littles can move on to their own creations.
Magna-Qubix are the perfect traveling magnetic building blocks. The pieces easily “click” together, and your little one will enjoy all the building possibilities.
Tip: bring along a small magnetic baking sheet for building on-the-go!
Squigz are “fun little suckers” that stick to any smooth surface and each other. Pull them apart to hear them POP. This mini set is perfect for travel—your little one will love sticking them to the car or airplane window!
Another magnetic toy option. These are the well loved PicassoTiles Magnetic Blocks, but in mini size! Perfect for building smaller creations on-the-go.
Family Car Games
This section is your “Are we there yet?” antidote. Review it carefully and purchase from it liberally. It includes Melissa & Doug strongholds (we believe they can do no wrong) and Mad Libs that will keep everyone entertained, even on long hauls.
Can you spot a yellow car, hear a siren, and smell something stinky? The first player to discard ten cards wins! Special cards like Swap Me Cards make the game extra fun.
The classic question-and-answer game, but this one is for the car with over 1,000 questions all about America!
Get ready to laugh out loud when you complete the story with a mix of adjectives, adverbs, nouns, and verbs. You’ll spot historical sights, draft a letter from camp, and help create car songs with this set designed just for the road!
Use these beautifully illustrated visual card sets to create your own stories! Each set has recurring characters and props, and the cards can be linked in endless combinations for a new story every time!
Activity & Sticker Books for Travel
When you need a little more quiet and don’t want to turn on any screens just yet, pull from your activity and sticker book bag of tricks. From characters of yore we loved from our childhoods (read: Where’s Waldo?), to a fun paint by sticker option, and, of course, an option from Melissa & Doug, they’ll stay busy, and you’ll probably get to sneak in a podcast or two.
Skillmatics Boredom Buster is the perfect companion to keep littles occupied. The activities are carefully designed to ensure children practice key concepts while having loads of fun!
With more than 1,500 items hidden in 175 pictures, this activity book will keep your littles busy for hours. An oldie, but goodie!
Watch your painting come to life with Paint by Sticker books. Find the numbered sticker and place it in the correct spot. Recommended for ages five and up.
If you’re a kid from the 90s, you likely remember this classic. The Where’s Waldo? Travel Collection is perfectly sized for on the go and contains multiple books in one.
Tell a puffy-sticker story on reusable background scenes! Each set comes with ten reusable setups, spiral-bound into a gorgeous take-along play set. Stick, unstick, and rearrange for hours!
Other Busy Toys
Fidgety kids need things that keep their brains and their hands busy. Most of the toys in this section include so many options (Wikki Stix alone has 144 included!), you may gift yourself hours of silence while they build a rocket ship with magnets, work through brain teaser puzzles, or try to get water rings to land on a dolphin’s nose.
Like all of the sections above, these games include at least one fun moment of nostalgia you may feel compelled to add to cart just so you can play with it, too. Any reason is a good reason! Plus, your kids will love hearing your stories of playing with these same games when you were small.
Kiddos will have hours of fun twisting and turning this colorful disc! Squeeze and rotate the disc and push the beads into the slots. Arrange the beads according to their color and slots, and you WIN!
The Wiki Stix Traveler makes it easy to keep kids quietly and happily entertained without that irritating “are we there yet?” refrain. The bright, colorful carry case contains 144 Wikki Stix, a twelve-page activity book, and a QR code with even more instructions and Wikki fun.
Have you got an aspiring astronaut in your family? The Rocket Ships Magnetic Build-It set comes with two illustrated magnetic build surfaces and three sheets of mix and match magnetic shapes, all stored in a sturdy hinged tin.
Rainbow hued and in various shapes, Pop Its are great toys for stress release and a brain break. They also provide sensory interaction and are easy to take on the go.
Warning: Parents may spend an excessive amount of time “testing” this classic game before handing it over to their kiddos. Just fill it up and get ready for a fun challenge! The compact size of this game makes it a great distraction during long car trips and easy to pack when your family is on the go.
Based on the award-winning Kanoodle brain game series, Kanoodle Jr. includes sixty head-scratching puzzle challenges that easily slide into the included board for solo play and travel—perfect for kids 4–7.
Learn shapes and logic on the go! Simply place all the magnetic shapes inside the card to complete the challenge. Kiddos can also tap into their creative side with free play and make whatever they want!
Electronic Travel Toys
Okay, you’ve exhausted your other resources, or your kid is a little more tech-centric. This is the list for you. LeapFrog has been a leader in early education for decades, so you can’t go wrong with its LeapStart Preschool Success, which offers endless entertainment for just $30.
The Amazon Kids Fire Tablet is fully customizable and often discounted, so watch for sale alerts on that one (we’ll be sure to share when we spot it!), and we’ve heard rumblings of Nintendo Switch + headphones saving parental sanity since it was launched.
The LeapStart system grows with your child and gets them excited about learning, with interactive touch-and-talk pages like games, puzzles and creative challenges. Many replayable activities have two levels with 50+ key skills per grade level, so kids can play and learn at the right level and move up when they’re ready. Best for ages 2-7.
The latest Fire Tablet has a vibrant 8″ HD display, 20% longer battery life, 30% faster processor, 32 GB storage, enhanced wifi, and USB-C for easier charging. It also has a Kid-Proof Case with a built-in stand, one year of Amazon Kids+ (FreeTime Unlimited), and a two-year worry-free guarantee.
Nintendo Switch Lite is a small and light Nintendo Switch system at a great price! It’s road-ready and compatible with popular games like Super Mario Odyssey, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and more.
The original Bluetooth headphones for kids, these LilGadgets Untangled Pro headphones are beautifully designed and high-quality, fitting kids four and up. They also have an integrated SharePort to make sharing a little easier between kiddos.
Hitting the road with anything from this list? Tag it so we can come along for the fun – we’re @thriftylittles on Instagram. And don’t forget to join the Deals by Thrifty Littles Facebook group for deals you’re not going to want to miss.
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