Help, I’m Traveling With my Toddler – What Should I Bring?!
This is one of my most frequently asked questions. “I am going on a trip with my toddler (or baby) – do you have any advice for what to bring on the airplane?!”
Well, good news… I sure do! Here’s 70+ ideas for your next airplane adventure.
I’ve gathered some tips and tricks from scouring the web, talking to mamas and papas, searching local toy stores, and making observations of the most played with toys in our sensory classroom. Below is the ongoing list of the best travel toys for babies, toddlers, and little ones. I will continue to add to this list as I get more tips from parents in our sensory class.
Of course, choose accordingly based on the age of your little one. I have various items in here for infants, babies, one year olds, two year olds, three year olds, and beyond. Good luck, parents! I hope you and your little ones love getting out there and exploring the world.
Note, the suggestions are broken into sections: Fidget/Sensory Toys, Crafts, Stickers, and Activities, Extra Essentials, and Tips and Tricks. Enjoy!
- Our Friends Afar MINI Sensory Bottles – no joke, these are one of THE most popular toys for babies in our sensory classroom. There’s just something about the sounds they make when the little ones shake them, bonk them together, or watch the sparkles inside. They’re mesmerizing. And it just so happens to make my crafty heart super happy as well because I make these! I currently sell them in sets of three or six. The current version of liquid bottles aren’t allowed on the airplane, but the other bottles sure are. My favorites to bring on the plane are a rice version, a salt version, and a rainbow gemstone version.
- What’Zit Worm – I’m obsessed with this wiggly thing. I bet your little one will be too
- Suction Cup Spinning Toy – these are also a HUGE hit in sensory class and beyond. Bring them to restaurants as you’re traveling too. They are an absolute blast and will stick to the window
- Fat Brain Toys Squigz – these are a big hit, just like #3 above. And these toys can grow with your little one! Why? Well, for baby babies, they feel good in our mouths. And as we get older, we can practice sticking them onto things, pulling them off of things, and eventually, building with them by sticking them on top of one another. I love squigz and I bet your little ones will too. These can also be used on the window
- Kinetic Sand – kinetic sand is so much fun. Pro tip, purchase in bulk, take some out and put it in a baggie so your little one can have endless fun making castles, rolling balls, serving pretend cupcakes, and more. Simply add in a few accessories and this activity can be brought out again and again. The sand is also relatively mess free and lasts forever
- Z Dough Playdough – this playdough looks and smells beautiful. It’s a definite engaging (and time consuming!) activity for sensory lovers. Add in some accessories here as well – maybe even some sensory pasta that I sell (hint, hint ;)) and let your little ones get creative. I love playing birthday party with pasta, candles, straws, pom poms, cupcake molds, rollers, and stampers
- SmartMax My First Farm Animals STEM Magnetic Set – these little magnetic animals are so fun. Your little one can get silly and mix and match animals or make each animal longer than it’s supposed to be. At the same time, your kiddo will be able to explore building and magnetic concepts, while exploring cause and effect. This brand has other amazing products to check out too. I have most of them for our sensory classroom. They would make a great addition to your playroom as well
- Kidoozie Lace-A-Shape – i love this toy! For babies, you can have fun exploring the textures. And then as your little one gets older, they can safely practice threading. The possibilities with this open-ended toy are bountiful
- YoYa Toys Farm Squish Balls – i love these little guys. At first, your little one might not want to touch it, but alas, they will come around! Every sensory class, I love to squish these guys. The balls inside are so satisfying to the touch and the animals provide lots of play opportunities too – practice animal sounds, make imaginary scenes, tell imaginary stories. I could go on and on
- Fat Brain Toys MiniSpinny – this is one of my personal favorite toys. It comes in a playroom version that is super fun for kiddos and adults. I put it out every week in sensory class and the kids, their parents, (and I) continuously gravitate towards it. This listing is for the travel version, making one of THE best toys transportable
- Fat Brain Toys Dimpl – this toy is so comforting. There’s just something about pressing the little indentions that is so satisfying and calming for littles and for adults. If you have a little one that likes to fidget or is prone to anxiety, definitely give this toy a try. If your little one is a bit older, you can make this toy even more engaging by popping patterns – by size – biggest to smallest, smallest to largest – by color. Or you can time how fast they can pop all of the colors. Can they do it five times?
