Planning a holiday or car journey and need some toys and activities to keep your children entertained? We are the experts at keeping kids engaged! With some help from our expert panel of children, we’ve compiled the ultimate list of travel toys for all ages. While we have segmented them into modes of transport, most of them will be suitable for all, so check them all out for inspiration. With any luck, you’ll be able to kick back, relax and open that book you’ve been meaning to read as they continue to play with these cool toys…
Plus some ideas for once you’ve arrived.
Top Tips for Keeping Children Entertained in a car, train or plane:
Here are some of the best tried-and-true ways to keep your kids busy and happy…
- Milk and/or snacks. For young babies, make sure you bring their milk of choice. For older babies, bring along some snacks to keep them busy. Pouches and puffs are simple, relatively mess-free options.
- Soft toys, soothers, and sensory toys. Any comfort objects and any toys with things for babies to pull, grasp, touch, and put in their mouths are great for keeping them entertained on a journey.
- Snacks. Bring a variety of snacks to keep your little one entertained throughout your journey. Some parents like to present the snacks in a bento box or craft box with various compartments to make them more visually appealing to children. If you’re flying, check with the airline and your destination country to confirm what you can and can’t bring on board.
- Surprise your toddler with a new toy. The novelty factor should keep them busy for a while. On long-haul flights, some parents even bring out a new small toy each hour!
- Post-It notes, stickers, and plasters. Toddlers love to stick and unstick things. Bring some sticky objects for them to play with on the tray table or the back of the seat in front on a plane or train. Just be sure to choose things that won’t leave any sticky residue, and make sure to clean up the mess before you depart.
- Crayons and colouring books. Using crayons instead of pens ensures less mess!
- Use what’s around. Never underestimate a toddler’s ability to have fun with random objects. Some toddlers can spend most of a flight playing with the seatbelt, the armrest, the safety cards…
- Books. A classic for a reason. Buy some new books or check them out from the library before you depart.
- Audiobooks. Download audiobooks before leaving home, and don’t forget to bring some soft, comfortable headphones!
- A new toy. As with toddlers, children love new things. If you can surprise your child mid-journey, even better!
- Miniature versions of toys. Kids love mini versions of their favourites–think Etch-A-Sketch, Slinky, figurines, the Tetris mini-game on our list… And of course, these are much easier to fit in your luggage than the full-sized versions.
- Snacks. We’ll say it again because all ages love snacks. And on that note, don’t forget to pack a few for yourself too!
Modes of travel:
Air travel might not be as magical and enchanting as it once was, but you can make it feel special again with these ideas! Of course, at the airport, you are faced with endless challenges. There’s check-in, bag drop, then security, and then the wait at the gate (or in a rather pricey restaurant), each with a queue and a stop-start walk. This is enough to drive some kids crazy before you’ve even boarded.
One of our top tips does require some preparation ahead of time, but for younger travellers, check the airport map ahead of time for play areas and other amenities. In some airports, these areas are still closed, so check with the airport (often responses are faster on Twitter) just in case. You can also map out seating between bag drop and security, so if it takes too long to drop bags, you’ll know exactly where to go to sit and have a rest.
There are often areas after security, which include power sockets to recharge tablets, phones or games, so make sure to map those out. These are often closer to the gate area as well, ensuring that you are close to where you need to be to board your flight.
Whether you’re waiting in a restaurant, at the gate or in the lounge, there are some great items on our site that will help to pass the time. We have more great tips for travelling with kids at the end, but here are some toy ideas, all selected to be airport- and airline-friendly:
Learn while you wait
This dazzling book is perfect for keeping kids entertained in queues and while waiting at the airport. It’s packed with incredible, hilarious facts, all verified by Encyclopaedia Britannica. Did you know that Mars has blue sunsets? Hop from topic to topic in totally unexpected ways to learn all about what connects dinosaurs with chickens and breakfast with black holes. Educational, but most importantly, incredibly entertaining!
