Ten Great Travel Toys You Already Own

We're all for buying the kids a few new toys to get through a long plane ride or car trip, but frankly we don't want to break the shopping budget before we even leave town. Even more importantly, it can take more time to gather up the right toys than I have in the last few days before leaving on vacation.

Here are ten eleven of my favorite things to bring along that we already have at home. Best of all, most of them can be left on the plane when you're done.

  1. Three words: "blue painter's tape." If you can't figure out what to do with it, don't worry, any toddler can show you.
  2. Pipe cleaners are fascinating to twist into different shapes and attach together. Who knows, you might even use one to fix something.
  3. Books. Of course you can bring new books, but it's always comforting to have a couple of favorites from home. One of our favorites for travel is Airplanes by Byron Barton
  4. MP3 player (or music on a laptop) and headphones loaded with familiar music. Our kids were able to sit still enough to keep earbuds in at age 1.
  5. Colorforms or reusable stickers. We especially like the original, shape based, ones, but whatever you have will work. If you have a window seat, your child can stick them on the window
  6. It's no secret that young toddlers love boxes. Save the boxes from your cosmetics purchases and collapse them to put in your carryon. You can put them back together once you're on the flight.
  7. Crayons & a small spiral bound pad of paper (this way your child can draw in the stroller too). If the crayons get on the tray table, use a wet-nap to clean up. For older kids, you can also play games like hangman and tic-tac-toe.
  8. Catalogs. Kids just learning to speak think it is super fun to look at pictures of babies & different household items. Older kids will energetically circle every single thing they wish they had and torture your for the remainder of the trip about them (but it's better than having them kick the seat isn't it)
  9. A lightweight scarf can be used for peek-a-boo or made into dress up clothing (a hat, a cape, a skirt, a purse, a pirate eye patch, etc etc etc.)
  10. Small playdough container or silly putty. The container itself can be fun to play with long after the dough is gone.
  11. A deck of cards. You can teach them to count and play simple games, and they'll love watching you shuffle.

Related Links:
Our Favorite Travel Toys
Flying with Babies, Toddlers and Kids
Ten Tips for Keeping Your Child Busy on a Plane

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  1. Beata on January 29, 2008 at 9:10 a.m.

    Thank you for posting these great travel ideas-experiences!
    I am getting ready to travel to Hungary with my two little girls, 3 and 2, so now I am a little more confident in going, with these cool ideas!

    God bless you and your family!


  2. Mommyto2boys on February 28, 2008 at 2:44 p.m.

    one tip about painters tape...it does NOT always come off hardwood floors cleanly! I ended up tearing off a ton of the finish off our floors taping an alphabet-jumping game in our living room.

  3. mario on July 1, 2008 at 11:07 p.m.

    I love blue painters tape but a lot of airlines won't let you board the plane carrying any kind of tape. I've had blue painters tape confiscated at security check point.

  4. Debbie on July 1, 2008 at 11:14 p.m.

    I find it surprising that TSA would confiscate tape. I don't see it anywhere on the list of prohibited items:

  5. Suzanne on November 21, 2008 at 11:33 a.m.

    Great ideas, thanks! Anything that involves imagination is a winner for me.

  6. Siewleng on January 28, 2009 at 7:29 p.m.

    Instead of tape, try bandaids. My kids spent hours (felt like it anyways) trying to get them off their clothes after I stuck it on them :D Same goes for stickers.

  7. BeijingMama on August 12, 2010 at 3:03 p.m.

    Logged 34 hours in the air with my 1 year old this summer and although all of the items listed were great entertainment and easy to pack the painters tape was by far the most fun for myself, my daughter and various other passengers. Great ideas!

  8. Debbie on August 12, 2010 at 3:11 p.m.

    Thanks everyone for the great suggestions. I'm glad to hear that these ideas worked well for people.

  9. Kat on July 19, 2011 at 7:34 a.m.

    also had a roll of tape taken away at security screening for a domestic flight :(

  10. Abbey on February 12, 2012 at 2:05 p.m.

    I find that sticker books work wonders! They come in all kinds of Disney characters and girls and boys love them! They usually play with it for 20-30 but later on in the flight they want to use it again. A reusable toy! Also they are so quite while they do their sticker book, they seem so fasinated and amused by the stickers.

    Great page btw

  11. CloudSurfingKids on April 17, 2012 at 8:03 p.m.

    We agree with all of these great ideas with the exception of #10. Although a deck of cards is great for passing the time, the noise of shuffling (or slapping the cards down on the traytable) is REALLY irritating to other passengers. We like that the other suggestions are all quiet toys.

  12. Fran on April 28, 2012 at 7:26 a.m.

    We have found the dry erase crayons from Crayola to be wonderful. We just have the plain board right now but there are activity books you can buy.

  13. Mom of twins on April 5, 2013 at 3:32 p.m.

    A small novelty tape measure is one of the best travel toys I have ever encountered. -
    Mom of two year old twin girls