- Mushie Phone Press Toy – this brand also makes amazing press toys. I love this one especially because it looks like a cell phone. And we know how much our little ones love these. Mushie also makes a beautiful paint pallet press toy, a flower press toy, and one of my favorites, a ball teether
- Construction Vehicles – vehicles make everything more fun! Add these to your kinetic sand or playdough play. Add in accessories. Move pom poms around. Add in some road tape or washi tape (listed below) and make this play even more entertaining. Can your little one stay on the line? Your little one is sure to have fun with this set
- TOMY Toomies Hide and Squeek Nesting Eggs – what kid doesn’t love nesting toys?! Hot tip, this is a fun one. And as a surprise, the little guy inside squeeks!
- Mini Magnetic Picasso Tiles – magnetic tiles are always a big hit with kiddos and adults. These mini tiles are the perfect addition to your airplane ride or dinner out. Add in the Our Friends Afar magnetic suitcase (listed below) and you’ve got a play space that’s magnetic too. I’d recommend using The Table Tyke or HOYO play mat (both listed below) to make sure the tiles don’t fall off the tray table
- HOYO Sensory Jar – make your life easier and your little one’s life more fun with one of these beautiful sensory play jars!
- Fat Brain Toys Lidzy – i love this toy! Practice twisting and taking the lids off, match colors, feel the textures, or make music by rubbing the lids together. Fun, fun, fun
- EducatingAmy Quiet Book – this book is beautiful and adds endless imaginary fun! It’s handmade and the attention to detail is magnificent. As a result, it is quite pricey. But I think it’s worth the price. There are other brands I’ve seen as well that I’ve been wanting to check out. Here’s one I love from Australia. If you’re looking for a less expensive option, you might be able to find another similar quiet book on Etsy or Amazon. Here’s another great one from Melissa and Doug that I just got too
- Buckle Toys Busy Board – this little busy board is great educational fun! It’s super easy to pack and will definitely keep your little one engaged
- Pop Fidget Toy – these pop toys are so fun – and big (about the size of an adult hand)! These are pretty similar to what I discussed in #11 and #12. Let your little one explore the textures, the sounds, cause and effect. Or make it a game for your older little one. Can they pop every other spot? How many popped spots is that? How fast can they pop them all? There are so many ways to expand your play when the toys are open ended!
- Rubbabu Little Vehicle – these little vehicles are SO fun and such a great texture. There are many vehicle options, including a precious airplane. Use the washi tape or road tape (listed below) to make the imaginary play even more fun. PS. You can also purchase these individually in person at Baby Bliss
- Manhattan Toys Classic Baby Beads – it’s hard to explain how cool this toy is until you’re playing with it. There’s just something so soothing about it. I love it and I think your little one will too
- WikkiStix – make designs, shapes, bracelets, and more with these engaging wax “stix”. You can even create your own dot to dots – write number or letters on a piece or paper and have your little one connect the items in order. Or you can have your little one make a line
- Meri Meri Surprise Balls – surprises, yes please! Let your little one open these – one at a time, (maybe even at different parts during the flight) – to discover the surprise toy inside. Another fun way to do something similar is to simply wrap some toys that they can open and be surprised about. Add in some washi tape (mentioned below) and you can continue to wrap toys for a fun “surprise” toy game
- Hape Beaded Raindrops – i love the sounds from this little toy. And the mesmerizing sight of the balls moving. This is a great distracting and calming activity
- Story Magic Dress-Up Dolls Travel Play Set – this little magnetic play set is precious. Dress up the dolls, make up stories, and let your little one’s imagination run free
- My Big World PlayScapes Play Mats and Peg Dolls – this small shop is owned by one talented Instagram mama. She makes beautiful peg dolls and play mats that can open up a world of imaginary play for your little one. I especially love her diverse peg dells too
- Free Play MagnaTab – this little gadget is so fun. When your little one moves the pen around, the tiny magnet dots pop up. Your little can draw pictures again and again, while experiencing the fun feeling of the magnets on the tab
- Oli & Carol Teether – these teethers are amazing!! It’s hard to explain without feeling them yourself. But I can attest, they are worth the hype. I especially love the beautiful dragonfruit teether. If you can’t find the one you like via the BabyBliss website, you can also shop Oli & Carol directly
- Lucy Darling Teether – this teether is precious. I especially love the play and learning opportunities that it provides. Practice gripping, looking through the lenses, shaking, and more!