A pocket-sized arcade classic
Parents will remember this highly entertaining game from their own childhoods, and now it comes in a pocket-sized version perfect for travelling! This handheld game can easily slip into a pocket or backpack, and it features the original sounds and gameplay, an LCD screen, and three-directional controls. A brilliantly simple way to keep children entertained on flights, in the car, or waiting in queues at the airport. And hey, if you’re lucky, they might even offer to let you play a round…
A great travel toy for gamers
This super-cool handheld game is portable, lightweight and ideal for air travel! Think quickly and challenge your memory by trying to remember the light sequence and pressing the new light. Every time you get it right, the game adds another light, but which one is new? BrainBolt is excellent for solo play (perfect for only children), and it also has a two-player mode for competitive fun between siblings. A perfect travel toy!
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Throwback games for modern travel
This mini arcade machine is a fabulous alternative to playing games on phones or tablets. It’s jam-packed with 200 classic arcade games, including puzzle, sport, and shoot ’em games. The little joystick is very fun to control, and it’s also great fun to see how far you can progress through the various games’ different levels. Fits easily into a backpack or in your hand luggage. A lovely little airport game console — and parents will probably want to play too!
While still stressful at times, train travel is becoming a more popular choice for families wishing to travel without the stress of airports. Usually boasting shorter security and quicker passport control queues, train travel also affords the luxury of bringing drinks and snacks with you, the ability to book a table (sometimes even in a family-friendly carriage), and more space to move around. Waiting areas tend to be in shorter supply at train stations, and while many have charging sockets available, they can sometimes be challenging to access. Luckily many (if not most) trains have sockets on board. One downside is that the bathrooms are as small as the ones on planes, but if you are willing to journey through the train, you will find more.
Of course, train journeys are often longer than plane journeys, so the strategy here is to keep kids engaged with card games or entertaining toys which will provide loads of enjoyment without the risk of losing pieces around the carriage. Here are some of our favourite toys for train travel:
A challenging game for brainy kids
This magnetic wooden balancing game is a brilliant way to keep kids entertained on a train journey! The aim is simple enough: balance the six connected discs on top of each other. Of course, the reality is much harder than it sounds, and with the constant movement of the train, this will be even more of a challenge! Each of the magnetic wooden discs rotates on a different axis, causing them to crazily spin and swivel all over the place. There are plenty more challenges to try once you’ve mastered the upright stack, so this one will keep kids busy for hours…
Perfect for trains, rainy days and more…
Stickers and activity books are brilliant ways to keep children entertained while travelling on a train, and this lovely princess-themed one is a huge hit. The pages are packed with colouring sheets, puzzles, write-in stories, make & do activities, crafts, stickers and so much more. There’s even a tiara to make, so your little one can become princess of the train car! This book is also a great back-up plan to have if you’re on holiday in case of a rainy day when you can’t go to the pool or if you just need some quiet time in your hotel room. Princess-themed perfection!
A classic card game with a twist
Gross out the entire carriage with this wild new twist on the classic game of Trumps. The playing cards feature amusing facts and stats about various animals and their business, complete with full-colour photos. The game comes packaged in a handy little hinged tin, making it super portable and easy to carry with you on your travels. Yucky but oh-so-much fun!
Car journeys are one of those things that can make or break the start of a holiday. When you’re travelling with children, it’s absolutely essential to map out ahead of time rest stops and points of interest to break up the long journey. It’s also important not to underestimate the value of finding the right balance of snacks to games!
It’s also worth keeping in mind that long car journeys can be difficult for some kids, who may find themselves becoming queasy. Encouraging them to watch the horizon to help rebalance things can sometimes help. Looking down at a tablet or phone may exacerbate their car sickness, so having a way to secure a tablet onto the back of a headrest is essential. Playing a round of ‘I-Spy’ or other classic look-and-find games can also help encourage kids to look out of their windows at what is around them instead of gazing down.
Here are some of our favourite toys for car journeys:
Brilliant fun for the car!
