Considering traveling with your baby or toddler? Totally overwhelmed by the thought of what to pack, how to keep them busy, what to feed them? You’re in the right place!

The thought of traveling alone is overwhelming at times, not to mention adding small children into the mix. However, you shouldn’t let that stop you! Whether you’re traveling for family vacation or a holiday, traveling with small children can be a great way to make incredible family memories. We have flown many times and made multiple long car trips with a baby and toddler because all of our family lives 12+ hours away.

No matter if it’s long plane rides or long car rides, there are some things that you can do to make travel with little kids easier. In this blog post, I will share my tips for air plane and car travel with young children; as well as snack ideas, activities, and my favorite travel toys. I’ll also include some snack ideas as well as other helpful things to pack. 

The Best Toddler Travel Toys

Melissa & Doug toys are some of my very favorites for travel. I love the way so many of their toys have different textures and are visually stimulating, plus they encourage imaginative play, aid in learning problem-solving skills and foster learning of colors, shapes, animals, etc, while still being easily manageable for little fingers and hands.

Water Wow Books

These little books are amazing and we love them so much. The books come in many different colors and themes from animals to ocean creatures, to pets, to cars – you name it, they probably have it. Each coloring book comes with a refillable water pen that you can fill with water. As the child colors, the picture emerges and then disappears when it dries. The best part about these books is you can use them over and over; the only thing is, we have learned that after quite a few uses the colors become less vibrant and the picture takes much longer to appear. We just know this means it’s time to pick out a new book and that’s always a fun thing! There is zero mess involved, unless the water spills, and even then, it’s just water and will dry quickly. 

Lace-up Toys

​These classic lace-up toys are another fun thing for little fingers and great for practicing hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills. 

Magnetic Puzzle

Magnetic puzzles are great for airplanes or cars. Simply take the pieces off the board and then put the puzzle back together. The magnets make it much harder to lose pieces because they will stick to the board! If puzzles aren’t your thing, you can also find numerous different magnetic activity tins from dress up dolls to farm scenes that also make fun imaginative play activities for travel. 

Sticker Books

Melissa & Doug also have tons of fun sticker books that make great travel toys. These have provided hours of fun entertainment in the car or on long flights. We love sticker books for hours of entertainment. Stick them on a blank page or in the sticker book provided and they are an easy thing to keep little hands busy for long periods of time- just make sure they know WHERE to put the stickers.  

Dress-up Doll Book

One last Melissa & Doug toy: we have loved this soft, dress-up doll book. This darling book has a small, fabric doll that is removable and then each page has a different outfit that you can slip the doll into. A perfect travel toy for little girls who love their baby dolls. 

Beading Toys

Similar to lace-up toys, beading provides great practice at hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills, and it is a small, light weight activity that is perfect for carrying along when you travel. These Melissa & Doug lacing beads would be a great addition to your travel toys!

LCD Writing Tablet

Another fun option is an LCD writing tablet or doodle board. These are the perfect size to stick in a back pack or seat pocket and to pull out for long road trips or plane rides. You can doodle, play games like tic-tac-toe, draw, practice letters- the options are limitless. Just erase with the simple push of a button and you’re ready to go again. 

Coloring Books

Although you have to be a little more careful, traditional coloring books are an easy thing to take along when you travel – even if just for the hotel. Find one that has stickers too and you have a double win!

Magic Ink Coloring Books

Similar to Water Wow, these books have a marker that is clear unless colored on the books provided and then it’s like magic – color appears! We love toys like this for travel because you do not have to worry about mess or coloring on something that shouldn’t be colored on. 

Buckle Toys

These buckle toys come in a variety of animal shapes, colors, and sizes. The challenge of buckling and unbuckling the toy will keep your toddler busy for quite awhile. Bonus, they are soft and cuddly too!

Pop-It Toys and Fidget Spinners

The draw to these will vary based on the age of your toddler, but if you have an older toddler, fidget spinners also make for a great toy to take along. Teach them how to spin or do it for them and let then watch! The bright colors and spinning objects provide a great opportunity to practice fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. Even young toddlers and babies will enjoy the feel of the pop-it or it just becomes a good teether! The options for shapes and colors are limitless! These are a must in our travel bag.