- Mudpuppy Make a Face Magnetic Playset – this playset is great fun. It comes in a little magnetic tin that acts as the base for the characters. Inside, there are tons of magnets to add to the scenes. Your little one will also need to work hard to deploy the little magnets from the sheets, which is part of the fun and a great fine motor activity
- Fat Brain Toys PipSquigz – i love this version of squigz. This set come with fun textures and each squig rattles. These squigz have all of the same features as the regular squigz (#4) – they stick to surfaces, they stick together, they offer a fun pop when they’re removed from a surface, and they feel good in little ones mouths
- Fat Brain Toys Dimpl Clutch – this is another version of the dimpl toy (#11), but is even better for babies. Each piece has fun textures and the ability to pop the dimpl
- Fat Brain Toys PipSquigz Loops – this is a great toy for little ones because of all of the textures and ways to play. Move the circles, rattle to hear sounds, feel the various textures, and of course, your little one will feel the textures with their mouths
- Fat Brain Toys Quubi – this little gadget is so satisfying. It has various textures and features that spin to the touch. The sides collapse and reform. Plus it’s lightweight allowing your kiddo to explore on their back, their belly, or while seated
- Cheengoo Lion Hand Crocheted Ring Rattle – this little guy is so cute
- Fat Brain Toys Suction Kupz – this is another suction toy variety that Fat Brain Toys offers, except in fun cup format. Squish, stack, fill, sort… there are so many ways to play with these. I also love that to stick them to surfaces, your little one has to squeeze the “kup”. As with all Fat Brain Toys suction products, these can be used for both horizontal and vertical play!
- Green Toys My First Keys – what little one doesn’t like their parent’s keys. Make your life easier (and more sanitary) by giving your little one their very own set of keys. These are great for teething, playing, textures, exploring sounds, and discovering cause and effect
- Essential Dough Co Playdough Rollers and Stampers – this small shop sells the cutest playdough accessories, rollers, and stampers. Use these with your Z Dough playdough (#6) to make their playdough play even more fun!
- Sew Fantastic Toy Car Carrier – this little carrier looks so cute. I admit, I haven’t tried it myself, but it is highly rated on Etsy. I love that it has spots to insert your little one’s cars, that it encourages imaginary play, and that it can easily be folded and carried for travel
CRAFTS, STICKERS, AND ACTIVITIES
- Melissa and Doug Puffy Stickers with Background – stickers, stickers, and more stickers! I promise, the more the merrier. But not all at once, of course. These reusable stickers come with their own scenes. Make up stories, explore how the stickers stick, and do it all over again
- Reusable Sticker Book – did I mention you should probably bring lots of stickers? 😉
- Djeco Sticker Stories – these sticker books look like so much fun
- Gel Window Clings – hello window clings, the toy you didn’t know you needed. Let your little one stick these on the window and create another play space from their seat
- Writing Tablet – this writing/coloring tablet is amazing. Pro tips (from sensory class mamas) – the one with the attached pen is super helpful. This can also be used to practice letters, numbers, and words
- Tiger Tribe Coloring Set – how fun is this coloring set! I want it for myself
- 1000+ Bulk Puffy Stickers – as I said, you can never have enough stickers in your back pocket
- Melissa and Dough ColorBlast! – did someone say magic pen?! This booklet comes with one magic marker pen and a booklet that has 24 unique coloring pages. Use the pen to reveal the colors of the pictures. Once a picture is revealed, the colors will remain, making each page single use only
- Melissa and Dough Paint with Water – painting with water! This activity comes with booklets, paint brushes, and unique painting pages. Each booklet comes with one paintbrush and 24 unique pages. Once the page is painted, it will start turning colors. Once the page is colored, it will stay that way. Each page can only be used once. Have your little one request some water from the flight attendant and let the creativity begin
- Melissa and Dough Water Wow! – drawing with water! This activity comes with booklets, water pens, and unique coloring pages. Each booklet has one pen and four unique coloring pages. When water is added, the pages turn colorful. When the pages dry, the colors disappear, making these pages available for play again and again
- Crayola Triangle Crayons – definitely bring some crayons for coloring. These triangle crayons are key so the crayons don’t continuously fall off the tray table
- PlayTape Road Tape – this road tape is so fun and easy to use. Add it to the tray table or the window and make your own play scene. This tape doesn’t leave a mark so it can easily be used and thrown away
- Washi Tape – this tape sticks just like road tape, but it’s thinner (and some might say prettier). Add in some tape to your games, crafts, surprise wrapping, and more. You can even make parking spots or play scenes for your little one’s toys
- Bandaids – this is another fun “sticker” option. One mama shared that part of the fun for her little one was opening the box, unwrapping the bandaids, and sticking them on things
- I Spy – Everything! Book – this book opens up lots of great conversations and games. Talk about all of the items you see. Tell stories
- Melissa and Doug Mini Sketch Pad – definitely bring one of these on your adventure. Your little one can do lots of crafting on its many pages. Use it for drawing, stickers, games, washi tape, and more