This zany card game can be played with up to eight players, and because it mostly involves reading things out (and you don’t really need a table), it’s perfect for passengers on car journeys. Pick a card and shake the dice in your hand or a cup/plastic tub (or search for Dice Roll on Google on your phone for a virtual dice) to decide which of the facts you’ll have to read out. Each card contains three of these ‘facts’, but one is completely and utterly made up. Your task is convincing the other players that you’re telling the truth, no matter which ‘fact’ you read out. May the best liar win!
Give your brain a workout
This card game is also perfect for car journeys, as you don’t need a table to play. It’s designed for older children and contains more than 500 brainteasers, puzzles and riddles. Play with two players or divide up into two teams, and take turns answering lateral thinking puzzles and riddles. The first person (or team) to solve the riddles and collect ten cards first is the winner. An awesome way to keep the whole family’s minds engaged on long car rides!
The ultimate fidget toy
Fidget toys are a brilliant way to keep kids entertained during car travel. Children (and parents) will love playing with this tactile silicone fidget toy, which makes satisfying popping sounds when pushed. It’s excellent for keeping children’s hands occupied as they listen to music or an audiobook in the car… Of course, this one is more than just a fidget toy — it also serves as a two-person logic game that helps improve strategic thinking! And coolest of all, once you arrive at your destination, kids can use this toy as a frisbee. So much fun in one small toy!
Write secret messages, create 3D letters and more…
Colouring is a classic way to keep kids entertained on car journeys. Just bring along something they can put in their laps to use as a mini desk, plenty of paper, and these cool magic marker pens! The set contains pens that can change colour, create 3D letters, erase, and write in invisible ink. Parents will appreciate that the pens are washable, so no need to worry about the ink getting on the car seats. A perfect travel toy for creative kids!
No scissors or glue required!
Puppets are a simple way to keep kids entertained in the car, as they provide endless opportunities for pretend play! This set contains two unicorn hand puppets for kids to assemble and then play with. Assembly is easy, and you can do it in the car because there’s no glue or scissors required. Just follow illustrated instructions to slot the pre-cut cardboard pieces together. The set also comes with a fun unicorn activity booklet full of puzzles, a unicorn name generator and more. A magical way for kids to use their imaginations and get creative during travel!
Perfect for toddlers…
This activity ball is a wonderful way to keep toddlers and young children entertained and happy during car journeys (or any type of travel, really). It’s made to be chewed (great for teething), and it’s comprised of sturdy wooden pieces strung together with durable elastic cords. Squish or pull to watch it change and then return to its original shape, or shake the ball to make the shaped beads spin and rattle! A brilliant sensory toy for curious little ones!
…And some ideas for that destination once you’ve arrived:
Lightweight but tonnes of fun
Looking for something that will provide hours of fun and take up virtually zero space in your luggage? You need the Waboba Wingman! This incredibly lightweight flying disc is made from a soft pliable material, so you can squish it up and stick it in your hand luggage, or even just in your pocket. The soft material also means it’s painless to catch, unlike traditional flying discs. The Wingman flies in a straight path, up to 40 metres. A fabulously fun way to burn off some energy on the beach!
…And don’t forget to pack your swimming goggles:
Glamorous goggles for unicorn-lovers
Goggles are a must-have travel and holiday accessory, and this stylish pair features a fashionable rainbow and unicorn theme. In addition to being adorable, these goggles tick all of the boxes that parents look for: they are adjustable, they are made from flexible silicone for comfort and durability, they feature 100% UV protection, and the anti-fog technology means kids will be able to see clearly underwater. And, of course, because these goggles are so cute, your kids will actually want to wear them! Truly magical…
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Some seriously jaw-some goggles
This pair of goggles also feature 100% UV protection, anti-fog technology, an adjustable head strap, and a flexible silicone frame for comfort and durability. But the difference is that these ones are absolutely ferocious! Kids who love sharks and other monsters will love putting these on and swimming around the pool, scaring family members and other holiday-makers. There’s a shark in the pool!
For more brilliant travel toys and gift ideas for children, check out what’s popular on our website!
Where do sharks go on holiday? Finland!