The 8 Best Travel Toys for Toddlers

Great ways to keep your kids busy on the road

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TRIPSAVVY-best-travel-toys-for-toddlers

TripSavvy / Chloe Jeong

Let's face it: Traveling with toddlers can be challenging. Little ones can make time on the road more stressful with tantrums, naps, and general angst. (Insert flashback to flailing 18-month-old on the customs line). But if you can find ways to keep them pleasantly entertained, the risk of a complete meltdown dramatically diminishes. The only problem is, you can't exactly pack up all of their favorite trucks, books, and dolls. Thankfully, there are many travel toys available that are sure to distract your tot for a while without taking up a ton of room in your suitcase. Here are eight of the best ones.

The Rundown
You don't have to worry about the building blocks falling over on a bumpy ride.
Runner-Up, Best Overall:
BuMo Pop Tubes at Amazon
Toddlers can use their imaginations to turn these tubes into animals, belts, necklaces, and so much more.
Little ones use the tape to complete the 20 double-sided pages' worth of activities, keeping them entertained for extended time.
It allows your little one to express their creative side without the mess.
The pieces are thick, so it's easy for kids to handle.
This option has 14 short stories to keep things moving, so toddlers don't get bored quickly.
A huge bonus is that the stickers are reusable.
The Purple Cow brand created a series of travel games for all ages, one of which is a matching game perfect for preschoolers.

Best Overall: Tegu 8-Piece Magnetic Wooden Block Set

Tegu 8-Piece Magnetic Wooden Block Set
What We Like
  • Compact

  • All-natural materials

  • Magnetic

What We Don't Like
  • Limited play options

Toddlers tend to get bored quickly, so having open-ended toys that can come together in various ways can be a big help. These wooden blocks have a magnetic feature that enables little ones to build all sorts of structures—and that same feature makes it easier to travel because you don't have to worry about the building blocks falling over on a bumpy ride. And you'll feel good about the purchase since the blocks are entirely natural and safe. Bonus: They come in a sleek felt pouch for easy transport.

Runner-Up, Best Overall: BuMo Pop Tubes

BuMo Pop Tubes
What We Like
  • Open-ended play

  • Develops fine motor skills

What We Don't Like
  • Can be noisy

  • Break easily

These pop tubes are ideal for another open-ended play option. Toddlers can use their imaginations to turn these tubes into animals, belts, necklaces, and so much more. Plus, while the tots are having fun, they're also satisfying sensory needs from the pop sounds and the tactical stimulation. And it helps their tiny fingers work on fine motor skills as they push, pull, twist, and bend while on the go. The only downside is they can easily get squashed if they're not carefully packed. 

Best Budget: Melissa & Doug Tape Activity Book

Melissa & Doug Tape Activity Book
What We Like
  • Durable

  • Long playtime

What We Don't Like
  • Tape runs out eventually

  • Kids might have trouble with the tape

How often does your toddler ask to play with tape (or just go ahead and do it)? In my household, it's very often. So when I saw this tape-based activity book, I knew it would be a hit. Little ones use the tape to complete the 20 double-sided pages' worth of activities, keeping them entertained for extended time. And unlike regular tape, this kind peels off easily. The book is also very well made, even with the lower price point. However, depending on your child's skill level, parent participation might be required to cut the tape. Keep that in mind if traveling solo and don't have an extra set of hands to be involved. Otherwise, it's a great, engaging activity.

Most Creative: Wellchild Magnetic Etch-A-Sketch Drawing Board

Wellchild Magnetic Etch-A-Sketch Drawing Board
What We Like
  • Comes with bag

  • No mess

  • Lightweight

What We Don't Like
  • Not the most durable

Many toddlers love to paint and draw—but that can be particularly difficult when traveling. That's why this magnetic drawing board is perfect. It allows your little one to express their creative side without the mess. The compact board comes with an attached pen and stamps to make the creations come to life, and colors are built-in. Plus, it comes with a carry bag for easy transport.

Best Puzzle: Mudpuppy 12-Piece Zoo Animals Pouch Puzzle

Mudpuppy 12-Piece Zoo Animals Pouch Puzzle
What We Like
  • Zippered pouch

  • Variety of options

  • Thick pieces

What We Don't Like
  • Not versatile

Puzzles are a great way to pass the time, but they can take up a lot of space. Thankfully, Mudpuppy created a travel version that's perfect for toddlers. The pieces are thick, so it's easy for them to handle, and there are only 12 of them to keep the mess factor down. It also comes with a zippered pouch for easy storage and packing. Buy a few to have variety; otherwise, the toy might not be as appealing for a long-haul trip.

Best Audiobook: 14 Short Stories Bundle for Kids

14 Short Stories Bundle for Kids
What We Like
  • Multiple stories

  • Short

  • Includes classics

What We Don't Like
  • Might not entertain for long periods

While many parents (myself included) turn to an iPad for long trips, it's also good to have activities that don't involve screen time. But if you're looking to entertain without having to engage in play, audiobooks are the way to go. This option has 14 short stories to keep things moving, so toddlers don't get bored quickly. And it has some of the classics. So, if you pop it on in the car, it will be fun to listen to along with your little one. Otherwise, download on to an MP3 player for toddler entertainment that gives parents some peace and quiet.

Best Stickers: Melissa & Doug Puffy Sticker Play Set

Melissa & Doug Puffy Sticker Play Set
What We Like
  • Reusable

  • Creates a story

  • Develops skills

What We Don't Like
  • Can lose stickiness

Kids love stickers, but one-and-done can feel like a waste. These ones are reusable. This sticker play set comes with a double-sided glossy background that goes with the theme of the stickers, so kids stick them right to the board rather than place them all over the car or plane. Choose from a barnyard, safari, and more. Your little ones can create different scenes and stories over and over. And the stickers themselves are puffy, making it easier for them to handle (ultimately encouraging independent play). Of course, be prepared for the stickiness to fade eventually. But you can still get many trips out of the set.

Best Board Game: The Purple Cow Magnetic Animal Homes Matching Puzzle

The Purple Cow Magnetic Animal Homes Matching Puzzle
What We Like
  • Doesn't take up space

  • Price point

  • Magnetic

What We Don't Like
  • Construction complaints

Though board games are often reserved for older children and adults, many toddlers want in on the action. Luckily, The Purple Cow brand created a series of travel games for all ages, one of which is a matching game perfect for preschoolers. The simple game involves matching the pieces and putting the correct pictures together. Everything is magnetic, so it's easy to keep track of the pieces while on the move. The main complaint was that the container opens into two separate sections rather than being attached, and there's nowhere to put the pieces while they work on the game. So, an extra bag might need to come along to keep everything in order.

Final Verdict

For open-ended play, try the 8 Piece Tegu Pocket Pouch Magnetic Wooden Block Set (view at Amazon). It features classic building blocks but with the contemporary convenience of magnets. When parents need extra quiet, the short stories audiobook (view at Amazon) is the way to go as it can distract little ones without parent interaction.


Why Trust TripSavvy?

Author Jordi Lippe-McGraw has researched and written about travel and lifestyle products for nearly a decade. She's also a mom to a 3-year-old who traveled to seven countries before his second birthday. When making this list, she also researched dozens of products, looking at key specs like material, durability, portability, and the number of positive and negative reviews. 


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