- Good Night Little Bookstore – i absolutely LOVE this book. And this local independently-owned bookstore. Go check Interabang out for some awesome books to bring with you
- Shapes Book – this book is so fun. I love that it’s very engaging, education, and entertaining
- Animal Bus Book – this book is so cute. I bet it will keep your little one entertained for a moment or two
- Mudpie Plush Mom’s Purse Book – this plush purse is so cute! I admit, some little parts of it might be a bit annoying for a plane ride, but test it out for me please! It has so many fun textures and parts to explore. I’m obsessed
- Our Friends Afar Magnetic Travel “Suitcase” – this magnetic mini “suitcase” is great for holding toys and containing your little one’s mess. Add in some play scenes and stick them to the various parts of the suitcase and your little one has a little play box all set for them
- Zipper Mesh Pouches – these are great for separating toys and separating snacks. Plus, the bags are also fun to open and close! Pro tips: separate snacks from toys, have a bag of toys ready before takeoff, bring out toys in bags a little at a time
- Snack Box – make snack time fun, while giving your little one some independence
- The Table Tyke – i am SO impressed by this little accessory. It just blows my mind. Bring it on the plane or out to eat and feel good about what your little one is putting in their mouths after its been on the public surface. The table tyke comes rolled up. You simply place it on your eating (or playing surface), and it has a little lip that sticks it in place. I love that for teething babies, they can safely teeth on that lip. This gadget is easy to clean and looks like it makes safe spaces a breeze
- Hoyo Play Mat – this play mat is clutch. It folds nicely, weighs next to nothing, and helps contain your little one’s mess. It’s easy to clean after each use – use it for playing, eating, and more. The sides come up, making it easier for items to stay on the mat and on the tray table
- Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids Tablet – i haven’t explored this tablet myself, but I’ve heard that it’s a great one. You can even download apps to use in case there isn’t any WIFI or screens. It also comes with a USB cord, which is great for charging. Pro-tip, considering downloading some apps prior to the flight just in case there isn’t WIFI. You can also do this with your other tablets and cell phones. One mama I spoke with recommended the PBS app
- Kid’s Headphones – these look great. I haven’t actually tried them either but they have over 34,000 ratings on amazon with an average of 4.5 stars
- Flyaway Kids Bed – if you’re traveling overseas, one mama said that this is a MUST. You simply fill the bed with air while you’re on the plane (part of the fun!) and it creates a makeshift bed for your little one. Add in the portable sound machine below, a blanket as a “bed tent” and your little one is ready for a real night’s sleep. Make sure to check your airline for approval before bringing this along
- Yogasleep Portable Sound Machine – we all love consistency, especially when it comes to our bed time routine. Help your little ones transition with this portable sound machine for overnight flights. It uses a USB charge to make your life easier too. Pro tip – one mama shared that she put a blanket over her little one’s seat to make a “tent”. She then placed this sound machine inside to make the experience pretty similar to home
- Yum Earth Organic Pops – rumor on the street is that lollipops help little ones with the painful pressure that can sometimes effect their little ears. These are yummy and organic
TIPS AND TRICKS
Here are some tips and tricks from parents, in no particular order:
- If your baby is still pretty young, just feed, feed, feed
- Brings pacifiers and store in multiple places for easy access
- Make sure many of the toys are “new” or haven’t been played with in a while
- Have a bag of toys ready to go before takeoff
- Separate toys into bags – not all in the same bag – so you can take them out throughout the flight – bring them out a little at a time
- Separate toys from snacks
- Use lollipops to help with pressure pain
- Download the PBS app on your phone or tablet if you need to keep your little one occupied with some kid friendly content – just in case there isn’t WIFI
- Stop by your local Dollar store or Target dollar spot to find some easy affordable toys
- Bring an extra pair of socks to put on your little one’s hands for when they crawl around – Mothercould
- Place snacks (a few at a time) in the plastic cup (the one that’s given to you on the plane) to make snack time into a game. Your little one can reach into the cup to get their snack – Mothercould
- Try out the Animal Sounds App – Mouthercould
- And remember that planes are loud and many people are wearing headphones so most likely, they won’t even hear your little one playing
PS. If you’re local to Dallas, my favorite places to buy kids toys are listed below. Most of them are better to shop in person
- Baby Bliss – they do have a great website so you can shop online too!
- Toy Maven
- Froggie’s 5 & 10
- Toys Unique
- Dollar Tree
- Target – especially the Dollar Spot, but you have to go in person
Thank you to all of the parents who helped share your advice, tips, tricks, and favorite toys. I would like to give a *special thank you * to Danielle. You are amazing!
Feel free to share your tips, tricks, and toys with me after your trips. I would love to add what works (and maybe what doesn’t!) to our continuing list 🙂
Happy Playing, Friends!