​Busy Boards/Busy Books

Busy boards and busy books are another engaging activity for your toddlers. Often with many different things to touch, slide, move, clip, buckle. etc. your child will be far from bored while exploring these activities. 

Sensory Books

For any toddler, but especially the younger ones, books with different sensory things to touch and feel can be engaging and stimulating to their little minds. We love the “You Can’t Touch My…” from Usborne. Be sure to touch the books with your toddler and explain the difference between soft, prickly, fuzzy, etc. 

Tactile Books

​We love this soft book for toddlers that features animal tails. Such a fun way to talk about different animals!


Of course, just good old books are a sweet take-along also. Pack your child’s favorites for nap time or bedtime or those times you need a few minutes of stillness and quiet. “Little Blue Truck Leads the Way” by Alice Schertle is one of our favorite books to take on trips.

Read-Aloud Books

Books that read the story are fun for older toddlers who can follow the story line and turn the pages. 

Seek and Find Books

For older toddlers, Seek and Find style books can be really fun. Like “I Spy” in a book, your toddler will be busy looking for all the things and excitedly pointing them out.

Sensory Toys

We loves these collapsible tubes that you can collapse, expand, bend, and twist. They are small, (mostly) quiet and can be a great option for young kids to play with while traveling. They can make some noise when your child figures out how to swing them in the air, but this just adds extra fun as they discover the pitches that each makes. 

Magnetic Tiles 

Magnetic Tiles are another great option for travel as you can have all sorts of fun connecting, building, creating with the pieces. Great for stimulating imaginative play. 

Small Animals or Figurines

​Another toddler favorite, small, plastic animal toys can be so much fun for the car or plane. My daughter has a plastic cow that lives in her carseat and it is often the first thing she reaches for when she gets in the car. 

Stuffed Animals

Don’t forget to take your child’s favorite stuffed animal. Besides, being a comfort object, these animals can provide plenty of play opportunities as well. 

More Travel Game Ideas

One fun thing we like to do when we travel is to play “I Spy” this works well for children of all ages, but even younger children who know basic colors can play. I especially like to use this game in airports when you need to keep kids distracted and don’t have time or space to pull out toys. It may look like me saying, ” I spy an orange suitcase; a blue hat; a pink backpack, etc.”

Even small children can enjoy looking for these items and it’s a great way to keep them distracted. You can play in the car also by pointing out the scenery around you and drawing your child’s attention to those things. Soon they will be doing it back to you!

For older kids, try printing these scavenger hunt printables and letting them check things off as they find them. Card games or memory/matching style games are also a good choice for older children on long trips. You can easily put several different sets of cards in a back pack to play on long layover pull out in a hotel room.

Be sure to choose games that are quick paced and have short rounds as sometimes you only have  a few minutes to play. Some of the best travel memories center around a group of family, friends, and a good card game. 

Don’t Forget Free Activities

While there are many great toddler travel toys out there, don’t forget about the free travel toys either. A simple spice jar with a sprinkle top lid with some pipe cleaners can provide hours of entertainment and provide some excellent training in fine motor skills.

Old buttons laying around can be added to a small plastic container or threaded with ribbon to practicing counting and color recognition. Learn to see every day and every moment as training opportunities and you will be amazed at the things you find yourself talking to your kids about.

How to Pack a Toddler for Travel

When I pack to travel, I like to pack a small bag for my toddler that includes a few snacks she can get to herself as well as several different activities. I like to pick up new books, sticker books, or other small toys here and there when I find them on sale so that I have them readily available when we travel. That’s not to say that we have all new toys and books every time we go somewhere, but having a few new toys is always a fun way to break up the long trips.

Another thing I like to do is to keep some toys and books that are JUST for travel; they get put away with the luggage and only come out for trips. This is another great way to keep things new and exciting. My toddler looks forward to these new little surprises that I bring along. Regardless of what you take, don’t forget to save something new and special for your return journey, even if that’s just a toy that hasn’t been played with yet. 

