Whether it’s long car rides or on a long flight, having the right road trip toys for your toddler will make it a much better experience.
Long road trips can be mentally and physically draining for adults, so imagine what it’s like for toddlers! The best way to combat the effects of a long car trip with toddlers is to have the right toys and other knick-knacks to help make the trip go by faster.
As a mom of two toddlers (18 months & 3 years old), I know firsthand what the lack of sufficient entertainment can do while traveling. So in this post, I’m going to share the best travel toys for toddlers on a road trip.
In addition, I’ll also cover some activities that you can do and other items that you’ll want to bring along with you.
What are the Best Travel Toys For Toddlers?
Because you are traveling, there are some toys that I would avoid altogether. With that said, here are the criteria that I used to create this list and to choose the best toys for my kids for trips. You’ll want to take this into account when selecting toys for your kids.
- Size of the toy. Not only does the toy need to be able to fit in an already packed car or even the carry-on bag for a plane ride, but it also needs to be findable if dropped. So small toys don’t make the list. Additionally, I don’t include anything with small pieces or small parts that can be a safety risk.
- Volume of the toy. No one wants to travel long distances with a loud toy on repeat. Not only is it annoying but can be a distraction to the driver. So none of these toys make loud noises (when used properly).
- Age range. To help reduce the number of toys, I’m only including toys that have a sufficient age range for parents with kids at different stages. This means that they can be shared among kids.
I’ll also note that this list does not include electronics. Though tablets can be helpful for big kids, I don’t believe that screen time is necessary for young kids to be occupied during a road trip. So this list won’t include any tablet recommendations.
With all of that said, let’s hop into the list!
10 Best Toddler Toys For Road Trips
Although the goal is to bring along toys that will keep your little ones busy, you don’t want to go overboard. You don’t need a car full of toys!
Based on the criteria that I just shared, here are my top picks for the perfect for long trips. I’ll include toys that are a great option for younger and older kids to enjoy.
1. Sticker book
Sticker books are a great way to keep your little ones occupied and help with those fine motor skills. Of course, you don’t want your toddler putting stickers all over the place. To avoid this, you can give him or her a sheet of paper or an empty notebook to place the stickers.
You may even consider reusable stickers just to ensure that you don’t have stickers that you can’t get off. There are also car window stickers that you can try—although I’d caution against anything that would obstruct the driver’s vision.
2. Pop sensory toys
These fidget toys are a great way to keep their little hands busy during a road trip. These toys come in different shapes and bright colors that’ll really grab your kid’s attention.
I like them because they are small and are the perfect size to take anywhere. They also aren’t loud enough to be annoying and are suitable for any toddler stage.
Although there are many that you can choose from, the Fat Brain Toys Dimpl toy is one that I would recommend.
3. Shape sorter
My favorite shape sorter is the Melissa & Doug Match and Roll Shape Sorter. This is a simple, wooden shaper sorter that allows kids to match shapes and colors.
This is great for helping with fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination.
Although this toy does come with smaller, separate pieces, they are still large enough and bright enough to be easily found.
Additionally, there is a tote bag version of this toy that is perfect for travel. This version includes different textures that help with sensory skills.
5. Magnetic puzzles & mazes
In general, puzzles are great for problem-solving skills. They also make for the perfect travel toy.
Though these toys are noted to be for 3-year-olds and up, they can still be a fun activity for younger toddlers as well. I prefer the shape and color combination, but there are several options to choose from.
6. Magnetic drawing board
Got a little artist on your hands? Be sure to pack a magnetic drawing board. My favorite is the Etch A Sketch Freestyle, which comes with a pen and paintbrush.
It’s a mess-free way to draw, while not working about crayons or markers getting everywhere. This particular drawing board comes with the pen attached, so no worries about losing it.
Flash cards are a great, education optional—especially for older toddlers. You can grab different sets that cover colors, shapes, numbers, and common words. I prefer the Star Right Numbers & Sight Words Toddler Flash Cards Set, as they come with a binder ring to keep the cards together.
8. Stuffed animals
Don’t forget the age-old stuffed animals. Little kids still love their stuffed animals. Not only can it be a comfort toy, but it can also foster imaginative play.
