Recently, our family embarked on a 14 hour road trip journey across the country to visit my husband’s sister’s family to meet their new baby. Traveling together are my twin boys who are two years old and our almost one year old baby daughter.
Preparations for the trip had been giving me a bit of anxiety as I tried to prepare for what it is like traveling with kids for that long. I have children who hardly stay in one place for 10 minutes, who love to run around and absolutely hate to be confined in any type of chair. I know that movies will only keep them occupied for so long and their need to be doing something other than just sitting will take its toll.
We had considered flying but when you need to bring 3 pack n plays, a triple stroller, 4 pieces of luggage minimum as well as a snack/toy bag for each kid, my husband and I were not sure how to logistically handle that for a plane ride. So driving it was!
Because of this I started my research on what are the absolute best travel toys to bring with us on our trip. I have talked to fellow moms who have taken a trip like this with young children who are either toddlers like my own or have preschoolers.
When looking for travel toys, I wanted to make sure they fit in this criteria: no tiny pieces that can easily be dropped (I’m not stopping the car every time they drop a piece so I can crawl back there to try and find it) and they have to be under $25. The following are my top travel toys choices for keeping young tots (aged 1 to 3 years old) entertained and tantrum free during a long journey:
1. Melissa & Doug Wiggling Worm ($7.99)
This wiggling worm is small enough to fit in a backpack, yet provides hours of fun. Although it is made of several pieces, they are all linked together by an elastic bungee. You will never have to waste time looking for missing pieces. The worm is shape-able in various ways and helps young ones develop fine motor skills along the way.
2. Finger Puppets ($3.49)
For toddlers who enjoy role-playing, a set of finger puppets is ideal. Since there is usually no room to bring large stuffed animals or other figurines when you are traveling, finger puppets provide just as much fun without taking up a lot of space. You can tailor the set to your child’s preferences, whether it is animals, little people, and even monsters.
3. Buckle Toy “Buster” ($19.99)
This item is great for the child who loves to snap and unsnap buckles. This small plush toy will keep them busy for hours as they play with its brightly colored straps. On the back there are numbers where they can practice their counting. It’s small enough to fit pretty much anywhere and easy to carry around. This toy is great at helping them develop their fine motor skills as well as their cognitive play.
4. VTech Touch and Teach Word Book ($19.99)
This is a great toy for the little reader that is just starting to develop their speech. This book features 12 pages that teach over 100 words. There are four different playing modes and really gives a child that hands on learning experience. All this in a compact book shape electronic toy that is easy to pack! Each page reacts to the child’s touch with sounds, words or music. This game really helps expand a child’s vocabulary while helping him or her to read by associating words with pictures and sounds.
5. Fisher-Price Travel Doodler Pro ($9.99)
If you have a little artist, your child will love this doodle toy. They can draw and erase over and over again. Plus you don’t have to worry about them getting crayon all over your car or worry about them dropping crayons on the floor. This item has a tethered magnetic pen that stores perfectly on the top of the toy. The erase slider is easy to use as it “magically” cleans the screen. This durable toy has two side handle which also makes it easy for kids to grip and carry when on the go.
6. Melissa & Doug Deluxe Latches Board ($24.99)
This is a great board that has all different types of locks, latches and clasps. If your child is anything like mine, they will love this board. One of my twins can spend quite a bit of time trying to play with the lock on our front door, so this toy is right up his alley. Behind each door are hid and seek pictures. This game is not only fun but really helps them to practice their fine motor skills. Every piece is nailed or screwed onto the board so you have no worries about any piece falling off.
7. Flash Cards ($6.99)
Flash cards are a great way to have some educational fun during a long trip. Children in the preschool age range are old enough to manage them on their own while younger kids will love having a parent interact with them using the cards. Whether you are looking for animals, alphabets, or numbers, a variety of cards is available for an affordable price.
8. Travel Size AquaDoodle ($17.99)
If your child loves to do arts and crafts, this travel size AquaDoodle will be the perfect travel tool. Bringing books and crayons can be cumbersome, especially if you are limited in terms of baggage you can bring with you. This small, portable, and entertaining toy will keep your child busy while developing creativity. It is a mess free option that is soft and easy to transport.
9. LeapFrog My Own Leaptop ($24.99)
This little laptop is perfect for little hands and provides hours of entertainment. While having your child in front of a screen for prolonged periods may not be ideal, it can be a lifesaver when traveling. Typically meant for slightly older kids 3 years and older, it can also provide educational learning opportunities for younger tots. Preschoolers love the kid-friendly controls and the variety of fun games available.
10. Melissa and Doug Lace and Trace Pets Set ($9.99)
Another Melissa & Doug item is this great toy where your child can practice their hand/eye coordination and fine motor skills by taking this shoe string and lacing it around each picture. It comes in a great sturdy wooden case and contains 5 jumbo, double sided lacing panels and 5 coordinating color laces. If you do not want to carry the wooden case, I usually take mine and put it all in a zip lock bag. It fits right into any diaper bag or purse.