Traveling by Air

If you’re flying, my best advice is to check all that you possibly can so that your carry-on baggage is minimal. Most airlines will allow you to check a car seat and stroller at no extra cost if you are traveling with a small child. It is wonderful to have your hands free through the airport and not have to worry about gate checking items like these. One caveat to this is that you are traveling solo with a toddler, it can be nice to have a small umbrella stroller with you so that you do not have to carry your child through the airport. If you can make your diaper bag double as your personal carry on, you have even fewer things to carry! If you decide to check your carseat, this bag is great for protecting it and this one is great for strollers. I have checked the stroller without a cover and I always regret it. Definitely worth investing in covers for your stroller and carseat!

Traveling by Car

When traveling by car, if your trip includes an overnight stay anywhere other than your final destination, one of the best things you can do is to pack a separate overnight bag for the hotel room. This makes it so much simpler to get everyone unloaded and into bed. We like to start our trip super early in the morning, usually between 2-5am. This allows us to get several hours on the road while the kids are still asleep.

We plan to make more frequent stops and try to find rest areas or gas stations with large grassy areas where we can run and stretch our legs. This adds to the overall time of the trip for sure, but helps keep wiggles out and minimize meltdown and tears from children just ready to be out of the car. We also try to pack at least one meal for the road so that we can stop wherever and whenever we want to without having to worry about finding the right place to stop.

Pack Plenty of Snacks

Now let’s move on to snacks. We generally try to eat pretty healthy and believe that it is important to nourish growing brains and bodies with good food- protein, healthy fats, fruits, and vegetables. These things are important even when traveling to promote good sleep, calm minds, and healthy bodies, but it is a little more challenging. I like to pack lots of healthy snacks and having things that keeping little tummies full can help avoid lots of meltdowns.

When we travel, I generally let my toddler eat as many snacks as she wants and generally give her free choice of all the snacks we have packed. Individually packaged snacks or things that can easily be put into little bags or snack cups are especially nice. Water bottle are also essential! Each person in our family has their own and we take them everywhere with us to stay hydrated. 

Here are some of my favorite travel snacks: 

• Dried fruit

• Nuts and seeds

• Sliced apples and orange slices

• Cheese sticks

• Dried sausage or beef sticks

• Fruit snacks

• Small crackers or pretzels

These snack cups and these stacking containers are fantastic for travel because they are small and easy for little hands to hold and handle.

Medication to Pack

If you plan to be gone any length of time, or even if it’s just a short trip, taking along medicines “just in case” can be so helpful, especially if you like specific brands or like more natural options. I always travel with some basics for pain, sleep, and tummy aches, but if we are gone longer than a couple of days I will also take things for coughs/cold, ear aches, and fevers. Traveling wears down your immune system due to lack of sleep (usually) and different diet, plus being exposed to all kinds of extra germs. Having a few things on hand eliminates the stress of finding a store when you or your little ones do get sick. 

Here are some of my favorites:

• Earthley Goodnight Lotion

• Earthley Sleepy Time 

• Earthley Feel Better Fast

• Earthley Cough-be-Gone

• Earthley Teeth Tamer

• Peppermint essential oil

• Thieves essential oil

• Vitamins- especially vitamin C

• Elderberry syrup or gummies

• Boiron Chestal Cough and Mucus Relief

• Boiron Coryzalia Cold

• Wall’s Natural Ear Oil

• Yum Earth Organic Fruit Flavored Vitamin C pops

• Tylenol

• Ibuprofen

This sounds like a lot, but the times we have gotten sick on a trip I have been so grateful that I had my little medicine cabinet with me. This list will vary depending on your season. Pick and choose what works for you, even if its just a couple things, you’ll be glad you did. Check out Earthley here and use my link for 20% off your order.

Traveling is a fun, exciting, rewarding, and sometimes very challenging experience with children. Never let the fear of the challenge overcome your desire to go and do. Seeing the world, new places, and new things through the eyes of a child is truly an amazing opportunity. As you prepare for your trip, do some careful planning for the toys, books, games, and snacks you will take for your toddler. Check out my Travel Bundle here that includes packing lists, toy and snack ideas, a scavenger hunt and more! A little careful planing will go along way to achieving a smooth trip. 

I hope these tips and trick will help you to not just survive, but thrive and enjoy traveling with your toddler. It’s a blast!

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