Of course, each kid will have their favorite stuffed toy; however, it’s easy to find a small inexpensive option.
9. Soft books
Soft activity books are always a good choice when it comes to travel. These books are great for sensory and, ultimately, encouraging reading.
I find that my older toddler still enjoys soft books for their sensory elements.
10. Toddler backpack
Though a toddler backpack may not seem like a toy, I’ve found that it is. My toddlers absolutely love having their character backpacks handy to keep their personal items—like extra clothes and extra snacks. These are items that I keep in the car every day so that I always have their items handy if needed.
Additional toddler road trip activities
Don’t forget that your kids don’t have to be occupied with toys the whole time. Use your road trip as an opportunity to have fun and play games with your kids. This is where the memories are made and bonds forged.
- Sing songs– This is a fun activity that you can enjoy with your family as you travel. Now, this obviously wouldn’t be appropriate if you’re flying, but it’s definitely great for car rides. You can sing a capella or play some of your kid’s favorite tunes on YouTube. Some channels that we like to use for music include:
- Play a game of “I Spy” – This is a fun way to spot different landmarks, cars, and more while you travel. You can find objects or colors that your kids can look for to help sharpen their skills.
- Read or listen to audiobooks – Books are always a great option for road trips. You can use this opportunity to read to your kids or to listen to an audiobook.
What to pack for your toddler on a family road trip
As you gather toys for your trip, don’t forget these other essentials that you’ll need as well. As a matter of fact, these are all things that I keep in my car at all times. So, it may be a good idea for you to do the same.
1. Water bottle
You’ll want to have a water bottle or a few handy for several reasons. The obvious is to refill cups with water, but to also help with any small cleans ups as well. There will always be a use for water, so keep some handy.
Snacks will be a must on your trip! There is nothing worse than a hungry kid with no food nearby. I like to keep a good mix of snacks—all of which are easy to clean up and packaged individually. In most cases, I’ll prep snacks like fruit in small sandwich bags ahead of time. I’ll keep these in a small cooler bag that I can easily reach to hand out when needed.
3. Neck pillows & blankets
Be sure to have some kid-sized neck pillows handy for them to use as they nap. Even if don’t use them to sleep, they make for great entertainment as well. Also, pack a pillow in case they get cold.
You’ve probably already learned not to leave the house without wipes, but here’s a reminder. I keep a set of wipes with me at all times, but especially for long trips. I prefer using Water Wipes; however, I also keep a small pack of Wet Ones as well. I use these to wipe down surfaces during stops and to help clean up messes.
5. Diaper sacks
Even if your kids are no longer in diapers, these diaper sacks will always come in handy. I think of them as mini trash bags to keep the car clean and to carry around for any small messes.
6. Travel toilet seat covers
Let’s face it. Public toilets are full of germs and many are often out of toilet seat covers. Bring your own instead. I keep these disposable toilet seat covers with me everywhere that I go. They’ve always come in handy.
How to Store Your Toddler Travel Toys
For our most recent road trip, I kept storage pretty simple. The idea was to have the toys readily available without taking up much space. For this, I just used an old diaper caddy organizer.
This sufficed because I was able to keep it between both car seats or move it to the floor. So it didn’t take up too much space and it was within reach of the front passenger seat and I could easily grab toys from it.
Because it is a caddy, you can easily move it from the car to the hotel room or even take it on the beach with you.
Another option is the car seat travel trays.
A travel tray is particularly useful if you are using a tablet with older toddlers. However, as I mentioned before, I prefer not to use tablets so I didn’t find this necessary.
It also can become a chore getting your kids in and out of the car seat when you stop for those bathroom breaks. So, if you’re not using a tablet, I suggest just having a small basket or caddy to store the toys in.
Ready for your road trip?
Finding the right toys for your toddlers can be a bit of a challenge. Hopefully, this list of the best travel toys was helpful—especially if you want to shy away from using tablets. The best part about these toys is that you can use them every day! So you’ll get great use out of them on a day-to-day basis.
Before taking your next road trip, I suggest checking out our post on how to travel on a budget. And, if you’re looking for more tips and trips, check out our article with 50 of the best mom hacks.